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Boy Scouts dinner fetes local heroes
Nell Wiegand, left, and Gus Whalen greet Gene Beckstein, right, and daughter Carrie Beckstein-Stiles on Thursday evening at the Chattahoochee Country Club as Wiegand, Whalen and Beckstein are honored with the Ralph Cleveland Distinguished Citizen Award at the annual American Values Dinner.

The Northeast Georgia Council for the Boy Scouts of America hosted the annual American Values Dinner on Thursday at the Chattahoochee Country Club to honor three local heroes and support scouting.

Gene Beckstein, Gus Whalen and Nell Wiegand were presented with the Ralph Cleveland Distinguished Citizen Award.

"Our goal is to get the community together, have a good time, enjoy a nice meal; and we honor three community citizens with the distinguished citizen award," said Terry Whitaker, senior district executive for the Boy Scouts. "And it, in turn, it’s a fundraiser for the local Boy Scouts."

Whitaker said the honorees were chosen for their contributions to their community.

The honorees felt it was not only special to be honored by the Boy Scouts but to share the distinction with each other.

"I am just overwhelmed, I really am. I cannot think of a better honor than the Boy Scouts. And, of course, being with two such distinguished gentlemen," Wiegand said.

Wiegand was among the first volunteers when Hall County Hospital opened its doors in 1951. She worked in the Bright Spot, the gift shop and snack bar that featured sandwiches, cookies and cakes made in the homes of volunteers.

In 1986, she became the founding chairwoman of The Medical Center Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Health System. She also served on the Hospital Authority board from 1975 to 1992. She served on the Northeast Georgia Medical Center board for eight years and founded the advisory board at the medical center.

Beckstein is the founder of Good News at Noon, an outreach to the homeless and hungry. The program originally was operated out of the community building at Melrose Apartments. It now has a building on Davis Street that has a shelter with 13 beds for the homeless and an after-school program that provides a safe place to study for 90 children.

Good News at Noon was the first home of the Good News Clinic, a free medical and dental clinic that now operates independently of Beckstein’s mission.

Beckstein brought guests who have been helped by Good News at Noon.

"I brought the homeless guys here, because of their changed lives I’m getting the award," Beckstein said. "It’s amazing."

Whalen is the grandson of E.K. Warren, founder of the Warren Featherbone Co., which manufactured children’s clothing in Gainesville for many years. A longtime civic leader in Gainesville, Whalen is the founder of Featherbone Communiversity, the former clothing factory that now houses the nursing school of Brenau University, Interactive Neighborhood for Kids and the Manufacturing Development Center of Lanier Technical College.

The annual American Values Dinner is a primary fundraiser for the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The event was co-chaired by local community leaders Kurt Hansen and Scott McGarity.

Whitaker said he hopes the event will raise more than $100,000 for scouting.

The keynote speaker was local businessman John Addison, co-chief executive officer of Primerica Financial Services.