Press release from the Jackson County NAACP:
On Saturday October 14th, two individuals and a non-profit organization were singled out for Jackson County NAACP’s biannual Humanitarian Awards. All finalist were given a Humanitarian Medallion as they were introduced. President Enrique Gomez declared, “Every finalist is a winner for the outstanding service they perform in their communities.”
Dr. Ron Fisher and Dr. David Trigg both received a 2017 Individual Award. Dr. Fisher, an original founder of the Good Samaritan Clinic, earlier served uninsured and underserved WNC patients for 16 years. Later as a primary care physician and the Medical Director for Jackson Department of Public Health, he saw a local need for end-of-life care. Fisher pursued board certification in Hospice Medicine and pioneered Hospice services in our region. The announcement of his award brought an emotional ovation from the crowd for Dr. Fisher—himself, visibly affected.
When Dr. Trigg and his family settled in western North Carolina, he worked for five years at the Qualla Boundary Indian Health Service; then, in emergency medicine, before being recruited to develop an EMT program at Western Carolina University. In 2004, Trigg began volunteering at Good Samaritan Clinic and in 2010, succeeded Fisher as its Medical Director. While at Good Sam, Dr. Trigg also filled-in at the Cherokee Hospital Emergency Room, the Cherokee Urgent Care Clinic and the Franklin Free Medical Clinic.
Other individual category finalists were: Edda Bennett, founder and leader of Solidaridad, a Latino Outreach and Hope Center, and Ruth McConnell, pioneer at Neighbors in Need and now as a Circle of Hope volunteer. Marsha Crites, whose constant attention has focused on needs of the vulnerable—witness her years of work with migrant children—is the co-founder of the Clean Slate Coalition. Since 1980, her efforts on behalf of the aging population have culminated with the current Senior Citizen Center.
The Humanitarian Award Organization Category went to the non-profit Clean Slate Coalition. Marsha Crites and Alice Mason, both prison chaplains, had realized that, there was no safe place for women to go, once released. In 2011, Clean Slate opened as a transitional housing program for women leaving incarceration, treatment centers or other temporary or abusive situations. Today, the Eliza Gray House offers a structured home environment to six residents at a time. The women are either employed or enrolled in an educational program. They also work at the Clean Slate Cleaning Enterprise, which makes cleaning products for sale and provides cleaning services for homes and businesses. Residents also have access to professional counseling, life skills training and a 12-step program—all of which contribute to the goal: Women empowered to attain success.
Other finalists in the Organization Category were:
- The Boys and Girls Club of the Plateau provides after-school and summer educational enrichment, time for homework as well as tutoring; and emphasis on physical activity, nutrition and building relationships.
- The Manna Food Bank serves16 WNC counties. In 2016, it fed the equivalent of 34,000 meals per day, sent 4,946 weekend food packs home with school children and assisted 1,511 families in attaining food stamps.
- St. John’s Episcopal Church (Sylva) Garden Ministry supplies fresh produce for people struggling with food insecurity. Its earliest recipients were the Community Table and United Christian Ministries. The ministry’s yield currently supports the Vecinos Farmworker Health Program.
The Keynote Speaker was the Rev. Charles Lee, Liberty Baptist Church pastor and first president of the Jackson Branch. Sarah Elizabeth Burkey and Stella Moore provided music during the afternoon. Both ceremony and reception were held in Webster’s Family Resource Center Public Room.
On Oct. 31, the volunteer who drafted the press release above on behalf of the Jackson County NAACP provided the following correction:
Be advised that the late Rev. Alice J. Mason, an Episcopal Deacon, is the co-founder [with Marsha Crites] of the Clean Slate Coalition.