Volunteers Receive Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence

A group of volunteers at a food bank.
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ORANGE CITY, Fla., May 5, 2016 On April 28, more than 200 area residents and community leaders joined Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in recognizing 10 nominated volunteers, as well as three award winners, at the Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence dinner at the DeBary Golf and Country Club.

The Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence, named for one of West Volusia's best-known volunteers, began in 2009 to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of like-minded volunteers within the community.

All 10 candidates were nominated by individuals in West Volusia who paid homage to the countless hours of unpaid work done by those who see a pressing need and then find a way to fix it.

At this years event, three awards were presented: the Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence, the Chrysalis Youth Award for youth ages 16 and under, and the Flutter Award for a group of volunteers.

Cindy Tocci of Orange City won the Johana Knox for Community Service Excellence. Tocci has helped her community in numerous ways including: creating and maintaining a food pantry at her church, working with Orange Citys code enforcement department to identify and improve projects throughout the community, and helping area schools identify those in need of assistance through the holiday program, Giving Joy. According to her nomination form, Cindy is a person that assists others, not for personal recognition, but because she genuinely enjoys helping people in any way that she can. She has enhanced the quality of life for many in southwest Volusia, and has established a legacy that will continue beyond her length of service.

Aysha Benjamin of Deltona won the Chrysalis Youth Award. As a sophomore at the Health Academy at Deltona High School, Benjamin has cheerfully volunteered for a variety of community events, including the American Heart Associations Relay for Life, which supports the fight for finding a cure for cancer, as well as other fundraising events. According to her nomination form, Aysha has a very giving heart and is always willing to help in any way.

The Community Life Center Outreach Services of Deltona won the Flutter Award. The Community Life Center Outreach Services mission is centered on the individuals and families in Deltona who live in poverty. The Center offers assists with basic needs including food, clothing, shelter and utilities. Their hands-up approach empowers neighbors for self-sufficiency through employment assistance, workshops and referrals to partnering agencies. They provide free meals monthly, and serve as a Florida Department of Children and Families Automated Community Connection to Economic Self Sufficiency (ACCESS) center, providing help with obtaining food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, free cell phones and more. Through its partnership with other community organizations the Community Life Center provides links to health screenings, employment and life skills training, financial assistance with rent and utility bills, and more.

These award winners were selected by a panel of judges who are not affiliated with Florida Hospital Fish Memorial.

The other nominees for this years award were: Concerned Citizens for Animal Welfare of Volusia County, Barb Girtman of DeLand, Claire Marshburn of Deltona, Larry Miller of DeLand, Lynn Ribaudo of DeBary, Denise Russo of Deltona, and The Sorosis Club of Orange City.

In 2009, musician Gene Gizzi wrote Fly Away for Johana Knox in recognition for her love of butterflies. During this years event, Gizzi performed this song while Jeff Allebach, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial Foundation board member, released butterflies.

In addition, DeLand resident Michael Beckman, a kidney and pancreas transplant recipient, shared his personal story with the audience, encouraging all to consider registering as organ donors.

I had diabetes and was insulin dependent since I was 14 years old, he said. In 2006, I had a heart attack and was taken to Florida Hospital Fish Memorial. Nine stents later, my kidneys had failed and I was on dialysis for nearly two years. Receiving a pancreas and kidney donation in 2008 literally changed my life. The last eight years have been in the best years of my adult life.

The evening ended with local singer Tracy McCoy performing a solo, Wind Beneath Your Wings in celebration of those who give of themselves to build a healthy community.

About Florida Hospital Fish Memorial

Florida Hospital Fish Memorial is a member of Adventist Health System, a faith-based health care organization with 46 hospital campuses and nearly 8,200 licensed beds in 10 states. With 175-beds, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial is one of the six Florida Hospitals in Volusia and Flagler counties that composes the Florida Hospital East Florida Region. As the largest hospital system in the area, the Florida Hospital East Florida Region has 899 beds and nearly 5,900 employees. With a mission to extend the healing ministry of Christ, the Florida Hospital East Florida Region collectively contributed nearly $120 million in benefits in 2015 to the underprivileged, the community's overall health and wellness and spiritual needs, and capital improvements.

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