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NRTA's 14th Annual With Our Youth Awards

Recognizing the exceptional community service of retired educators nationwide

Indiana – Jerry D. Bell

“I cannot let this campground be sold ” were the words of Jerry D. Bell, a retired music teacher, regarding the 12+ acre wooded Nameless Creek Youth Camp in Greenfield, Ind. The well-used and loved camp was founded in 1951, but by 2006 it had fallen into total disrepair. He and a small group of volunteers met weekly to plan ways to achieve their goal to restore the campground. He created a business plan and a governing board, and he reached out to community organizations and businesses for financial assistance and needed materials. Facebook was used and websites were created for sharing information and increasing awareness and visibility.  

The community stepped up to help, and local merchants donated materials, equipment and workers. Groups of scouts painted, spread gravel and built a playground. Eagle Scouts completed seven projects, including the construction of Nameless Creek Pond, which is handicap accessible and will be stocked this summer.

Many other youth and adult groups helped as well, including AmeriCorps, Eli Lily and Co., Elanco Inc., church groups, Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy and Greenfield Sertoma.
Individual donations included money and materials for renovating the kitchen and outdoor equipment.  The camp raised money by lumbering the woods and selling a section of land to a local school corporation for their radio tower.

“Match Day,” sponsored by the Hancock County Community Foundation, resulted in over $23,000 from the foundation and community and was used to build a large recreation hall, provide a concrete floor for the pavilion and, among other things, additional playground and equipment for older youth. In 2012, there were 160 events and over 3,700 visitors. The camp’s goal is to hold 200 events annually and have 5,000 people coming through the gate. Visitors have included a nature camp for underprivileged youth; Boy Scouts International; school, scouts and church groups; and the list goes on and on.

Bell also founded the Brandywine Winds and local Jazz Band that includes both youth and adult members. He also works with band youth at local schools and gives music lessons.
His volunteer hours are uncountable but were estimated at 1,700 last year.  
If your future travels take you through Greenfield, please consider taking in a concert or accepting his invitation to “Come grab a fishing pole, participate in any of the other activities at the camp, and plan to spend the night in an air-conditioned bunkhouse!”

South Carolina – Mary Ann Washington Deku

Mary Ann Deku taught for over 38 years in the public schools of Spartanburg, S.C. She initiated many programs to benefit South Carolina students and has participated in many community and state committees to further student education and funding for public education.

In 1970, she developed a voter registration program for her church to address the importance of registration, voting and being active as a voice in community concerns for high school seniors. As Connection Chairman for her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, she started a citywide project of voter registration at various locations, and, in 1996, the program was started in Spartanburg High School. Over the years, the “Adopt-A-High School Voter Registration Drive” program has expanded to all nine high schools in Spartanburg County.

Her dedication was so great that in 1998, from her hospital bed while recovering from brain surgery, she arranged for other people to carry the torch for her. In doing so, the program was greatly expanded. With the help of eight sororities and fraternities, “Adopt-A-High School Voter Registration Drive” now includes an educational Power Point presentation and involves actual voter registration of eligible students. Students are also offered the opportunity to be trained as a poll worker/manager at the voter registration office. In turn, they work to register high school seniors, thus putting into action what they have learned through the program. Since 1998, approximately 1,500 students have been served each year. A useful component of the program is it has the capability of being replicated for other communities.

The intrinsic value of her 38 years of volunteer service could be exemplified by the following words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  

Through her efforts of over 38 years, scores of high school seniors have received “Adopt-A-High-School Voter Registration Drive” education. They have learned to express their voices wisely through voting choices and helped to safeguard democracy for their generation and those to come.

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