WEST JEFFERSON — The 36th annual Ashe County Volunteer Awards looked different this year as COVID-19 restrictions prevented a standard ceremony. The current guidelines allowed volunteers and assistants at Generations Ashe to come together to hold a special drive-thru awards ceremony on April 22.

Before the world of COVID-19, the awards ceremony would be held in the auditorium of Ashe County High School with a full reception. When presented with the conflict of capacity restrictions, Terri Hopkins, volunteer coordinator went to the Board of Commissioners on Feb. 1 to request a drive-thru awards ceremony in lue of the pandemic.

“This year, like last year, we’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hopkins previously. “Last year we didn’t get to actually have the ceremony. We’re wanting to do it a little differently this year.”

The commissioners approved the request and planning was put in place.

The event came to fruition at 6 p.m. on April 22 with parking volunteers, live music from the JAM kids and awards being presented by the Board of Commissioners, Chair Todd McNeill, Vice Chair William Sands, Chuck Olive and Jonathan Jordan.

Hopkins had a board of volunteers also helping with the event including Board Chair Jennifer Richardson who serves as the Medi-Home Health and Hospice Volunteer Coordinator; Board Co-Chair Bevin South, who serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives & Special Projects at Ashe Services for Aging; Board Secretary Kathy Elliott, who serves as a Medi-Home Health and Hospice Volunteer; Donna Allen-Phillips who serves as a Medi-Home Health and Hospice Volunteer; Fawn Roark who serves as the Student Success & Resource Coordinator at Ashe County Middle School and Judy Current who serves as Director of Strategic Growth & Marketing at LifeStore Banking Services.

Rebecca Williams, program director of Ashe County Arts Council also provided a live concert experience from the JAM kids musician program.

Nominations are made by volunteer coordinators and organizations, the nominations stating how many hours an individual has served, some adding up to multiple years, and what people volunteer for.

“After the documentations for the people nominated are submitted, there is a group that goes through the applications to find the best overall winners,” said Current. “Overall winners can then be submitted for a Governor’s Award.”

General winners were presented with insulated wine tumblers filled with snacks and goodies. Overall winners were given a plaque and a cheese basket.

Over 125 people drove through the ceremony and 358 letters were sent out. Before COVID-19, nearly 450 letters would be sent out, according to Hopkins.

After the drive-thru component, the overall winners were then invited to be presented with their awards from the Board of Commissioners.

This category includes volunteers from a religious/faith organization, senior citizen volunteers, business volunteers, youth volunteers, volunteers who are family, volunteers from the national service, lifetime achievement volunteers, group volunteers and the director of volunteers.

Winners of the overall category were the Home Delivered Meal Volunteers, ACHS Senior Camden Current, the Ashe County Piecemakers Quilt Guild, Midway Baptist Church/Second Chance Flower Ministry, Brenda Barker, Christina Costaines, Peggy and Terry Philbrick and Lois “Cookie” Parker.

The Volunteer Coordination Board said they hope to start new traditions going forward with the awards ceremony, stating that despite the changes due to COVID-19, the awards still hold special meaning for those all who are involved.

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