Hands On Birmingham Ignite Award winners inspire volunteerism and love of community

Hands on Birmingham


Hands On Birmingham Ignite Awards

Last week, seven unsung, dedicated,“roll up your sleeves” community volunteers were honored with the Ignite Award for igniting action and accelerating change in their local communities. The inaugural event was hosted by Hands On Birmingham the volunteer initiative of United Way of Central Alabama.

Ignite Birmingham Alabama
The “Hands on Fire” ignite award sculpture was designed by local glass artist Amy Soverow. The piece is a 3D representation of the “ignite” logo, as a one-of- a-kind testament to the unsung volunteer heroes of the community.

“Their service has a positive ripple effect that will last forever,”said Drew Langloh, President, and CEO, United Way of Central Alabama, Inc.

Seven Categories

There were seven categories, representing different facets of the volunteer community. They represent service in the fields of corporate, faith-based, governmental, nonprofit, small business, student volunteers, as well as a special Hands On Birmingham volunteer award. The candidates were nominated by coworkers, friends family members and nonprofit professionals.

“In the spirit of volunteerism, you shouldn’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Today’s honorees found ways to enhance the community around them and they serve as role models to those coming behind us”, said Benga Harrison, Director, Hands On Birmingham.


The awards ceremony which was held on April 25th in front of a “full house” at The Club was inspirational.  Along with honoring the volunteers, Hands On Birmingham called upon attendees to make a personal commitment to volunteer through pledge cards and placing their thumb print on a painting of a tree symbolizing their promise to volunteer.

Hands on Birmingham
Making a “thumb print” promise to volunteer

Below are the categories and names of this year’s Ignite Award winners.  Included are comments and words of wisdom and from them.

Ignite Award Winners

Hands On Birmingham’s Volunteer of the Year: Cassidy Bonner, Salvation Army – “If there’s a need in the community, I’m going to try to be there. People shouldn’t have to stress out about who’s going to help them in a time of need,” said Bonner. “That’s the key thing is they shouldn’t have to stress about the money or physical labor. I just want to be there.”

Corporate: Charlotte Conaway, TekLinks – “I’m very excited to have won this award for the Birmingham City schools. This work that we’re doing, we’re changing the lives of those children for the better.”

Faith-Based: Anna James, Independent Presbyterian Church – “I feel very honored. We teach reading skills to second graders who aren’t achieving what they should be in school. And reading is the key to success in so many ways.”

“I feel very honored.” ~ Anna James

Government: Frederick Jackson, Killough Springs Neighborhood Association – “I care about my neighborhood, that’s really all it is. Just caring about where you live, and it’s what all of us should do.”

Birmingham Alabama
Ignite Award winner Frederick Jackson

Nonprofit: Whitney Saunders. Junior League of Birmingham – “I think that volunteering is important because it’s our responsibility to give back and make the place we live a better place, and I’m thankful that I have an amazing organization like the Junior League that helps me finds opportunities in the community to volunteer.”

Small Business: Jairo Vargas, Latino News, LLC – “It’s important because it’s a connection between the Latino and Hispanic community and the American community. This is the most important goal, I think the Latino newspaper that I’ve done for 20 years and built connections with American businesses and the Latino community. This is an honor for me, and [this award] is for the Latino community.”

Student: Robyn Gulley, Birmingham- Southern College –“I’ve always had a strong interest in helping others and my goal in life is to make a difference. When I was younger I started to realize that a lot of people didn’t have certain things, and I felt like I could make a difference by sharing my talents, and I think just being able to see the smiles on people’s faces and be able to do this work without expecting anything in return is important.”

Connect with Hands On Birmingham

Inspired?  Want to volunteer? Ignite your passion to “do good” and “give back” to the Magic City by contacting Hands On Birmingham today.


Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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