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IL natives honored for community impact

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By Michele Roberts

About 80 people attended Steele Hill Community Partners Inc.’s inaugural Making a Difference Community Awards luncheon March 16 at Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church in Indian Land.

The luncheon had a two-fold purpose – to recognize Indian Land residents who have made an impact on the Panhandle community and to raise money for Steele Hill Community Partners’ Hi Kee Summer Enrichment Program.

“This community has grown and changed so much, and we thought it would be a good idea to recognize those who have made an impact on it,” said Fred Witherspoon, Hi Kee director and event organizer.
“Hopefully, each year from now on we will recognize four individuals from the area who have made a difference.”

The four award recipients this year were the Rev. Robert A. Morrison, who received the Servant Leader Award; Mildred Louise Pettus, Lifetime Achievement Award; Wofford Bennett Gunter, Community Service Award; and Shawn Crawford, Trailblazer Award. Morrison, who is 97, was unable to attend the luncheon, so his award was accepted by his daughter, Mae Barber.

“He wanted to be here, and he wanted me to let everyone know how much he appreciated receiving this award,” Barber said of her father, who served in the ministry for 56 years before retiring in November 2003. “He sure would’ve been here if he could, and I know he would’ve enjoyed seeing everyone here.”

Pettus, the author of nine books on local history, was there in person to receive her award. The archives at her alma mater, Winthrop University, are named in her honor.

“This is just so nice, thank you all very much,” she said. “I appreciate all of you for recognizing me this way.”
Gunter was also there to receive his award. After  graduating from Newberry College with a degree in history and social studies, Gunter was offered a teaching and coaching job at Indian Land School in 1954, a position he kept until he retired as superintendent of the Indian Land schools 30 years later.

“I truly appreciate this, and I thank you so much for thinking of me,” Gunter said. “I look forward to seeing four more people recognized next year, and the year after that, and so on. We are blessed to be part of this community.”

Crawford, the Van Wyck native who blazed a trail as a gold and silver medalist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, joined the luncheon via Skype. Crawford lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the former Ginnie Powell, and was also unable to attend in person.

Crawford’s computer image was put on the big screen in the church’s fellowship hall and the interactive program allowed him to view the audience as well.

“I really wish I could’ve been there in person, but I just want to say this means a lot to me, to receive this award,” he said. “A recent sermon I heard at church made me realize that sometimes in life, we are called upon to help others reach their dreams, and I am so grateful for the community that helped me reach mine. You’re all wonderful.”

Crawford’s award was accepted on his behalf by Marilyn Tims.

Award presenters for the event were the Rev. Sandra Sistare and Odell Witherspoon Jr., members of Steele Hill Community Partners board of directors.

Indian Land Middle School eighth-grader Charlotte Kreibich sang “Think of Me” from “Phantom of the Opera” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles, both a cappella.

Lunch was catered by the Highway 901 Grill in Rock Hill. The event was coordinated by Fred Witherspoon and Candace Windell, owner of the Clebourne House in Fort Mill.