“I can’t help everyone, but I can help someone,” said Kelli Fagala, local high school senior and recipient of a 2018 Medallion Award, the state’s top volunteer honor.


Kelli’s sentiment was shared throughout this year’s Governor’s Awards breakfast, hosted by United Way of Central Carolinas at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus. Cognizant Technology Solutions sponsored the event, which recognized 13 winners representing Mecklenburg, Iredell and Union counties.


Jamie Boll from WBTV served as the emcee, with a keynote address by Wells Fargo community relations executive Kristi Thomas. “There is no better team building than exposing employees to the problems in our community through volunteerism,” Kristi told the crowd.



Since 1979, the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award has honored the true spirit of volunteerism by recognizing those that make a significant contribution to their community through volunteer service. United Way is the local administrator of the Governor’s Awards, which are overseen by the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service.


Volunteerism is critical to solving the issues facing our community and is core to United Way’s fight for the education, health, and financial stability of every person in our community. If you are interested in making a difference as a volunteer, click here.


Congratulations to all the honorees!




KELLI FAGALA is a top academically ranked senior at Piedmont High School, where she serves as the student government president and is a varsity basketball player. She is the founder of Sole2Soul Mission, a faith-based nonprofit, established in January 2017 with a mission to provide children in local impoverished communities with decent footwear. New shoes and socks are distributed to children along with a greater message of hope. Kelli dedicates 20-30 hours each month on fundraising, volunteer management, donation collection, and distribution events. In her first year, more than 2,100 children received new socks and shoes. Her goal is to host a Sole2Soul Mission event in every county in North Carolina within the next 10 years.




DOROTHY WOODARD has applied her experience from her 30+ year career in education to her volunteer work, most notably at the Chestnut Grove Community Center, where she is the current treasurer and a former president. Following a successful recovery from breast cancer, Dorothy spearheaded the implementation of annual breast cancer awareness and men’s health programs. She secured Susan G. Komen Foundation funding, which was used to provide over 850 free mammograms for uninsured women in Iredell County.


LOWE’S HOME IMPROVEMENT embraces teamwork as a core value and a key ingredient in maintaining an engaged workforce. During United Way’s Mooresville/Lake Norman Days of Caring in September 2017, Lowe’s employees participated in 19 service projects with 100 volunteers donating their time, talent, and treasure. These projects resulted in over 280 volunteer service hours that made an impact on the lives of many. Lowe’s volunteers work tirelessly to create a better, safer environment for those in our community.




STEPHANIE ABDO loves helping children and seeing them succeed. In her second year with Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, she accepted the challenge of working with a high-needs elementary school student. Stephanie prepared special materials and games for him, and utilizes various learning tools to increase his ability to focus and concentrate. He is gradually making positive progress and is ultimately thriving under her caring and thoughtful tutelage.


DOROTHY CANNON, a former educator, is now in her third year as a Heart Math tutor at Piney Grove Elementary School. Dorothy is described as having a great heart for children and exemplifying Heart Math’s core values of being student-centered and prioritizing civic engagement. She has been known to say, “Every child can learn, so let’s give our best investment every day,” while stepping into her important role as a tutor.


MICHELE COOK’s firsthand account of her grandmother’s experience living with Alzheimer’s and dementia made a lasting impression. This, along with 20+ years of experience working in the senior care industry, has led her to become heavily involved in the Alzheimer’s Association – Western Carolina Chapter. She is an avid volunteer, fundraiser, advocate, donor, and overall encourager. Michele helped establish Huntersville CARES, to create a dementia-friendly culture in Huntersville, where she continues to support the group through participation in World Rocks Dementia.


GRAY DAVIS is a retiree successfully using his time and flexibility to pay it forward and serve others. He does so primarily through his work as a Hands On Charlotte volunteer liaison and tutor at the Learning Help Centers of Charlotte. Gray is both a mentor and host for other volunteers, as well as a homework and reading buddy for students. He is described as a loyal, positive, and kind-spirited individual with a fun sense of humor and passion for his service work with students.


MICHAEL “MIKE” DORSEL is in his third year serving as a Heart Math tutor, currently working with six students. He volunteers well beyond the minimum weekly time commitment and fills in for absent volunteers when needed. Since 2015, Mike has volunteered as part of the Heart Math’s Assessment Team, where he actively provides suggestions to improve Heart Math’s curriculum. Mike exemplifies several of Heart Math’s core values: being student-centered, having a growth mindset, and prioritizing civic engagement.


CAROL EASON has volunteered tirelessly with the Lupus Foundation of America North Carolina Chapter (LFANC) over the past several years. She frequently assists with administrative work and event preparation, including for the annual Mardi Gras Gala. Carol took her volunteerism to a new level this past year when she joined an elite team of volunteers trained to represent the LFANC at health fairs across the area. Carol’s own experience living with Lupus makes her an even more effective volunteer, advocate, and resource for individuals and their loved ones affected by the disease.


BETTIE GREEN is a former school principal who has sought to share her valuable knowledge and experience in her retirement. With a heart for children, particularly those who are immigrants or refugees, she has a strong desire to see each of them succeed in school and life. For the past four years, she has volunteered at the Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, where she created a dynamic summer camp curriculum. She tutors weekly at the LHCC afterschool program and serves as a member of the board of directors.


jane hixson has been a committed volunteer, fundraiser, advocate, and innovator for Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte for over two decades. One of her most significant volunteer accomplishments has been her annual Loved Ones Luncheon, a women-only fundraising event benefitting Crisis Assistance Ministry. She created the event in 1997 in memory of her mother, Rosemary Bolles, and her mother-in-law, Gay Hixson, both of whom believed in taking care of their loved ones, as well as their greater communities.


JAMES “JIM” PHILLIPS has volunteered with the Ada Jenkins Center since early 2006, a tenure surpassing any current staff member. A chemist by profession and a self-taught computer whiz, Jim provides information technology support for 20-30 hours each week. He patiently troubleshoots various IT issues with staff, volunteers, and client partners. He refurbishes broken or outdated computers and works with case managers to get the machines to client partners who need them for their work or schooling.


JO VAN DYKE is one of the early supporters of Heart Math where she has been a tutor for six years. For the past four years, she has gone above the requested time commitment and number of student assignments. She volunteers twice a week, tutoring four students at two different schools. Jo has shown a unique willingness to commit to higher-needs students, which she demonstrated last year when she continued working with a student in order to provide the attention and support necessary for improvement and growth.