Selfless, aspiring visionaries: this is how three Hall County men were described as they were recognized Thursday night by the North Georgia Community Foundation.
The foundation’s annual Celebration of Community awards dinner was held at the Gainesville Civic Center. In it, Brett Fowler and Jim Moore were presented annual awards, and former, retiring president Jim Mathis was recognized for his decades of service to the foundation and the entire region.
“Jim was really, really active in everything he did to support this region and make it better in every way,” said Rich White, Georgia Mountain Food Bank board chair. “He is so good at supporting people and helping them achieve the things we really need them to achieve.”
White said Mathis’ impact in the area included the creation of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank and the development of the Lake Lanier Olympic Park.
Mathis officially retires from the foundation in December, and Philip Wilheit Sr. said he believes Mathis will be best remembered for his legacy at the foundation.
Daren Wayne, foundation board chair, commended all three men for their service in North Georgia.
“This is a room full of people who give of their time, their talents and their passion,” Wayne said. “And this is a community foundation to launch from, to cultivate and to perpetuate those efforts. You, and we, have changed our world. We have changed this community for good and forever.”
Moore receives award named for late friend and mentor
Jim Moore and Woody Stewart met in 1970 on a flag football team.
Thursday, Moore was recognized with an award in his old friend’s name.
The Woodrow Stewart Leadership in Philanthropy Award is given to philanthropic leaders who motivate others to take leadership roles with nonprofits and community projects.
“We were on a flag football team together,” Moore said. “Of course, with Woody’s leadership skills, he was our quarterback. Several years later, we had a regular group that went on golf trips twice a year. That lasted for about 10 years.”
Moore called Stewart a good friend and mentor who gave him much guidance throughout his career.
“I am sure there are a number of people that felt the same about Woody,” he said.
Moore is a longtime community volunteer, offering leadership at Brenau University, Gainesville First United Methodist Church, United Way of Hall County, the Hall County Chapter of the American Red Cross, Chattahoochee District of Boy Scouts of America and the North Georgia Community Foundation.
But Moore has dedicated most of his volunteer service to The Medical Center Foundation and Northeast Georgia Health System.
Stewart himself hand-picked Moore as his successor as chairman of The Medical Center Foundation in 2012.
“When any of us need medical attention, we all want the best care available,” Moore said. “We are fortunate that Northeast Georgia Medical Center is consistently ranked amongst the top hospitals in the country and the No. 1 heart hospital in Georgia for 12 consecutive years. That doesn’t just happen.”
Moore said he believes there is a common misconception, “that you must be wealthy to be a philanthropist.” But that is not the case.
“So much of what is good in our world happens because of philanthropy. Fortunately, there are individuals that have a desire to make their communities better and have given their time, talents and resources. Those that give will inspire others,” he said. “Being involved with nonprofits and community projects is one of the most rewarding things you can do. We all have talents, and there are organizations that would love to have your support.”
Fowler recognized as active young philanthropist
Brett Fowler may be young, but he’s already thinking about the world he will leave to his children.
The Hall County native was recognized Thursday for his philanthropic efforts with the Gus Whalen Young Philanthropist Award.
The inaugural award recognizes a philanthropist between the ages of 18 and 30 who shows commitment to enhancing quality of life in Northeast Georgia.
It is named for the late Gus Whalen, a business leader and founder of the Featherbone Communiversity, who was dedicated to preparing the next generation of leaders.
“I had the opportunity to meet Gus a few times when I first came back here from the University of Georgia,” Fowler said. “And reading even more on him since, I know that he was a visionary and a philanthropist that was looking at the bigger picture of what this area could be, rather than just making little changes here and there. So for me, it’s an honor of course.”
Fowler graduated from University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business and moved back to his native Hall County in 2008.
Since, he’s been an active participant in organizations including the Gainesville Jaycees, United Way of Hall County, Main Street Gainesville, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Gainesville First United Methodist Church, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, and many more.
“Soon as I got back, I got involved,” he said. “It was something that my grandparents and parents have both done, so I was taught that from an early age. But it’s something I enjoy.”
Fowler was featured on the latest cover of Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the state’s “40 Under 40.”
He said, as a former president of the Gainesville Jaycees, he and others have observed a void when it comes to young philanthropists in the area.
“There’s a good group of us in our late 20s to early 30s here that have been very involved,” he said. “But I think that age group just after us has not been as involved. Getting young people involved — once they get there and give back and see how satisfying it is, they catch on right away. But we found getting them to that point is a little harder.”
Fowler said he encourages anyone of any age to volunteer as a way to express gratitude and help build upon the good things in the community.
“I want to make this area better than I found it, I guess,” he said. “I have a second son on the way in November and a 2-year-old right now. So I look at it as making it a better place for them and for their families one day.”