United Way also presented awards for Philanthropist of the Year, George W. Jenkins Outstanding Volunteer, Spirit of Central Florida, Citizen of the Year and Difference-Maker award.
The Philanthropist of the Year award was created to thank and celebrate individuals, families and organizations who have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to philanthropy, United Way and our community. This year’s honorees are Ronnie and Laura Hedrick. They have been Alexis de Tocqueville and Young Leaders Society members for six years and collectively have served on the Board of Directors, Campaign Cabinet and the ADT committee. They have held matches for leadership gifts and hosted many events at their home including virtual events during the pandemic.
The George W. Jenkins Outstanding United Way Volunteer award goes to an individual with volunteer experience in a variety of United Way leadership roles and assignments. Bruce Abels has provided long-term and continuous service to United Way, going above and beyond. Abels has served United Way of Central Florida for twenty-three years. He has been an Alexis de Tocqueville member for twenty-one years and has served on the Impact Cabinet, Health Steering Team, Community Impact Team, Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Governance Committee. Additionally, he has served on the boards of VISTE, The Salvation Army, Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine, Central Florida Speech & Hearing Center and Catholic Charities of Central Florida. Abels is currently the President and CEO of Fairfield Logistics Advisors.
The Spirit of Central Florida award acknowledges an organization that has surpassed all expectations and exemplifies the giving spirit of this community. Sheriff Grady Judd and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office demonstrate every day the meaning of LIVE UNITED. The Sheriff’s Office hosts some of the most popular fundraising events for UWCF: the Judd Jog and Haunted Jail Tour. With money still rolling in from their last special event, they are currently looking at a more than $30,000 increase from their campaign last year.
The Citizen of the Year award goes to an individual who has gone above and beyond for their community. Tripp Barnett has demonstrated consistent commitment to our organization and staff. Always ready to lend a helping hand, he takes the lead on many projects in the UWCF office. His involvement with UWCF has spanned fifteen years but beyond that, he has been a volunteer for over 30 years with Habitat for Humanity and Angel Flights, putting his pilot license to use by providing free medical flights for patients in the southeast.