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Dyer, Carden win first Mary Parks Youth Champion Awards

POSTED: November 21, 2013 10:51 p.m.

The inaugural Mary Parks Youth Champion award was given to two out of eight nominees.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer and Judge Mary Carden were given the award, named after Parks, who spent much of her career with the Hall County School District as a teacher and director of student services. She also served as the Hall County Family Connection coordinator.

“(Parks) dedicated her life to creating positive opportunities for young people throughout Hall County,” said JP Banks, director of the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County.

The awards were presented at the coalition’s annual meeting Thursday evening.

“It is such an honor to receive an award that was named after Mary Parks,” Dyer said. “She was the kind of person who never wanted to be in the spotlight but worked hard. She had a great sense of humor and never got discouraged in the kind of work that we all do, and every single one of our nominees is like that.”

Carden called Parks an “extraordinary person.”

“And then when Merrianne Dyer (received the award), I thought ‘Boy, that’s a league of its own,’” Carden said. “So when my name was announced, I was truly surprised. The fact that Merrianne Dyer got the other award really makes me feel honored and humbled that I would be considered in that same league with these extraordinary women.”

Award recipients must be a professional or volunteer making a significant impact on youth, effecting communitywide change and bringing people and ideas together to maximize community resources.

The other nominees were Cpls. Joe Britte and Kevin Holbrook with the Gainesville Police Department, Shannon Hughs with Rape Response, Ruben and Mary Mauricio with LAMP Ministries and Jakim T. Johnson of the THINK initiative.

Also, the Hall County School District was named the 2013 Partner Organization of the Year. The coalition’s main office is in the same building as the school offices on Green Street. The school district also manages the coalition’s federal grant.

The Drug Free Coalition, the mission of which is to reduce substance abuse in youth, recently received a $625,000 grant through the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The grant runs through 2018.

“This was a great evening,” Banks said. “We’re just looking forward to five more years of making a difference in Hall County.”


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