Winners recognized during recent WEC, WTVY banquet
For some dedicated individuals, doing more than what’s expected of them is normal. And because of their extra effort, families are fed, pets find a loving home, children learn to pro-cess traumatic events, the elderly receive transportation for medical care and much more.
To honor the individuals who make this area such a great place to live, work and raise a family, Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, in partnership with WTVY, created the Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass award program.
“Most recipients are very humbled,” Operation Round Up Foundation Board President David Hall says. “Most don’t even want to be recognized. That’s why it’s called the Silent Heroes program, they don’t want the recognition. They’re doing it because they love their community and they just want to serve people.”
The monthly program not only acknowledges the extra effort, but also provides a $1,000 grant to unsung local organizations and individuals so they can continue to help the community.
The grants are funded by donations collected through Operation Round Up, which allows WEC customers to voluntarily round up their bill to the nearest whole dollar. As those pennies add up, the money is used to provide scholarships, training and other community assistance programs.
“There are honestly no words you can use to describe the feel-ing we get from being able to assist people in the Wiregrass,” Hall says. “We’re taking people’s hard-earned money and we’re able to use it to benefit so many people through this program.”
WEC and WTVY recently held a banquet to honor the 2022 Silent Heroes winners at the cooperative office in Hartford.
“The banquet was really a wonderful event,” says Taylor Pollock, the WTVY evening anchor and reporter for all 12 Silent Heroes stories in 2022. “It’s a great way for all the heroes to be recognized and honored one more time. Many of the recipients are also able to make connections with other nonprofits and figure out ways they can work together.”
About the 2022 winners
The 2022 Silent Heroes series brought plenty of memorable stories — one about an area food bank leader, another focus-ing on a local who does yardwork and other handiwork to help neighbors and many more.
“I’m honored to have shared their stories with people through-out the Wiregrass,” Pollock says.
While you can see all the previous stories on the WTVY web-site and in prior issues of Alabama Living magazine, Pollock also recalled a few 2022 honorees that stuck out for her.
As the youngest winner of the Silent Heroes award, 15-year-old Evie Smith has already accomplished more than many people 2 or 3 times her age. A survivor of childhood trauma, Smith now makes bracelets to raise money for the Child Advocacy Center and the Exchange Center for Child Abuse and Prevention. Each bracelet spells the word ACT, an acronym for Advocate for Children of Trauma, and encourages the wearer to be the difference in a child’s life. Smith has raised more than $4,000 through her efforts.
A skilled Hibachi chef and restaurant owner, Joe Cook, better know as “Hibachi Joe,” also uses his skills to feed individuals who face food insecurity with his mobile food truck. A survivor of the Cambodian genocide, Cook pays the kindness others have shown him forward by helping communities after tragic events, such as a hurricane or tornado.
Cook used the money given to him through the Silent Heroes program to prepare meals for those impacted by the May 2022 shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
As a dentist, Bradley Marsh knows the importance of oral health. That’s why he offers reduced-cost or no-cost care to those who need it most. Regardless of transportation or financial issues, his work helps individuals to receive quality dental care to stop pain and live a healthier life.
“Helping people is about grasping on to opportunities and recognizing the need,” Marsh says. “There’s lot of satisfaction with being able to help those going through a recovery program. To have someone who comes in with pain and they leave without it, that’s special.”
Working in schools for more than 20 years, Faye Lewis understands the impor-tance of ensuring children don’t come to school hungry. Lewis, along with other volunteers, prepares 100-plus Blessing Bags each month for at-risk students at Cottonwood Elementary School.
“I fully believe that if a student feels like they’re loved and cared for, and they have the necessary items they need, they’ll function better in school and come in with a better attitude,” Lewis says. “Some of our kids eat free lunches and that’s their main meal. When they come home and don’t have a proper meal, the Blessing Bags come in to help food stretch for that month.”
Like many who were nominated for the Silent Heroes Award in 2022, Lewis didn’t feel she deserved the recognition. “I was shocked when I got the call,” she says. “I’m not a hero. I’m just trying to help in any small way that I can to make a difference.”
If you’d like to nominate someone as a Silent Hero of the Wiregrass, or enroll in the Operation Round Up program, visit our website.