United Way of the Piedmont is honored to work with thousands of community champions who are ensuring families in Spartanburg, Cherokee, and Union Counties thrive. Every year we present awards to donors and volunteers, that generously invest their time, talents and resources to support United Way of the Piedmont’s mission to connect, engage, and inspire people to transform their communities. While we can’t recognize them in-person this year at our Annual Celebration, please help us honor these individuals by sharing this article and/or congratulating these dedicated individuals!

Please see below for full details and photos of the following awards:

  • The Morgan Award – Elaine & Jim Smith
  • Walter S. Montgomery Sr. Award for Young Leadership –  Jessica Holcomb
  • Women United Leadership Award – Anne Flynn
  • Sylvia Stahley Outstanding Speaker Award – Mitch Kennedy
  • Tom Barnet Volunteer of the Year – Al Gauthier
  • AmeriCorps Member of the Year – Steven Greer
  • VISTA Member of the Year – Katie Parris
  • Advocate of the Year – Nikki Burgess
  • Chairman’s Award – Sue Schneider

THE MORGAN AWARD

Presented to a leadership donor who exemplifies caring for our community.

ELAINE & JIM SMITH
ELAINE & JIM SMITH
Elaine and Jim Smith are the recipients of the annual Morgan Award. Jim, co-founder of Contec, Inc., and Elaine, Contec’s Chief HR Business Partner, have grown their business to be one of the 20 fastest growing companies in South Carolina. In addition, to their business success, they make giving back a priority by serving on numerous philanthropic boards. They recognize, support, and believe in the power of sustainable transformation in our community. United Way of the Piedmont is proud to honor the Smiths with the Morgan Award for their passion and dedicated support of UWP’s work in the areas of Education, Financial Stability, and Health.

More Annual Celebration Announcements

WALTER S. MONTGOMERY SR. AWARD FOR YOUNG LEADERSHIP

Recognizes and celebrates the young leader who exhibits uncommon generosity, involvement and leadership.

JESSICA HOLCOMB
JESSICA HOLCOMB
Under Jessica’s leadership, the Young Leader advisory board has been re-energized and focused, from recruiting new advisory board members to hosting a successful Overflow Thanksgiving social event where guests wrote over 360 notes of encouragement that were included in bags of holiday groceries to families in need. She also served on the 2020 Gala Committee that raised over $13,000 for Emerge Family Therapy’s program that serves Spartanburg County high school students. In addition to her leadership role on our Young Leader advisory board, she has been a key contributor on our Financial Stability Task Force since 2016. She also serves on the Opportunity Housing Collaborative and recently participated as a panelist during one of United Way of the Piedmont’s Cliff Effect series on Racial Equity. Thank you, Jessica for all you have done to impact our community!

SYLVIA STAHLEY OUTSTANDING SPEAKER AWARD 

Awarded to an individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty in partnering with United Way to educate others about community issues and needs.

MITCH KENNEDY
MITCH KENNEDY
Describing everything United Way of the Piedmont (UWP) does is challenging, however, when Mitch Kennedy talks, people listen. As the City of Spartanburg’s Assistant City Manager, Mitch has spoken on numerous occasions to share the importance of our collaborative work, and we are thrilled to honor Mitch Kennedy with this year’s Sylvia Stahley Outstanding Speaker Award! Mitch, a Spartanburg native, has the unique ability to connect the dots for people, while also presenting data that deepens others understanding of the work UWP does, especially regarding financial stability and racial equity. Over the past year, he has been available to help with numerous bus tours that have advanced participants’ understanding of where our community has been, where we are going, and how UWP helps accomplish those objectives. He is also a spokesperson on our Financial Stability Taskforce, at specific workplace campaign meetings, and as an advisory board member to our African American Leadership Society. Mitch’s passion for Spartanburg and hopes for how together we can make it even better are an asset not only to UWP, but our entire community. Mitch, thank you for helping make Spartanburg a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive!

VISTA MEMBER OF THE YEAR

Awarded to the Americorps member who embodies what it means to be a VISTA, Volunteer in Service to America.

KATIE PARRIS
KATIE PARRIS
VISTA stands for Volunteer In Service To America and this year, one VISTA member has gone above and beyond to advance the impact of the VISTA program in our community. We are pleased to honor Katie Parris with this year’s VISTA of the Year Award! In addition to her agency-specific duties, Katie is highly engaged and has worked diligently on her community project. She’s known for having a positive, thoughtful attitude and is willing to step outside her comfort zone. Thank you, Katie!

ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR

Awarded to the United Way of the Piedmont supporter who carries high the banner of United Way and is vocal regarding community issues and UWP’s work to address them.

NIKKI BURGESS
NIKKI BURGESS
This year’s Advocate of the Year has worked to deepen United Way’s impact in Union County. She leveraged her many strong relationships for both corporate and community support for United Way initiatives. Not only did her efforts bring new energy to United Way’s work in Union County, but her commitment to engaging partners meant hundreds of children and families had access to resources like school supplies, food, and winter clothing. For her commitment to ensuring families in Union County have the opportunity to thrive, we are pleased to honor Nikki Burgess as our Advocate of the Year.

WOMEN UNITED LEADERSHIP AWARD 

Honors the achievements of an outstanding woman leader whose professional accomplishments are matched by her commitment to philanthropy.

ANNE FLYNN
ANNE FLYNN
We are honored to present Anne Flynn with this year’s Women United Leadership Award. In addition to serving on a Women United advisory board, Anne uses her passion and time, and to further other women’s understanding of the important work of United Way. Her efforts have enabled us to deepen relationships with existing donors as well as start new conversations. Melinda Gates said, “Philanthropy is not about the money…It’s about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world.” Anne lives that truth every day. We are so very thankful for all that she does to further the United Way’s mission and actively shape our community’s future!

TOM BARNET VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR 

Awarded to a UWP volunteer whose commitment to our mission and investment of time is extraordinary.  

AL GAUTHIER
AL GAUTHIER
This year, we are honored to present the Tom Barnet Volunteer of the Year Award to, Al Gauthier, a dedicated VITA volunteer whose commitment of time is extraordinary. United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free income tax assistance to low-income families and individuals. Al volunteers weekly at the CC Woodson VITA site helping complete tax returns families. He also uses his software engineering skills to support the VITA mobile clinic. AmeriCorps & VITA Program Manager at United Way of the Piedmont, Dana Bertolino, says, “I do not think I would be able to feel as prepared as I do going into tax season without Al’s help.” Congratulations, Al! We are extremely grateful for all you do to help support long-term financial stability for individuals and families in our community.

AMERICORPS MEMBER OF THE YEAR

Awarded to the Americorps member who demonstrates a passion for service through their dedication to helping others.

STEVEN GREER
STEVEN GREER
It is our honor to present Steven Greer as this year’s AmeriCorps Member of the Year. Steven works directly with SPIHN, a program for homeless families which provides shelter and supportive services, as well as works at the Spartanburg Opportunity Center (SOC). Steven provides outreach services and case management to both the SPIHN families and homeless individuals at SOC. His compassion is infectious, and he is often seen listening to stories, laughing and receiving hugs from all those that he helps. Thank you Steven for your year of service to UWP’s AmeriCorps Program and touching countless lives in our community!

CHAIRMAN’S AWARD

Presented to a CEO or Corporate Leader whose leadership and support in their workplace campaign led to significant campaign growth.

SUE SCHNEIDER
SUE SCHNEIDER
Each year we recognize a corporate leader who is the catalyst for significant change within their company campaign which resulted in greater investment in our community. It is our distinct honor to present Schue Schneider the Chairman’s Award. She has created an environment at Spartanburg Water where employees are educated about community issues and can be part of the solution through giving, advocating, and volunteering with United Way. Through Sue’s efforts, Spartanburg Water has grown their annual United Way campaign by more than 10% over the past 5 years. It is our distinct honor to present Sue Schneider the Chairman’s Award. Congratulations, Sue Schneider!