A roomful of guests attended the Tift County Older Americans Month kickoff luncheon Thursday morning at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center. The George A. Wright Memorial Award was given to this year's recipient, Karen Hendrix.
Entertainment was provided by The Faithful Servants. The event was sponsored by Bradley Place, Southern Home Medical LLC, Heart & Hands Private Home Care, Southern Caterers, Sylvia Barr Center/Tift Regional Medical Center, Bowen-Donaldson Home for Funerals, South Georgia Banking Company, Halcyon Hospice, Tift County Recreation Department and Tift County Commission, First Baptist Church of Tifton, Tifton Council of Garden Clubs and Georgia Sports Medicine.
TCRD Director Craig Sowell served as the master of ceremonies, along with Mayor Jamie Cater. Prior to the presentation of the award, he recognized the family of George A. Wright who still resides in Tift County — his niece and her husband, Suzanne Wright Click and Dudley Click; and his nephew, Bo Wright.
Sowell said because of Wright's outstanding contributions as a citizen of Tift County, a perpetual memorial for him has been established, which will be awarded to individuals 60 years of age and older who exemplify the qualities that Wright exhibited. His many examples include his contribution as a community servant and civic leader, his Christian witness, his service as a dedicated patriotic American, his loving devotion to his family and his career as an outstanding businessman.
"All of these qualities led the people of Tift County to honor George A. Wright, posthumously, with the 'Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year' award in 1981," Sowell said. "For the past 33 years, 65 senior adults in our community have been awarded the George A. Wright Memorial Award."
He then asked all of the past recipients to stand.
"Today, we are going to honor an individual who has served their community through the various contributions they have made to their community, church, patriotism, family and career. This individual like past recipients possess a unique characteristic of serving others and making positive contributions to their community and those they come in contact with," Sowell said.
Hendrix has been a member of the Camellia Garden Club for 15 years. Other memberships include the Tifton Council of Garden Clubs, Designing Women Study Bible Group, Tifton 20th Century Library Club, Elks Auxiliary, South Georgia Judges Council, accredited flower show judge, Garden Club of Georgia as a board member and convention member, elected as a past co-president of the Garden Council and appointed to Garden Club of Georgia Publication and Publicity chairman. While servicing as the publication chair, Hendrix compiled a children's educational book on conservation. Through the Elks Auxiliary, she served as chaplain and was appointed the drug awareness chair.
When it comes to community service, Sowell said Hendrix delivered drug awareness ribbons to all of the third graders in Tift County, knitted scarves for veterans in local nursing homes and knitted hats for preemies in the hospital and for chemotherapy patients. She volunteered with Easter Seals Solutions Day Program and with the Special Olympics.
"She loves people, works hard and always is very dependable," Sowell said before introducing Hendrix as this year's recipient. "These characteristics represent what is good in helping others to improve the social, cultural and physical needs in Tifton. She is a devoted member of this community and member of her church. She had participated in the Mayor's Motorcade for several years and travels with the group to Thomasville each year. This individual is a master gardener and loves to share with her community and friends with growing things and educates them about conservation. She has helped decorate for many functions, including the Older Americans Month activities and the Tifton Rotary Club Education for Excellence banquets. This person is also a member of the Riverkeepers and served on the Keep Tift Beautiful Board."
Hendrix is a member of St. Anne's Episcopal Church and belongs to the Bad Girls Bible Study Group and Circle Two of Tifton First United Methodist Church. Sowell said she serves where she's needed and is always very social spreading Christian love to members and guests. Outside of her service within the walls of the church, she has actively served her state and community.
For her patriotism, Hendrix has sent mail and gifts to military units serving in Afghanistan and has also helped serve dinner to veterans on Memorial Day at the Tifton Elks Lodge.
She's been married to her husband, Herb, for 39 years. They have three children, Kelly Bowen, Katie Cuellar and Josh Hendrix; and eight grandchildren, Hunter, Chase, Holly, Sarah Katherine, Magen, Anna, Abby and Erin.
Sowell said Hendrix is a "loving wife, mother and grandmother and takes pride in being a homemaker."
He then read some comments by those who nominated Hendrix for the award: "is always found to be dependable and efficient," "special interest in conservation projects," "she projects a warm, cheerful attitude," "a very special lady and is always willing to lend a helping hand," "always willing to do more than her share in any work in which she is involved; she is truly an asset to the Tifton community" and "she is well deserving of the George A. Wright Memorial Award."
As Hendrix made her way to the stage, she was presented with a plaque and was shocked to see all of her children there.
"I'm never speechless," she said, chuckling. "First of all, thank you very much for this award. I love this community, I love our country and I'm happy to be able to contribute in some little way to everybody."
She mentioned her husband and children, commenting that she was so excited to see them.
"Our community is very, very important," she told the audience. "Each and every one of us has an obligation to keep our city beautiful, but also to remember conservation. Conservation is one of my biggest goals. In many ways, we can do that. But, as a mother and grandmother, I think the best way to do that is to encourage our children. Our children are our future and they are the ones that we need to encourage to do things. Share your life story with them. Share your love of gardening, your love of fishing or your love of hunting with your grandchildren. You are doing them a tremendous favor by doing that. Once again, I want to say thank you."
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.