Two local residents who have used different avenues to reach out to numerous other people in this area were recognized last Thursday by the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce.
Saundra Helm, a resident of Vandalia since the mid-1970s, and Ed Taylor Jr., a lifetime resident of the community, each received an Abe Award at the chambers annual banquet at the American Legion Home in Vandalia.
Prior to announcing Helm as an Abe Award winner, incoming chamber Vice President Joanna Helm talked about how both of the 2008 award recipients represent the idea of serving their community and the people who live in it.
If I had to say what I liked most about living in Vandalia, it would be the people who live here, Joanna Helm said.
Each day, I marvel at how many special, caring individuals call Vandalia home, she said.
So many of these angels are our unsung heroes. I sometimes think that we become so accustomed to their acts of kindness that we almost expect it, Helm said. In the process, we forget how much of their personal lives they sacrifice for others.
She challenged those in the audience to think about ways they can have a positive impact on others. Ask yourselves, What can I personally do to enhance life here. There are so many organizations that can benefit from your time and talent.
In introducing Saundra Helm, Helm noted that the Abe winner taught health occupations at the Okaw Area Vocational Center for about a decade before joining the Fayette County Health Department.
She noted that Helm has been involved in numerous causes over the past three decades.
Helm has served on the Fayette County Mental Health Association Board of Directors, as a Fayette County Habitat for Humanity committee member, participated in the Partners in Reading Program in Vandalia Schools and worked with Meals and Wheels and the March of Dimes.
She has also volunteered as a Salvation Army bellringer, taught first aid and CPR classes, provided food for workers during the flooding in Alton, helped with the delivery of Girl Scout cookies and served on the Teen Aid Committee.
Helm has also collected and delivered Christmas toys for underprivileged children and been an active member of Bethel Baptist Church by serving on the fellowship committee, teaching Sunday school and Bible classes, and serving as a greeter and nursery worker.
She was also one of the key players, Joanna Helm said, in the startup of Lighthouse Pregnancy Center. She helped rehabilitate the building, served as the fundraising chairman for the annual banquet, and she currently serves as the vice president (of the Lighthouse Board of Directors).
Im sure that with all of the impact that she has had on people by doing these things, that this is only a fraction of the time she has given toward the care of those who are ill, dying or just going through a difficult time, Helm said.
All of this has been done quietly and behind the scenes. She can be described as a woman who does ordinary things with extraordinary love, she said.
In accepting the award, Saundra Helm downplayed her service to the community and to individuals. She also encouraged those in the audience to get involved in community organizations, saying that each person doing a little bit can make a big difference.
In presenting Taylor as an Abe Award recipient, incoming chamber Secretary Shaun Murray told of how Taylor had come back to his hometown after earning a degree in construction management from Bradley University.
He worked in the familys concrete business until 10 years ago, when he opened Noise Music & Sound in downtown Vandalia.
Taylor is sometimes a hard person to track down, Murray said, because hes all over Vandalia and Fayette County doing the things that make him very deserving of this award.
What has he done to deserve this award? A little bit of everything, Murray said.
Taylor teaches guitar lessons at the federal prison in Greenville, and he developed a local songwriters group to help keep the love of music going.
He is a member of Guitars for Gods, whose members perform at area nursing home and at community events.
Taylor has been a member of the Vandalia Volunteer Fire Department since 1979, and an assistant chief with the department since 1994. He was among the regional firefighters who traveled to Louisiana to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.
He has also been active in the Fayette County American Cancer Societys Relay for Life, performing at the annual fundraising event. Among the songs he performs at that event is a song about cancer survivors that he wrote.
In accepting the award, Taylor told of how he how he has been fortunate to have grown up and lived his life in Vandalia.
I truly feel blessed to be a part of Vandalia and have all of you as my friends, Taylor said.