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The Greater Manhattan Community Foundation celebrated the seventh annual Community Foundation Awards Monday, this time in a virtual format.

Despite the awards ceremony being canceled last year due to the pandemic, the show went on as local businesses, organizations and people were recognized through a video created by 502 strategic marketing agency for their efforts to improve their community.

Several awards celebrating local volunteer efforts were handed out, including the Rising Star Volunteer Award, which is reserved for those under 50-years old.

The Rising Star Volunteer Award went to Manhattan Soup Kitchen co-founder Shelly Williams,

“My dream for Manhattan Soup Kitchen is to bridge the gap between excess and access, enabling our community to develop a culture of waste reduction through active participation and food recovery,” Williams said.

The Distinguished Volunteer Award, which is reserved for those 50 and over, went to Glenda Newkirk for her work with Royal Family KIDS.

Newkirk says the organization seeks to provide a week of fun and activities for kids who are in the foster-care system.

“I just want to show them unconditional love for one week of camp and that’s what we really strive to do, is to just love on them and let them be a kid,” Newkirk said.

In addition to awards recognizing volunteerism, a couple awards were given out celebrating local philanthropic efforts.

The first of these given out was the Civic Philanthropy Project Award, which goes to a local organization whose members worked to improve their community through volunteerism and leadership.

This year, the Civic Philanthropy Project Award went to the Manhattan Rotary Club.

Rotary Club member Chris Nolte says the organization is always looking for new ways to give back to the community.

“I think what is important about volunteering is that once you start to get involved, it really opens your eyes to the wide variety of needs we have here in the community,” Nolte said.

This year’s ceremony also included a Business Philanthropist Award, which went to G. Thomas Jewelers.

G. Thomas Jewelers owner Bobbi French says one of her various charitable activities gets her employees involved in the effort.

“Each year around Christmas, I give each employee, based on how long they’ve been employed with G. Thomas Jewelers, a dollar amount and a time frame to just go out and do random acts of kindness,” French said.

Two Nonprofit Service Awards to were given out, the first of which went to Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community.

Meadowlark Hills CEO Lonnie Baker says the organization offers a number of services that allow seniors to live in their own homes.

Not so long ago, everybody thought that as you got a little bit older and you had some need, you just had to move to a retirement community,” Baker said. “We’re proving that’s not the case and that’s something we’ve really embraced.”

Among the programs offered by Meadowlark Hills are a memory program, Parkinson’s program, fall-prevention program and caregiver program.

The second Nonprofit Service Award went to the Wonder Workshop, which promotes childhood education in the arts, sciences and humanities through hands-on activities.

During a prerecorded video that was shown during the ceremony, the late Wonder Workshop founder Richard Pitts spoke about the importance of having fun while learning.

“Here, you come to play and learn,” Pitts said. “I think that, often, people don’t give enough credit to how important playing is. Playing allows you to socialize, connect a little bit more in a fun, educational way. Some things that kids learn, they don’t even realize they’re learning. They’re just having a good ‘ole time doing it.”

To see the full list of winners and nominees from this year’s awards ceremony, visit

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