I tell folks all the time I have the best job in the world.
I get to write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
They don’t get their names in the newspaper by robbing banks, running for political office, catching touchdown passes or winning the lottery.
They don’t walk through life on a red carpet or have a million Likes on Facebook.
They simply get out of bed every morning and go out and try to make a difference in the world.
My annual “True Gris” awards are an opportunity to share them with you again.
Point of Light Award -- Relinda Smith, Macon.
This special lady was presented with a Hero award by the Georgia Senior Living Association in November. It recognized her dedication as a caregiver at Morningside of Macon assisted living, where she has worked since it opened its doors in 1998. It’s easy to understand why they love her so much.
500,000 Points of Light Award -- The Tripp family, Yonker.
What began as a single strand of Christmas lights on the front porch 40 years ago has become what is believed to be the largest residential light display in Georgia. It takes 11 weeks to set up the more than half-million lights, which drew 18,273 visitors this year to the tiny community of Yonker.
The Crown Fits Award -- Olivia McMillan, Warner Robins.
I have known Olivia’s family and watched her grow up since she was 2 years old. So I was thrilled when the 17-year-old Northside High senior was named Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in August. A beautiful young lady who is biracial, adopted and has struggled with size issues, she overcame all those beauty pageant stereotypes to give us the year’s most compelling story.
Chief Big Heart Award -- Mike Stokes, Roberta.
This generous man is the owner, founder, curator, docent and maintenance man at the Museum of Southeastern Indians, eight miles west of Roberta. It may not rival the Smithsonian, but he has brought together an impressive collection of Indian artifacts, and it’s free and open to the public.
Gift of Life Award -- Edwina Wicker Terman, Dublin.
In a touching gesture of friendship and love, Edwina, a 50-year-old educator in the Dodge County school system, donated a kidney to Donna Wood, of Milledgeville, her former counselor at Camp Martha Johnston Girl Scout Camp in Lizella.
Young at Heart Award -- Margaret Soto, Macon.
Miss Margaret, the 91-year-old greeter at Bass Pro Shops, works four shifts a week and is so excited to arrive at work every morning she often gets there two hours early.
Sunshine on My Shoulders Award -- Donnie Powell, Warner Robins.
He has given away thousands of stuffed animals to children and encouraged them to recognize and acknowledge good deeds. Donnie also has handed out thousands of “wooden nickels” to veterans in appreciation of their service to our country.
Gris Grit Award -- Jim Tessmer, Macon.
Jim is one of the hardest-working (and finest) men I know. Born with cerebral palsy, he has never let his physical limitations stop him from doing his life’s work. He is events coordinator for the Mercer athletic department and a late-night weekend radio disc jockey. He and his wife, Melissa, have four adopted children.
Eat Mor Chikin Award -- Ken Hill, Macon.
The longtime local photographer has a passion for camping out at grand openings for Chick-fil-A restaurants all over the Southeast. Of course, it gives Ken a chance at free food coupons for being a “Chickfiloyalist,” and he shares them with folks.
True Fit Award -- Edward Ahn, Macon, and Debbie Colson, Irwinton.
Master Ahn was honored in February for introducing the martial art of tae kwon do to Macon 40 years ago, and he has trained more than 4,000 black belts. Debbie, a retired physical education teacher in Wilkinson County, is a community-minded fitness enthusiast who offers free exercise classes for women, ages 25 to 83 years old.
Making A Difference Award -- Tammy Berryhill, Butler, and Monte Murphy, Macon.
Tammy, a Taylor County elementary school teacher, began a “Mo-Focused” campaign to remind drivers to pay attention to the road after her daughter, Morgan, a college freshman, was killed in an automobile accident caused by a distracted driver in 2012. Monte, a Macon optometrist whose son, Nathan, was born with Down syndrome, started the annual Middle Georgia Buddy Walk nine years ago. It raises money and awareness and promotes education, advocacy and inclusion.
Golden Rule Award -- Jerri Hall, Macon.
She retired in May as the only person to have started her career in the Bibb County schools as a bus driver and finished as a high school principal. She was principal at Miller Middle School, was the first principal at Rutland Middle and finished at Rutland High.
No Handicap Award -- Brian Oglesbee, Thomaston.
Brian, a social studies teacher at Upson-Lee High School, has been visually impaired since he was 16. In June, he won the American Blind Golfers Association Match Play Championship in Medina, Ohio, and followed by finishing runner-up in the National Stroke Play Championship in San Antonio in October.
Happy Feet Award -- Silver Spurs, Macon.
Members of the senior line-dance team hung up their spurs this past summer after entertaining at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, fairs, festivals and hospitals for the past 18 years. Collectively, these ladies have 29 great-grandchildren, and four of the five are octogenarians. A bow and a curtsy to Katherine Woodard, Gaynelle Gordon, Margaret Fordham, Shirley Giles, Joan Wood and the other members from past years. They have brought joy to many people.
Contact Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org