To the person, most of the 2013 United Way Community Heroes will tell you they are not deserving of attention, praising others for their efforts to better the community.
And the most selfless are the nominees for Community Hero of the Year.
But at 6 p.m. Thursday, those people who make commitments to do their part will be honored at a reception and banquet at the Ardmore Convention Center. The nominees for hero of the year are Kay Cagle, Austin Childers, Donnell Cox and Malcolm Williams.
"We are able to honor people that fly under the radar," says Al Schneider, 2013 United Way Southern Central Oklahoma president. "They take credit for what they do, but they don't want the recognition.
"They don't think they are doing something special, but they are. They have a passion and are making lives better. They are helping people with services the agency provides."
Kay Cagle volunteers with the Family Shelter, where she completed an internship. Because of funding issues at the shelter, Cagle approached her husband, country music singer Chris Cagle, about what they could do as a family to help and, together, they decided to put on a benefit concert. The concert, which was May 9, grossed more than $52,000. After all the bills were paid, the shelter had $37,000 with which it could directly assist victims of domestic violence.
"I received a call and I was shocked," Cagle says about her reaction to being nominated. "When you start a fundraiser, your only thought is to raise as much money as you can. It's a huge honor to be recognized. I never thought that doing one little fundraiser was going to capture this attention."
Donnell Cox works for the C/Sara Foundation, but it was his work with Cities in Schools that led to his nomination as a community hero. During his time on that board, which was from 2008-13, Cox provided leadership for a program tasked with meeting new demands and challenges. He has been referred to as a "School Whisperer," and was credited for helping implement measurable goals and objectives with reading and math activities designed to raise students' skills.
Although Cox is no longer on the board, he has continued to lend a helping hand.
"I'm pretty passionate about our mission and focus," Cox admits. "My greatest pleasure was connection with the literacy part of the program."
Cox says the program received a grant, which was used to help kids retain the reading and math skills acquired during the school year into the summer months.
"I was surprised, totally surprised," Cox says of his heroes recognition. "I'm sure most people will tell you that's not why we do this. I'd much rather fly under the radar."
Page 2 of 2 - Austin Childers
Childers made headline news earlier this year when he, along with fellow Boy Scouts Spencer Goodson, Clint Annis, Gunner Samuels, Garrett Welch and Jarrett Miller, responded quickly in an emergency situation and pulled a woman to safety. The incident took place during a canoe trip in Broken Bow. The woman overturned in her kayak, and was pulled through a culvert. Injured and in shock, the woman was pulled to safety where Childers and the scouts administered first aid.
"It makes me feel really good (to be nominated)," says Childers, a member of Troop 5. "I felt really excited; I've heard of this before."
Childers says he received a thank you card from the woman and has been busy with scouting activities as younger Scouts have joined the troop. He says the experience gained on the scouting trip and the subsequent nomination gives him hopes for other scouts who follow in his footsteps.
"It makes me hope they would be able to do this someday," he says.
Williams has worked for the Community Children's Shelter and Family Service Center since 2008. His nomination is based on the example he sets in serving others and his passion for filling voids in children's lives. He was an employee with the Office of Juvenile Services for 27 years, and is most proud of his music ministry. His patience with children is one of his most fundamental attributes.
"I think it's really a honor to be thought of in this capacity," Williams acknowledges. "I have worked with youth most of my adult life."
He also says his goal is to offer skills and lessons to kids, which will have a lasting impact.
"I think I'm possibly able to plant some seeds which stay with them throughout their whole life," he says. "I'm shocked really; I don't work for the recognition. I just work at something I've been blessed to do."
Doors open for the reception at 5:30 p.m., with dinner served at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event are $15. Call (580) 223-0140.