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United Way celebrates past year, retiring president Jackie Wallace
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Outgoing United Way of Hall County President Jackie Wallace gives her farewell speech Thursday afternoon at the Gainesville Civic Center during the nonprofit's annual celebration and awards luncheon. Joy Griffin will succeed Wallace as the president.

United Way of Hall County celebrated its 2015 campaign and volunteers at its annual banquet Thursday, but mostly it celebrated Jackie Wallace.

Wallace, president and chief professional officer for United Way, is retiring at the end of the month. Joy Griffin will take over for Wallace, who first joined the nonprofit in 2000 and has led it since 2007.

Board Chair Philip Wilheit Jr. said Wallace has been “the heart and soul of the United Way.”

“She has played an integral role in shaping our community every day,” Wilheit said. “Her fingerprints will forever be on the success of the Hall County United Way and its partner agencies.”

Carol Burrell, Wallace’s childhood friend and president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System, said she and Wallace grew up in the suburbs of Winder. They were friends through high school and reconnected again as adults in Gainesville.

“I had the honor of serving as the United Way chair in 2010, and Jackie has served and actually still serves on the Northeast Georgia Medical Center board,” Burrell said. “So we’re watching out for each other.”

Burrell quoted Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

“I think that describes Jackie well,” she said.

Wallace thanked the community for its support and marveled at how United Way has grown in the past 16 years.

“We are so blessed to have an amazing group of people who dedicate themselves every day to serving people in our community, folks who sometimes have no other voice,” Wallace said. “To the board, campaign volunteers and committee members who year, after year, after year share their time and expertise, and to the community, thank you for allowing me this privilege.”

Thursday’s banquet also included presentations of the annual Give, Advocate and Volunteer awards. Wilheit presented the Give Award to the members of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, represented by his parents, Philip Wilheit Sr. and Mary Hart Wilheit.

The society is an opportunity for individuals to become more deeply involved in United Way’s mission and includes several local families and individuals.

The Advocate Award, given to an individual who represents those in the community who don’t always have a voice, was presented to Mimi Collins, CEO of The Longstreet Clinic. The Volunteer Award was given to Spence Price, chair of the finance committee, who could not be present Thursday.

Finally, the Chairman’s Award was given to Merial Select. The award is presented to one company that demonstrates excellence during the annual campaign.

Brett Fowler, 2015 United Way campaign chair, said the 2015 campaign raised more than $1.69 million. Fowler thanked all the donors to the campaign, big and small.

“To the employees who live paycheck to paycheck, but still pledge a dollar out of that weekly paycheck to give back to their community — and I saw plenty of those pledges this year — I cannot thank you enough,” he said.

Wilheit passed the gavel to Davis White, the incoming 2016-2017 board chair, and said he has great faith in the future of United Way in Hall County.

“The work of United Way stretches beyond generations, to every family at every stage of life,” Wilheit said. “It is there in good times, tragic times and in everyday life.”

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