"It is the highest third-party award that a supporter or investor, or in our case, somebody like the Service League who's been with us from day one -- 21 years -- [can obtain]," said Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, which serves about 235 students daily at its Cartersville and Adairsville units. "For our case, this award was given out as a compilation of not only their financial support but their in-kind services, their volunteerism, their leadership at the club. We're fortunate. We've got a lot of partners but the Service League is just right at the top of the list."
Along with their financial donations, CSL members volunteer weekly, helping the children with homework; provide needed supplies annually; and have assisted in the renovation of the Cartersville Unit's gymnasium and technology center.
"They have been so constant regardless of their membership," Gilley said. "They roll off. They have six-year terms, but each and every one of them are committed. I see them at the grocery store and [they ask] 'What can we do?' They're always looking for ways to help. They [also] sponsor probably about 100 kids a year at Christmas and their families [from our Cartersville Unit]. This is [done] individually. This has nothing to do officially with the Service League and it's done under the radar.
"They're always doing things for us that they never get accolades for. They're not running down to get the publicity for it. These are concerned folks. And it helps us too because [through their involvement] our young people see very successful, driven women that are kind and compassionate and successful at the same time."
For the CSL's outgoing president Marianne Forsyth, the award was extremely touching and reaffirming.
"I was not aware that Gordon had submitted our name, and he told us, and we were just very honored and very surprised and very grateful," said Forsyth, CSL's 2010 to 2011 president. "It's confirmation that we're putting our money where we need to be putting it. We decided about three years ago, I think, to officially always give at least 30 percent of what we raise to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
"We just wanted to make sure that we would always support them in a big way and receiving this award just helped us fully understand and realize that that was a good decision, that we were doing something that was beneficial to the Boys & Girls Clubs in a way that we might not of even [understood] before that."
Established in 1941, the CSL is comprised of 43 Bartow County women, who serve six-year terms and volunteer more than 40 hours per year in the community.
Along with tutoring children weekly at the Boys & Girls Club's Cartersville Unit, some of their volunteer efforts include conducting hearing and vision screenings for kindergarten students in the Bartow County School System; distributing a weekly meal to Flowering Branch Children's shelter residents; and volunteering with the Special Olympics Committee in Bartow County. They also equip area children with school supplies, gifts and necessities throughout the year.
In March, the CSL presented a total of $60,000 -- generated through the league's Spring and Fall Rummage Sales, the Ways and Means Dance and Poinsettia Sale -- to more than 30 organizations. The recipients included Action Ministries Inc., Advocates for Children, Autism in Bartow, Bartow Christmas, Bartow Collaborative, Bartow County/Cartersville Special Olympics, Bartow County 4-H Club, Bartow County Public Library, Bartow County Teacher Grant Program, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County, Bartow County Women's Resource Center Inc., Bartow Give a Kid a Chance, Cartersville School Foundation, Cartersville Special Education, Cartersville School Foundation -- GateKey, Cartersville City Schools -- Backpack Buddies, The Etowah Scholarship Foundation, The Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, Bartow Area Habitat for Humanity, Hands of Christ, Joshua Brown Foundation, Juvenile Court -- Bartow County, Least of These, New Beginnings Food Outreach, Oakland Heights Angel Ministry, Tranquility House, Steps of Faith, Bartow History Museum, Cartersville Little League, Living Tree Memorial Walk and Bartow Health Access.
Following the financial distribution, CSL President Dana McElwee stressed the league's long-standing commitment to charities that serve the residents of Bartow County.
"The members of the Cartersville Service League believe now, more than ever, it is important to support and give back to many of the educational and economic organizations of Cartersville and Bartow County," she said.
The league's next fundraiser will be the Spring Rummage Sale scheduled for April 21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with an early bird sale at the Cartersville Civic Center, 435 W. Main St. The initial offering will be followed by a half-price sale on April 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a bag sale April 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The proceeds will be dispersed to local charities in 2012.
For more information about the Service League, visit www.cartersvilleserviceleague.com.