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Last updated: April 11. 2014 9:06PM - 865 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com



Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentBoard of Commissioners chairman Jefferson Strickland, center, praises the volunteer efforts of Clinton-Sampson Chamber Ambassador Cliff Ireland, far left, and Guardian ad Litem Thad Toomer, who were both recently honored with the Governor's Volunteer Service Award.
Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentBoard of Commissioners chairman Jefferson Strickland, center, praises the volunteer efforts of Clinton-Sampson Chamber Ambassador Cliff Ireland, far left, and Guardian ad Litem Thad Toomer, who were both recently honored with the Governor's Volunteer Service Award.
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Two men have been honored for significant contributions to the community through their selfless service as volunteers, garnering the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for their respective efforts in Sampson.


Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Thad Toomer and Clinton-Sampson Chamber Ambassador Cliff Ireland were recently recognized for their dedication by the Sampson Board of Commissioners. The two earned the Governor’s VSAs, with Toomer also receiving the Governor’s Medallion Award, the state’s highest level of volunteer recognition.


With April serving as Volunteer Appreciation Month, Chamber executive director Janna Bass said it was especially fitting that Toomer and Ireland be lauded for their volunteer efforts. Toomer, nominated by GAL program supervisor Patrick Giddeons, and Ireland, nominated by Bass, each give of their time, asking nothing in return, they said.


“This is a great opportunity to recognize some people who give back a lot to the community,” Giddeons added.


Governor’s VSA selections are based on the nominee’s commitment of time, accomplishments, community impact and enhancement of the lives of others. Up to 10 nominations are submitted from the local level to the commission, with one able to be recommended for consideration for the Medallion Award.


“This year Sampson County is very excited to have two who received the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award,” said Bass.


Toomer has volunteered with the Guardian Ad Litem program for the Fourth Judicial District, which includes Sampson, for the past six years. Volunteering over 30 hours of his time each week, Toomer has dedicated himself to serving as a voice for abused and neglected children as part of the GAL program.


Giddeons said Toomer represents those children brought into Department of Social Services custody because of an allegation of abuse and neglect. As a volunteer, he gathers independent information to serve as the child’s voice in the proceedings and advocates for a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible.


“Thad is actually bringing that child’s voice into the court,” Giddeons said, noting Toomer has been the guardian for more than 40 cases. “Thad exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism. He is committed to making his community a better place to live. Thad’s altruistic attitude is selfless. He seeks to gain nothing other than the satisfaction of knowing he has helped those less fortunate.”


Toomer’s reliability and professionalism has elicited praise from court personnel, attorneys, program managers and others, Giddeons noted. He not only advocates for children in his own cases, but assists in recruiting, screening, training and mentoring new volunteers, as well as participating in community outreach.


Additionally, he serves as the vice president of the Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Association, a non-profit support group to the program itself.


“He’s helping to facilitate some of the unmet needs in this area,” said Giddeons. For example, if a foster child in the DSS system wanted to go to summer camp, there is no allocation of funding for that. However, the Volunteer Association collects money to aid that effort and Toomer is instrumental in seeing that those monies find their way to the right places.


“Thad’s leadership as a volunteer is priceless, as his service hours and efforts actually surpass that of a paid employee,” Giddeons attested.


And the number of children who are abused and neglected are on the rise, making volunteers like Toomer and others even more of a necessity.


“We certainly need a lot more,” Giddeons remarked. “If I could clone Thad, I would do that.”


Ireland has been volunteering with the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce for the past six years. He assists as a Chamber ambassador, as well as giving his time to the organization of the Christmas in Clinton Parade and as part of the Governmental Affairs Committee. He has also been deemed the Chamber’s unofficial “professional photographer,” documenting each community event.


Earlier this year, he was named the Outstanding Chamber Member of the Year.


“Cliff Ireland goes above and beyond his volunteer duties,” said Bass in nominating Ireland. “He is not only crucial to capturing the celebrations and business community with his photography skills at the variety of weekly Chamber events, but he also assists in the planning and marketing of these events to ensure success. Cliff Ireland is a staple to the Chamber of Commerce and takes complete pride and ownership of his roles and responsibilities.”


Ireland constantly makes suggestions for improvement and is willing to go out on a limb to try something new for the success and growth of the Chamber, Bass stated. Not a day goes by that the Chamber office is not in constant communication with Ireland, who serves as the director of the Sampson Community College’s Small Business Center, to discuss any number of activities, she noted.


“We are honored to have Cliff as a part of our team and we thank him for his dedication, innovative ideas and willingness to be involved and stay involved over the past few years,” Bass remarked.


Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at cberendt@civitasmedia.com.


 
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