Kevin Jones’ college experience didn’t start out great.
“I got way behind,” he said. “I almost failed out of college. I was having a really bad time. I didn’t believe in myself.”
Then he crossed paths with Elaine Butler, who oversaw an off-campus program in Murray County for Reinhardt University that helped Jones earn his college degree.
“She helped me,” he said. “She was a counselor for Murray County High School and for Reinhardt. Gosh, I don’t know how long ago this was. But she pointed me in the right direction. She made me look deep inside myself, to believe in myself.”
Jones said the memory of Butler made it hard for him not to cry when he was honored Monday night with the Elaine Butler Award, which recognized the top volunteer in Murray County for 2013, during the United Way Volunteer Banquet. Jones received the award, along with a bronze level President’s Volunteer Service Award, for giving roughly 210 hours of volunteer time at the Murray County 4-H where he is a mentor to youth.
The banquet was held at Rock Bridge Community Church in downtown Dalton, hosted by United Way of Northwest Georgia and the Kiwanis Club of Dalton.
“To have something with Elaine’s name on it — it really, really does mean something special to me. She was a very special lady,” Jones said.
Butler died at 70 years old in 2012. She was known by many as the “matriarch of Murray County” because of her 23 years as an educator for Murray County Schools. Jones said she impacted many students during her lifetime, adding that college is often the hardest time in a student’s life.
For some local students, college won’t be as hard as it might have been. Shaw Industries leaders took time during the banquet to present $5,000 checks to two local students through the Elbert Shaw Memorial Scholarship. Elbert Shaw, who died at 91 last year, worked in human resources at Shaw Industries from 1972 to 1996 and was known for encouraging young people.
Breanna Stanfield, one of the recipients, said getting the scholarship was emotional.
“Before I went up there (on stage), I was just sitting there, really hoping that I would get it,” she said. “I can’t believe I did.”
Stanfield gave roughly 275 volunteer hours last year, including visiting seniors at a Murray County nursing home and helping to create vacation Bible school programs for local children in poverty. She received the gold level President’s Volunteer Service Award for young adults for her work.
“I can’t thank God enough for this,” she said.
Daisy Maya, who also received a $5,000 scholarship, said, “Without God, none of this would have happened.”
“I’m feeling really good about this, I’m feeling really excited,” she said. “I really just want to cry. I’m just thanking God for everything.”
Maya’s almost 690 hours of volunteerism last year included working at Dalton’s Greater Works with her mother Angie and acting as a Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Georgia Mountains program. She also received the gold level President’s Volunteer Service Award for young adults.
Catherine Stratman, who was honored with the Connie Woodward Award as the top volunteer in Whitfield County, volunteered for approximately 400 hours of service as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) at the Family Support Council. She said it is encouraging to see young people volunteering.
“They are the adults of the future,” she said. “They will carry volunteerism on. If they volunteer now, they will likely do it later in life.”
Stratman said she was honored and “shocked” by the Connie Woodward Award, which was given to her in addition to the silver level President’s Volunteer Service Award. Woodward, who died at age 86 last year, was remembered for her love of volunteerism and community service, United Way organizers said.
“It blew me away. I just had no idea,” Stratman said. “I feel that any recognition I get puts a light on the Family Support Council. That’s why I try my best.”
Scholarship added to volunteer banquet
Kevin Jones’ college experience didn’t start out great.
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