By Kaitlin Fleming
A local woman received a surprise reception and volunteer award on Friday, Sept. 13.
Jessica Brown was chosen as a winner in AARP’s national Show Your Love volunteer contest and soon will embark on a week-long cruise as part of her award.
The contest aims to inspire volunteers to go above and beyond, and also meant to thank volunteers for their service. The contest is open between February and March and the contestants must be nominated to win.
Nominees are considered based on what volunteer work they do and the impact it has on the community.
In a press release sent on Friday morning, Candi Williams, AARP’s Alabama State Director, said that AARP is “thrilled to honor an exceptional volunteer” who “so clearly exemplifies” the motto of their founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, which is “to serve and not be served.”
“We hope the Create the Good Show Your Love Contest has helped to shine a light on the tremendous contributions made by volunteers, and encouraged others to give back to their communities,” said Williams.
Brown, who was chosen as winner out of 900 nominees across the country, had no idea she was being honored.
“I thought I was coming to a prosperity update,” said Brown. “I didn’t know this was happening. I’m very surprised and speechless. I knew I was nominated, but I had no idea I had won.”
Brown was nominated by Lesli Bishop of Family Savings Credit Union. Bishop said she stumbled across the contest online and after working with Brown at the credit union for several years, she said she knew she would be a good candidate.
“Probably everybody in this room has witnessed how much Jessica volunteers,” said Bishop. “She is always there and she does such a great job with everything she does. She always does everything with a smile on her face.”
Bishop and other colleagues managed to keep the surprise reception a secret until the moment Brown walked in the door.
Several of the organizations that Brown volunteers with had representatives at the reception. They shared all of the impactful work that she has been doing across Eto-wah County.
Heather New, President and CEO of The Chamber spoke about Brown’s attitude.
“She always has a smile on her face no matter how stressed she is,” said New. “She gives wholly and completely. We are so fortunate to have her in this community.”
East Alabama Works Director Lisa Morales shared that when she first met Brown, she felt like she made her new best friend, and that Brown “always does everything with a smile.”
Brown, who was all smiles during her reception, said God had blessed her throughout her life.
“I have been blessed to be surrounded by good family, good friends and good coworkers.”
Brown serves with United Way of Etowah County, the American Red Cross, The Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, Worlds of Work, Leadership Etowah, Student Leadership Program and more.
She helps recruit volunteers for United Way’s Day of Action. When she first began volunteering with United Way, during her college internship in 2008, the Day of Action event only had 150 volunteers. Now, Day of Action has roughly 600 volunteers.
When asked what she had planned next, Brown said she looks forward to the cruise, meeting other volunteers while on the cruise and getting back home and working on even more projects.