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North Georgia Community Foundation lauds local couples generosity
Pat and Don Pirkle

Woodrow “Woody” Stewart was known for his passion, his leadership and his generosity.

Stewart passed away in 2012, but his memory is honored every year with the presentation of the Woodrow Stewart Leadership in Philanthropy Award, given annually by the North Georgia Community Foundation.

This year, Don and Pat Pirkle will be recognized for their generosity, and will receive the Woodrow Stewart award in a luncheon at noon Nov. 20 at First Baptist Church Gainesville.

Don Pirkle said it means a lot to him to be honored in Stewart’s name.

“I knew Woody Stewart quite well and had an opportunity to get an understanding of his whole outlook on philanthropy,” Don Pirkle said. “That example was one that we try to follow, because we were so impressed with the impact he had on this community.”

Cheryl Vandiver with the North Georgia Community Foundation said the Pirkles embody Stewart’s legacy of giving. She said the award is meant to not only recognize philanthropists for giving financially, but for their leadership and guidance.

“He’s just a person, along with his wife, Pat, who seemed to fit those criteria of not only contributing financially, but giving of themselves to the community,” Vandiver said. “And that’s what Woody Stewart did. He was known for such great leadership in the community.”

The Pirkles participate actively with Challenged Child & Friends, according to Vandiver.

Don Pirkle said they are also active in First United Methodist Church in Gainesville and have contributed to Georgia Tech, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys Scouts of America, the Medical Center Foundation and Gainesville Kiwanis Club, as well as Good News Clinics and the community foundation, where Don Pirkle has served on the boards.

Don Pirkle said he and his wife have lived in Gainesville since 2005, during which time they strived to help make the community stronger.

“I believe it’s a responsibility of the community to do everything it can to make itself the best it can be,” he said. “Many times that is as a result of volunteer activity on the part of people who believe in the community. So I think, not only providing financial support, but giving time and energy to that is very important.”

The Woodrow Stewart award recipients are nominated by the public and then selected by a committee made up of past recipients, board members and three people at large in the community, according to Vandiver. She said the various committee members represent the entire community.

Don Pirkle said while he and his wife are honored to receive the award, their drive to help comes not from recognition but from a desire to give back and praise God.

“My wife’s primary motivation and my primary motivation in doing these kind of things is essentially in thankfulness for God’s love for us and the fact that the relationship is a two-way street,” he said. “We need to find a way to love God back and we do by doing these types of activities.”

The luncheon Nov. 20 will honor the Pirkles and Tommy and Chantal Bagwell, who were named the Philanthropists of the Year by the foundation. Vandiver said recognizing these philanthropists encourages more giving in the community and helps shed light on the ways the community can help itself.

“I think it’s important to thank them for what they’ve done, No. 1, just by showing up to the lunch,” Vandiver said. “People are there just to say thank you in their own way. Some of the businesses and organizations are there, and everybody appreciates what these philanthropists do in our community.”

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