SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Thelma Grant is a nurse by trade, but in her spare time she loves to cook and care for the people in her community. All of that volunteer work doesn’t go unnoticed.
“She does it from her heart,” Sabina Hallett, Grant’s friend, said. “She does. Some people just do things and they’re looking for something from it, but not her. This is what she genuinely enjoys doing and she’s just great at it.”
Hallett is one of the many people Grant visits weekly at the Cloverdale Community Center in the Cloverdale area.
“I come here at the center and I started from actually volunteering here and I volunteered for about six months,” Grant said.
“She’s been very very welcoming to me. I couldn’t ask for a better person to be here,” Hallett said. “She’s very helpful.”
Those six months grew into two years.
“Every day I just come in with different things and the more people come in the more food I just come in and cook for them,” Grant said.
She started off by bringing pastries, but has since broadened the menu to include items like shrimp and grits.
“Some of them are just like widows, widowers, don’t have children at home, live alone and a lot of the people they don’t go in there and cook,” Grant said.
Grant said this community kept her going when her parents passed away, and now she’s just paying it forward.
“The community was very close to me, it was endearing to me and I wanted to give back,” Grant said. “So, I came in to the community center when we built it and I love people because I’m a nurse by trade. There’s a lot of people out there that’s elderly. People that have been here for the years back that we in our generation we have our children, our grandchildren, but then we still have the great grandparents that can’t get out and cut the grass and they can’t get out and get a meal.”
And it’s not just the cooking. Grant volunteers for arts & crafts, and she finds fun activities for these residents.
“These are the last days of a lot of thems lives,” Grant said. “Some of them are in their late 80s and 90s. A lot of them just sit around the house and don’t do anything, so I just come in and try to make things exciting for them.”
Those she helps wanted something exciting for her, so they nominated Grant for the City of Savannah’s Good Neighbor Award.
“I was excited. I didn’t know who nominated me and why,” Grant said. “I mean, I know I do things around here and everything, but it was just so exciting.”
Now she has a message for all of us.
“I encourage you all to just get involved to help the elderly. Just go around to your neighbor’s house and get to know your neighbors,” Grant said. “You never know what the neighbors are going through inside.”
Now, meet Howard Dawson who’s another recipient of the prestigious award.
“When they started the neighborhood organization, Liberty City Neighborhood organization, I pretty much joined up back in the 80s I think it was,” Howard Dawson, the City of Savannah’s Good Neighbor award recipient, said.
Nearly three decades in the making Dawson has made every effort to ensure his community is the best community.
“It’s very important, because it’s like a help thy neighbor type thing. Just always be able to step up,” Dawson said. “It doesn’t have to be much that you do. You know, you can just do any little thing and anything helps to better your neighborhood.”
He’s been recognized for all of his hard work, but Dawson wouldn’t have several different awards if it weren’t for a little push.
“My wife is actually the one who was the force behind me joining different boards and that kind of thing, because she’s on a lot of boards,” Dawson said.
“That’s from the Homeless Authority when I stayed about two or three terms there,” Dawson said referring to his Homeless Authority award. “We have to recognize what was going on with the homeless and we keep up with them because they don’t know when they become homeless, what avenues are open to them as far as shelter and food and all those kind of things. Churches that are available that feed people and that type of thing. So we try to be advocated for the homeless.”
He’s also assisted the Constitutional Officers’ Association of Georgia.
“COAG. It’s a certificate of appreciation,” Dawson said. “It’s advisory council and what it does really is when you join up you’re an advocate for the elderly.”
But joining boards isn’t the only way he lends a hand.
“Helping out at the library,” Dawson said. “They’ve got this volunteers that go down to the library all the time and mentor the kids and that type of thing.”
Dawson also helped create ‘Working Men of Liberty City.’
“We established different things as far as helping out older people and that kind of things because if you’ll notice this neighborhood is pretty much made up of elderly and retired folk,” Dawson said. “It’s just helping out, you know. What you can do.”
Even with all his accomplishments, Dawson said being honored by the City of Savannah with the Good Neighbor Award is an honor.
“It’s rewarding to be able to guide people in the right direction,” Dawson said.
And he encourages all of us to do the same.
“You have to give back. You have to do something,” Dawson said. “I think most of us feel that way and I know that I’ve always felt that way. There’s something you can do, like mentoring the kids.”