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Posted: June 10, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Madeline Burgess: Volunteer of the year

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Madeline Burgess is the 2014 Henry Pilcher Volunteer of the Year in Social Circle.

Madeline Burgess is 81 years old and still enjoys taking a 5K-run and vows to remain active in her mind and body. This vow translated into making her city of Social Circle a better place to live in, and her fellow residents have not overlooked her efforts.

Burgess was named the 2014 Henry Pilcher Volunteer of the Year by the Main Street executive committee and will be recognized at a reception at the Welcome Center on June 17 at 5:30 p.m. before a formal presentation at the council meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Burgess, the wife of former Mayor Jim Burgess, was chosen from six nominees by 15 board members, according to Mike Miller, executive director of Social Circle Main Street.

Miller said she stood above the rest for her work with the Design and Preservation Committee, the Clean City Social Circle Committee and the city newsletter. She has been on the Better Hometown Board for 15 and a half years and is a founding member of the Main Street Board.

The award began last year out of memory of Henry Grady “Bodie” Pilcher IV, a Main Street board member who was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2013 and passed away on April 12, 2014 at the age of 51. He served for three years.

Pilcher worked at American Dehydrated Foods and “was a great city volunteer,” according to Doug White, Social Circle city manager.

“She wants to see the community thrive and do well,” White said of Burgess. “She started doing selfless work and kept doing it. It was just time to thank her for all her efforts over these years.”

Burgess found out she would be honored with this award at last week’s Main Street board meeting.

“I thought it was really a very nice recognition,” Burgess said.

Design and Preservation committee

Burgess is a member of the Design and Preservation committee, where she wrote the strategic plan for the city’s Gateway Corridor Project to enhance and beautify yards and corridors along streets in the city.

“She is just a real wonderful person to work with,” said Tom Brown, chair of the Design and Preservation committee. “On any project she gets involved in, she is just really committed and dedicated to it and often takes the lead on it.”

Brown, who won the pioneer Volunteer of the Year award last year, and Burgess are two of three committee members – of the 12 total – who took on the Gateway Corridor Project.

The strategic plan Burgess wrote is the same plan the committee uses today, which recommended a test area on S. Cherokee Road to be used before applying the project to the whole city.

“We just know when she gets involved in something, it’s gonna get done,” Brown said. “For her to be nominated and selected for (the award) is not a surprise. She deserves it, and she earned it.”

Clean City Social Circle

“When Jim (Burgess) was mayor, people complained there was a lot of litter,” Burgess said. “Litter is not unique to Social Circle. I called and put together a group of people, and many of those people are still on our committee.”

Burgess is the chair of Clean City Social Circle, a program that works to eliminate trash and litter in the city and that hosts the city’s semiannual trash pick-up.

Miller said about 125 people show up every year. Burgess thought of creating an “adopt-a-street” incentive instead of a mile or longer span of road so churches, neighborhood associations and residents would feel helping to be more practical.

“She has increased the resident participation every year. She has grown that program from the volunteer-resident side and from the business side,” Brown said.

Brown said she developed the program’s mascot, Critter, working with schools to get ideas, just another example of community effort and growth.

“She’s great on recruiting volunteers because people like to work with her,” Brown said. “She’s very generous and enjoys working on things that benefit other people. Not everybody can do that.”

City newsletter

Burgess also began and edits the city-wide newsletter, which is sent out to residents in their utility bills.

“Since we have no local newspaper, this gives people an idea about current events,” Burgess said.

When she began the newsletter, Burgess was writing columns for The News, doing so for three years.

On being recognized for her volunteering efforts to the city, Burgess gave a logical and healthy reason why these activities pulled her in.

“We develop certain skills in our regular jobs,” Burgess said, “and then we retire, and we seek ways to maintain our skills and to broaden our knowledge of our community and to get involved.

“I think it’s important for people who are retired to move, to do things.”

Brown said her professional career as a legal mediator is beneficial to her volunteerism because issues need to be resolved and mediation works when dealing with groups of people who may have different visions.

“Her personality is just the right kind for this type of award,” Brown said. “She’s a pleasure to work with. She’s humble. She doesn’t try to control everything; she just motivates everyone to get things done. She leads by example and motivates people to do their best. She is, by nature, a leader by example.”

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