Banquet honors local women

Published 11:36 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NATCHEZ — The Miss-Lou prides itself on its dedicated group of volunteers, and some members of that distinct group were honored Tuesday.

The annual Caring Women banquet, sponsored by Natchez Community Hospital and Comcast Spotlight, recognized 50 women and honored five with Caring Women awards in different categories — leadership, perseverance, mentor, defender and promise.

Guest speaker for the lunchtime banquet was Maggie Wade, a co-anchor for WLBT news in Jackson. Wade said it is the attitude of dedicated volunteers that set them apart.

Email newsletter signup

“They get to a point where they don’t see the trials and tribulations,” Wade said. “They only see the victory on the other side.

“It is not over until they’ve won.”

The women honored at the banquet were nominated by friends and family because of their tireless efforts to better the community.

The winner in the leadership category was the Rev. Darian Duckworth of Grace United Methodist Church. A Caring Woman of leadership is described as “one who inspires others to take actions for a common good.”

Sue Stedman, emcee of the program, said Duckworth’s commitment to her congregation as well as the community as a whole made Duckworth an obvious choice for the award.

Reading the words of Duckworth’s nominator, Stedman said Duckworth made an impact on her congregation from her first Sunday at the church.

“She greeted everyone by name her very first Sunday,” Stedman said.

Duckworth was also recognized for her leadership in church meetings and worship service and for also providing a monthly worship services at Magnolia House.

Duckworth is also a yoga instructor and board member at United Way.

“She has filled the pulpit with such love,” Stedman read.

Peggy Burns was recognized as the 2009 Caring Woman in the perseverance category.

Burns was awarded the honor because of her beautification efforts at Dr. Jack Rodriguez’s office while she was under going treatment for cancer.

Stedman said, despite her personal adversity, Burns took it upon herself to fill the flowerbeds in the courtyard at Rodriguez’s office. Stedman read a passage from Burns’s nominator that exemplified Burn’s outlook.

“She said ‘Cancer, without the drab view from the window, is depressing enough,’” Stedman said.

After receiving the award Burns said flowers had always brought joy to her and she wanted to share that with others battling cancer.

“When I came home from the hospital in Jackson, the first thing I wanted to do was see a flower in my yard,” Burns said. “I remembered how that made me feel and had to do something.”

So Burns planted the flowers in the planting beds and continues to tend them. And her effort to bring joy to other patients and families seems to be working.

“After I planted the flowers and they started blooming, I started seeing smiles,” Burns said. “Before I never saw any smiles.”

In the mentoring category, Charlene Rushing was chosen as the 2009 Caring Woman.

Rushing was nominated and honored because of her work across the Miss-Lou.

“The river that divides the Miss-Lou has never been a barrier for her,” Stedman said.

Rushing dedicated much of her time working with Relay for Life and the egg-citing Easter egg hunt.

Rushing also dedicated much energy to helping Hurricane Katrina evacuees and to soldiers.

“If she knows of an American soldier serving oversees that is in need of a caring package, she doesn’t wait for someone else to send it,” Stedman read from Rushing’s nomination, “She just does it.”

After hearing her name announced Rushing was noticeably surprised.

“I just do a little bit here and a little bit there,” she said.

And like a true caring woman, Rushing said she never expected to be recognized.

“Why shouldn’t I?,” Rushing said. “We are asked to serve. That is what Jesus asks us to do and that’s what I’m doing it.”

The defender category recognizes women who serve the needs of disadvantaged people.

Mary Ann Foggo-Eidt was honored in this category because of her work as the director at Pleasant Acre Day School, a learning center for special needs adults.

Foggo-Eidt’s nominator commended her for her ability to not only survive on a shoestring budget but to thrive, saying that Foggo-Eidt she developed special programs and fundraisers to supplement the school’s $30,000 a year budget.

The Promise category is for young women, aged 14 to 18, who are already dedicated to helping others.

Category winner Gabrielle Richardson is a home-schooled high school student who dedicates over 200 hours a year to community service.

Richardson is also a talented singer and plans to study vocal performance in college.