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Foundation honors Forsyth couple for philanthropy
The Bagwells - photo by Jeff Gill

GAINESVILLE — Two area couples were honored Thursday for their generosity and service to the community at an annual philanthropy luncheon.

Tommy and Chantal Bagwell of Forsyth County were named the North Georgia Community Foundation’s philanthropists of the year and Don and Pat Pirkle of Gainesville received the Woodrow Stewart Leadership in Philanthropy award.

“We are deeply thankful for these and many other blessings that have come from this wonderful community, and we humbly accept this award,” Don Pirkle told the 200 or so gathered at First Baptist Church of Gainesville on Green Street for the Gainesville-based foundation’s 10th annual Philanthropy Day Luncheon.

Tommy Bagwell thanked the foundation for the award “and God almighty for our good fortune and that we have been so lucky to be able to do the funding that has allowed us to receive this honor.

“And I promise you we will not stop here.”

Each year, the foundation hands out the Philanthropist of the Year award to recognize “outstanding achievement by an individual, family or business in recognition of lifetime or long-term achievements that have made a significant impact” in the region, according to the organization’s website.

“This award honors those with a proven record of exceptional generosity who, through direct financial support, demonstrate outstanding civic and charitable responsibility, and whose generosity encourages others to take philanthropic leadership roles.”

The Bagwells were selected because of their strong community support of area causes throughout the years, including the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boys Scouts of America and Medical Association of Georgia’s “Think About It” campaign for prescription abuse awareness, according to an October foundation news release announcing the award.

The couple also has supported public and private schools, literacy initiatives, food pantries and other programs that provide support for needy families.

Speaking before the program, Tommy Bagwell said the recognition is nice but it’s also “somewhat touchy” because of biblical admonitions about touting one’s own giving.

“On the other hand, there are passages that say to let your light so shine, so we’re grateful for the honor,” he said.

The Woodrow Stewart award is named after Woodrow “Woody” Stewart, who died in 2012. He was known for his support of Northeast Georgia Medical Center and was vital in the building of the Ronnie Green Heart Center.

Stewart “was a giant in philanthropy,” Don Pirkle said. “He set an unbelievable example. I don’t think I could walk in his shadow. We are both very humbled to be honored.”

The Pirkles are involved with Challenged Child & Friends, active at Gainesville First United Methodist Church and have contributed to Georgia Tech, Habitat for Humanity, the Boy Scouts of America, the Medical Center Foundation and Gainesville Kiwanis Club, as well as Good News Clinics and the community foundation.