A woman who has dedicated her life to promoting education and the importance of literacy, and a man who has taken huge strides toward combating the opioid epidemic in Georgia were honored Monday, Feb. 11 at the Rotary Club of Gainesville’s annual banquet.
The club announced Sandra Deal, former Georgia first lady, as Woman of the Year and Dallas Gay as Man of the Year.
“Thank you all for having given me the privilege by electing my husband because we’ve had such a wonderful time serving the state,” Deal said. “I wouldn’t have had all of these privileges to do the things I’ve done, had you not elected (him). I’m grateful for that and your support.”
Jane Hemmer, past recipient of Woman of the Year, said Deal is an individual who cares for people and their well-being from the cradle to the grave.
Deal was recognized for her roles as the chairwoman of both the Georgia Children’s Cabinet and the Georgia’s Older Adults Cabinet.
She additionally launched a 2011 statewide campaign, With a Servant’s Heart, to promote community services and volunteer opportunities throughout Georgia.
Deal co-authored the 2015 book “Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion,” and read to children in more than 1,000 schools in Georgia.
Dr. Pepper Brown, presented the Man of the Year to Gay, acknowledging him for his multiple campaigns and awards toward decreasing opioid abuse and raising awareness of the crisis in Georgia.
“In my opinion no one has done more to raise awareness of dangers of prescription drugs and opioids in the state of Georgia than our man of the year,” Brown said. “Because of his efforts, the residents of Hall County and the state of Georgia live better, safer lives. And, countless lives have been saved.”
Gay previously received the Donna Glass Non-Physician Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the advancement and support of medicine.
In May 2017, the Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Act came into law, which made naloxone available over the counter.
Gay also co-founded the Medical Association of Georgia Fountain’s ‘Think About It’ campaign, which emphasizes steps to help prevent medication abuse.
Given the legacy of the Rotary Club of Gainesville, Gay said winning such an award proved special and meaningful to him. Before he left the podium, Gay took a moment to address the nationwide drug epidemic. He said the solution for the crisis is in the room.
“Each and every one of you have to be a soldier in that war,” Gay said. “You have to pay attention to what you’re taking. You have to question and safeguard those drugs, and get rid of them before they’re diverted to some improper use.”