(ROCKWALL, TX — May 1, 2019) Rockwall County Helping Hands celebrated its volunteers dedicated to improving the lives of those less fortunate in the community with a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, presented by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall at Culpepper Steak House on April 29.
The nonprofit presented Starfish awards to some very special individuals whose hard work and commitment greatly contributed to the success of each of the agency’s programs within the past year:
Jim Haayen – Assistance & Referral/ Food Pantry
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall President Cindy Perrin presented the Texas Health Rockwall Circle of Care Award to Kendra Jones. The award recognizes a volunteer in any department who exhibits care for fellow volunteers, care for self and care of clients and their loved ones by building relationships and being an example of integrity, grace, and excellence.
Helping Hands also honored one of the nonprofit agency’s founding members, Claudette Johnson, with a Lifetime Achievement award (Claudette was unfortunately unable to attend the luncheon due to illness).
Claudette is a originally from Muskeegon, Mich. She lived in Massachusetts and New Jersey before moving to Rockwall in 1975. She jumped right into the community by becoming one of the first families to help the Diocese of Dallas start Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church which was meeting in Rockwall High School. Claudette was instrumental in helping the church move into a building in downtown Rockwall and then worked tirelessly to help secure the church’s present day location on Damascus Street.
Claudette also was a member of the Churches Altar Society that then became an affiliate member of a larger organization – The Council of Catholic Women – and she still remains an active member today.
It was through her affiliation with Our Lady of the Lake that she became involved in helping the members of the community that needed help. She drove folks to doctor appointments in Dallas and Terrell, helped out those who were dropped off at the truck stop with nowhere to go, and was an advocate for pro life, helping local pregnant teens get help medically and working on the proper adoption process for their babies.
Claudette and Reverend Bob Reeves began to brainstorm of how they could help those in need in the community all year long instead of just at Christmas. They met with others at the First State Bank in downtown Rockwall and secured $500 from an area church. It was here that Claudette, Reeves, and the others decided to name the non-profit Helping Hands. Claudette still remains active today with her volunteerism and love and support for Helping Hands.
She served on the first Board for Reese Manor and helped secure the land on which the property stands today. She served on that board for many years as well as being a past Board Member for the Rockwall County Committee on Aging.
The Friends of the Library had just started and Claudette was in charge of the food for a whole year. There were not a lot of restaurants in Rockwall then, so the food was donated monthly and served in a lunch basket. And so came the name, the Friends of the Library Lunch Basket. After doing this monthly for a while, Claudette suggested they move it to four times a year. She won an award for all her hard work and brilliant suggestion. Claudette and Claudette Hatfield started the First Pumpkin Patch, which was a joint fundraiser for the Friends of the Library and the Council of Catholic Women.
Four years ago, she received the Dallas Diocese Bishops Award for Volunteer Service. Claudette is a person with boundless energy and concern for her fellow man. What do you expect from someone who can say that they met Mother Teresa!
“Claudette truly exemplifies and is the gold standard for what servant leadership really means,” said Helping Hands President Jon Bailey. “Because of her willingness to help those less fortunate, we can honestly say that tens of thousands of people’s lives have been impacted for the better, and that they have received the help they needed and deserved. On behalf of myself, the Board of Directors, and staff at Helping Hands, we say thank you, Claudette, for your vision, passion, and servant leadership. Because of you, Rockwall County is a better place today.”
In honor of her longstanding dedication and service to the community, Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt read a proclamation from the city council recognizing April 29, 2019 as Claudette Johnson Appreciation Day in the City of Rockwall.
Story and photos by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.
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