Doug Bolton received a new heart Monday evening, a fitting gift for a man who recently survived a heart attack.
Bolton was named the volunteer of the year for 2011 and was given the Pat Patrick Big Heart Award at the Newton Fund's annual event, which also awarded nearly $18,000 in grants to five local nonprofits.
The Newton Fund works with community members, nonprofits and other partners to encourage philanthropy in Newton County and provides grants to local nonprofits that positively affect their community. The Newton Fund is a part of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
Bolton has been involved in laundry list of local nonprofits, including Newton County Community Partnership, Rotary Club of Covington, Habitat for Humanity and the Miracle League of Newton County. He is an elder at First Presbyterian Church and serves on the board of the law enforcement academy at Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
He also served as executive director of Hands on Newton for two years, where he led several large service projects, including building the Mary Beth Malcom Playground at the intersection of Stone Road and Ga. Highway 142, building, planting and harvesting community gardens, like the one at Turner Lake Complex, and cleaning up Graves Chapel Cemetery, an old slave cemetery near U.S. 278.
"So diligent, hard working, loving, caring, thoughtful, effective. All these words describe Doug Bolton, all wrapped up into a true gentleman with one of the biggest hearts in Newton County," wrote Tamara Richardson, fundraising consultant for the Miracle League of Newton County.
While Bolton said he was honored to receive the award, he said he preferred to remain in the background when he could.
"It's the people behind the scenes that do all the work, and there's a few of us who gain notoriety. A friend of mine at church asked me if I was alright, and this was before my heart issue, and she said ‘I thought you might be sick...I haven't seen you in the paper in a few weeks.' At that point I realized I need to be a little more low key," said Bolton, who thanked his wife Sherry for helping him recover from his heart attack.
Joseph H. "Pat" Patrick, the founding chair of the Newton Fund, introduced Bolton, and spoke highly of his involvement in several efforts. Patrick focused on Bolton's recent housing efforts with Habitat for Humanity, helping families get into good homes and form stable lives.
"This is the very definition of community involvement, to empower people right where you meet them. Doug has certainly done that," said Joseph H. "Pat" Patrick, the founding chair of the Newton Fund.
Bolton received a cash award of $2,000, which he designated to the Miracle League, a project he has been supporting for years.
Five nonprofits received nearly $18,000 in grants Monday night, including Newton County Trail Path Foundation, Project ReNeWal, The Salvation Army, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul - St. Augustine Conference and Washington Street Community Center.
Maurice Carter, chair of Newton County Trails, thanked the Newton Fund for its foresight to invest in healthy recreation opportunities despite the economy. While food and shelter are more pressing, investing in health, wellness and environmental beauty are crucial to any community, he said.
Vickie Stevenson, executive director of Project ReNeWal Domestic Violence Intervention Program, said her program has grown tremendously since being formed in 1995.
Project ReNeWal, which has a presence in Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties, grew from seven members helping 75 women and children to 19 staff helping 1,800 women and children. Despite that, more help is always needed as one in three women experience domestic violence. Stevenson spoke emotionally of a woman who committed suicide and a 12-year-old boy who attempted suicide, because they had no hope.
The Salvation Army is a staple of the Covington nonprofit community, offering free food and clothing, rental/mortgage, utility and prescription drug assistance. The organization's thrift store on Washington Street is a popular place to buy discounted items.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Roman Catholic mission-based group that is hosted locally out of St. Augustine of Hippo, 11524 Highway 278 East, Covington.
Though not as well known as other local nonprofits, the organization provides financial, material, educational and spiritual support to people in need regardless of their background or faith and collaborates with other organizations to empower people to achieve self-sufficiency, according to its website. Phyllis Garrison, conference president, said sometimes the organization's volunteers simply help by listening to people's stories.
Finally, the Washington Street Community Center is one of Covington's oldest and most prominent nonprofits located in the heart of the city's black community. Founded upon its after-school tutoring program, the center offers several academic and enrichment programs for 50 students on a daily basis.
Executive Director Bea Jackson told the story of a young girl who came to the center knowing absolutely nothing, not even her name. But her eagerness to learn, heart and perseverance, combined with the center's dedicated volunteers, have helped her succeed in school and gain a strong sense of pride.
The Newton Fund has awarded more than $260,000 to a diverse array of more than 50 Newton County nonprofits responding to the changing needs of the community. Additionally, since 2000, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, together with its donors, has awarded an estimated $2.5 million to organizations in Newton County.