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Volunteers hailed for impact, inspiration
Community Connection grateful for generosity
John Heath
John Heath receives the 2009 Corporate Volunteer of the Year award from Kerry Rosewall. - photo by Jim Dean
From students to corporations, Forsyth County’s most generous volunteers were honored Monday.

The Community Connection fundraiser and awards dinner, now in its fourth year, celebrates those who have made a difference in Forsyth.

Among the honorees were sisters Emily and Erica Walden, who logged a combined 463 hours of community service.

Erica Walden, 15, earned the Youth Volunteer of the Year award last year. This year, though was “a little different,” said Kerry Rosewall, volunteer coordinator.

“After winning the 2008 [award], she has continued her volunteer service and this year totaled 270 volunteer hours,” Rosewall said. “Erica is an amazing inspiration to her younger sister Emily.”

Emily Walden, a 13-year-old Otwell Middle School student, said she’s always volunteered in her community. But she only started logging her hours this year, while her sister started a year before.

While they both spend their free time volunteering, Emily Walden said her sister prefers working in the food pantry, and “I like to work with little kids like in vacation Bible school and little hands kind of service projects.

“I think it feels good. It boosts your confidence ... so that you want to go out and you want to give more next year.”

Both girls grew up in a giving home. Their mother, Janet, serves as a volunteer coordinator for Cumming First United Methodist Church.

“It’s just wonderful to see them step outside themselves and want to help others,” she said. “At this age, most kids are so much more into themselves, and I just think it’s wonderful to have this honor for them.”

Like his younger counterparts, top adult volunteer Dennis Selby was inspired by someone special.

“I don’t do it for recognition,” said Selby, a lifelong Forsyth resident. “I do it to honor Christy Moore, who died at the beginning of the year ... she was my girlfriend.

“She did a lot. I’m just picking up where she left off.”

The daytime chef at Five Seasons Brewing Company, Selby uses his culinary skills in his volunteer work, which includes preparing monthly Fried Green Friday dinners at Cedar Hill Enrichment Center.

He has volunteered more than 116 hours since October and has worked for about a dozen different nonprofit organizations.

“When we need him, he’s there. He’s dependable, hard working and always has a good attitude,” said Rosewall before honoring Selby. “He’s such a dedicated volunteer that the way that I got him here tonight is to ask him to volunteer.

“We’ve been blessed with a lot of great volunteers this year, so to pick one above the rest has to be an extraordinary person and this volunteer certainly is.”

Chip Evans with Inward Solutions received the Small Business Volunteer of the Year Award.

John Heath and “Your Results Team” real estate group was honored with the Corporate Volunteer of the Year Award, while the Civic Group Volunteer of the Year went to the Forsyth Central High School International Club.

“So many people don’t recognize the amount of time that they put in,” said Nicole McCoy, executive director. “The value of a volunteer hour is $19.51. If you go out and you volunteer with an organization, that’s how much you’re saving that organization ... so that economic impact to our community is tremendous.

“In a time right now when so much of the news on the television is upsetting and it can bring you down, it is such an inspiration to be with everyone in this room and to have the opportunity to celebrate something so great as making our community better.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at