Thank you, thank you, thank you, Circles volunteers and donors, was the message given to all Circles of Jackson County volunteers and donors on Sunday, Feb. 23, during an event at the Paper Mill Lounge in Sylva.

Craig Day, owner of the lounge, provided his wonderful establishment and all the great food for the event. This is the second year in a row that he has done this for Circles.

The event began with Circles Board Chairman Mary Ann Farrell telling the guests what it means to be a Circles Ally and encouraging and inviting those who have not served as an Ally to do so.

“If you serve as an Ally in order to be a blessing,” Farrell said, “you will find that you are the one being blessed.”

Dawn Neatherly, Circles executive director, then presented plaques of appreciation for four women who kept Circles alive when the founder experienced a health crisis shortly after beginning the program and was unable to return for five months. Those wonderful individuals were Sue Bartlett, Linda Potter, Mary Slagle and Sheri Turk.

The Ann Melton Outstanding Service Award was given to Bill and Julie Ogletree, two individuals who do and have done so much for Circles of Jackson County. Bill donated the profits from his book “Mean Christianity” to Circles, and Julie drives to Cherokee each week and brings the Job Corp students to Circles meetings. Both serve as Allies.

The next award was the Go Getter Volunteer Award to Kathy Wilson. She assists in every volunteer area and is an outstanding ambassador for Circles to the community at large.

In addition,17 volunteers with five or more years of service to Circles were presented with lapel pins and five-year service bars.

In order to recognize individuals, churches and businesses who have made extensive monetary contributions to Circles, two giving levels have been established – the Platinum Circle and the Gold Circle.

The following received the Platinum Recognition: Darlene Beckett, Sylva First United Methodist Church, Susan Sterchi, Sylva Church of Christ, Beth Loftquist, Celeste and Joshua Pratt, Connie and Phil Haire, and Craig Day.

Receiving Gold recognition were Marcia and Tim Jones, Western Builders, Patsy Davis and Sylva First Baptist Church.

The event speaker was Kayla Loftis, a Circle Leader who has reached self-sustainability. She credited Circles of Jackson County for being a significant contributor to her move out of poverty and into the job of her dreams. She thanked all the volunteers for not only helping her but for helping so many in Jackson County work their way out of poverty and into financial sustainability.

Following this, a wonderful meal was served and everyone had a wonderful afternoon.

In closing, we want to again invite anyone who is interested in learning more about Circles of Jackson County, to visit us at our new location any Tuesday night – Loves Chapel United Methodist Church beside Fairview Memorial Gardens near Smoky Mountain High School. A free dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. and presentation, activities and educational opportunities begin at 6:15 p.m. Childcare is provided. You do not need reservations. Just come and join us.

Melton is founder, Circles of Jackson County.