Sumter honors its volunteers

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Volunteers are the heart of the community," said Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen at the Sumter Volunteers Inc. annual award ceremony at Swan Lake-Iris Garden's Heath Pavilion on Thursday.

Many schools and churches were recognized by the city of Sumter for their support of the Shower Shaw with Cookies drive, which provided 3,825 dozen cookies (more than 45,000 individual cookies) for airmen and soldiers at Shaw Air Force Base.

Shelly Lasica, wife of Shaw Air Force Base Commander Col. Daniel Lasica, helped the mayor hand out the awards and said she and servicemen who benefited from the cookie drive were grateful.

"I can't thank you enough," she said. "(There are) so many thankful airmen and Army people, it was absolutely amazing."

Sumter Volunteers passed out several awards to deserving community members, and McElveen passed out the Mayor's Community Service Awards to a pair of Sumter's most dedicated volunteers.

"The more you are involved in the community, the more you find out about people who aren't well known and don't look for any credit," McElveen said.

He called that the "theme" of this year's awards.

He said there are still a lot of needs in the community and there are people who are trying to help with those issues, he said.

In that spirit, he handed out a Mayor's Community Service award to Geraldine Singleton, who works each year with the homeless and elderly to make their lives better, including giving out free meals each Thanksgiving and Christmas and visiting elderly members of the community.

"Sometimes they just need somebody to talk to," she said.

Also receiving a Community Service Award was Sister Wimberly, the daughter of A.T. Heath Sr., who deeded much of the land that is now Swan Lake-Iris Gardens to be developed as part of the gardens. She is also a founding member of Friends of Swan Lake.

The mayor said Wimberly has always been a supporter of the park and has a special love for Swan Lake because of her family connection.

"She has been a driving force (for the park) for many years," he said.

While accepting the award Wimberly told attendees: "So many people have helped me through the years."