Hearts of Hope recently honored two Marion County volunteers for their commitment in making the community a better place.
A dinner reception was held July 24, where Hearts of Hope Executive Director Carlton Thornhill presented the plaques to honor the volunteers, Mark Carithers as Person of the Year and Lacey Montgomery the Caring Heart award.
Thornhill announced the recipients of the awards originally on June 21 at the Night on River Avenue event featuring Elsie.
Thornhill described Carithers as dedicated in all aspects whether it is helping with an event or even volunteering to help the city. He also said that Carithers helped him “unlearn” misconceptions about people by the way Carithers loves to help out.
“No matter what is going on, he always pops up to help,” Thornhill said.
This past holiday season, Carithers put out a Christmas tree made of lights at the city park, and he has loaded trucks with water, helped with Freedom Fest, gathered school supplies and helped keep the city clean.
“Mark getting recognized for his work is long overdue,” Thornhill said.
“It is very humbling. I do what I do, thankful for being able to help and serve the community,” Carithers said of volunteering.
Carithers said he is a firm believer in actions speaking louder than words.
“It feels right on the inside when I can help,” Carithers said.
Regarding Montgomery, Thornhill said she is like a silent partner. She doesn’t make a sound and she is always working doing whatever needs to be done.
“She is always working in the background. She has always been involved with projects here in Columbia and Marion County,” Thornhill said.
Montgomery said she loves to solve problems and doing work involving different aspects of media productions.
“I was completely caught off guard. I wasn’t expecting anything or acknowledgement. I do what I do just because I love serving,” Montgomery said.
Hearts of Hope is an organization set up to help communities based in Marion County. Its birth came from the deadly tornado that came through Columbia Dec. 23, 2014.
“I went to ground zero, and I never left,” Thornhill said.
Since beginning to help those who lost homes and suffered damages from that tornado, the organization has been involved with disasters all across the country, including a mass shooting in Florida and flooding in South Carolina.
Thornhill said the executive board with Hearts of Hope discusses the nominations and votes to decide who to give the awards to. The executive board is made up of Katie Johnston, Stephanie Guidroz, Mimi McLean, Zachary Guidroz, Lauren Guidroz and Thornhill.
Both Carithers and Montgomery hope to encourage others to volunteer as well. They believe volunteering helps with fostering a sense of community in Columbia.
Pictured Above: Mark Carithers, left, and Lacey Montgomery, right, accept awards from Hearts of Hope founder Carlton Thornhill. Carithers was honored as the organization’s Person of the Year, and Montgomery received the Caring Heart award. | Photo by Susan Amundson