12/05/07 — Smart Choices for Youth honors volunteers

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Smart Choices for Youth honors volunteers

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 5, 2007 2:03 PM

Smart Choices for Youth volunteer Danielle Holloway received the Volunteer of the Year award Tuesday night at the Lane Tree Golf Club. She and her husband, Billy, received the Couple of the Year Award for their mentoring work this past year with children whose parents are incarcerated.

"We had just lost our son, and we said we would commit for one year," Mrs. Holloway told about 200 people gathered at Lane Tree for the 18th Annual Appreciation Banquet held to honor the volunteers.

But so many good things happened during that year, she said. She and her husband found three lifesaving bone marrow matches for youngsters while being active volunteers in the Smart Choices volunteer program, which was started in November 1989 by Daryl Woodard to reach out to youngsters in Wayne and Wilson counties.

Among the other Smart Choices volunteers to receive awards was "Ma" Bertha Batts, who became the program's first volunteer when she took a referral from a juvenile court counselor in 1989 after raising 15 children of her own. Woodard said Mrs. Batts has mentored more clients than any of the other volunteers.

Other recipients were Dr. Ruby Bell for outstanding training and support, Freddy Dees for his work with the governor's One-on-One program administered by Smart Choices and Christine Hinnant, who received the award for longest consistent service for the work she has done with youngsters for the past 5 years.

Her young charge, 6-year-old Sh'Vila Raiford of Dudley, followed her to the stage to receive her award.

They're inseparable when they're able to get together, Mrs. Hinnant said.

"We go to the movies and the playground -- when it's warm. She likes to go skating. She's smart, now. She keeps me on my toes," Mrs. Hinnant said. "We try to get together on Saturdays."

But there are often schedule conflicts for Mrs. Hinnant, who has been working with the little ones ever since Rev. Timothy Dortch came to Wayne Correctional Center where she works to recruit volunteers.

Now, he's not only her recruiter. He's her pastor.

When Mrs. Hinnant and Sh'Vila are able to get together, they make a day of it --until Sh'vila's grandmother, who takes care of Sh'Vila until her mother can, says it's time to come home.

Others who were not present would later receive awards. They were Calvin Charles, who gave 2,000 hours of volunteer hours this past year, Larry Polite, who works in the children of prisoners program, and Shenita Wilder Dancing.

Mrs. Dancing lost her son three months ago and came to help with all the midnight basketball games. She ended up donating $800 to the program.

"She said she didn't want anybody else to lose a son," Woodard told the group. "She helped us bring midnight basketball to a whole new level."

Other Smart Choices projects include educational workshops and conferences that are given all over eastern North Carolina, The Smart Choices staff, who Woodard calls the "dream team," also work with the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Family Support Center.