Skip to Content    Skip to Footer

Florida Today Honors Brevard Volunteers at EFSC Event

November 16, 2017

Volunteers are the spirit of a community, quietly giving of themselves to help others.

award winners under Florida Today VRA signBrevard County residents who exemplify that dedication were honored Thursday during the 26th Annual Florida Today Volunteer Recognition Awards at Eastern Florida State College.

Several hundred community leaders gathered for the event at the Simpkins Fine Arts Center on the Cocoa campus.

Here are the winners with a summary of their achievements as provided by Florida Today:

Organization of the Year: Bridges

Our disabled friends want a full, rich life full of the same experiences anyone wants, and Bridges is the multifaceted organization that helps them achieve that life.

Through Bridges, children and adults with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities are given the education, therapy, advocacy, employment and residency they need to overcome life's challenges.

More than 140 Bridges staff members serve over 400 Brevard County individuals every day.

Through day programs at its Rockledge location, Bridges offers individualized programs to help individuals learn therapeutic techniques for stimulation and self-expression, life skills such as budgeting and household organization, and functional skills such as computer training and career development.

In addition to basic career skills, students at Bridges have the option of learning skills in a specific area of expertise to help them gain hands-on experience for future employment and community contributions.

Bridges also offers residential services through three group homes where residents can live independently and make their own choices in a safe environment. In partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project, Bridges also operates the Patriot House, a transitional home for disabled veterans.

For individuals who prefer to live on their own, Bridges offers support services around the clock to provide assistance, training and counseling in the clients' own homes.

In so many ways, Bridges is enriching the lives of those with disabilities and affording them the opportunity to achieve all they can in our community.

Volunteer of the Year: Sandra Price Pelham

A community activist and volunteer extraordinaire, Sandra Price Pelham puts passion into everything she touches. Her local roots run deep. She loves her neighborhood and the community as a whole.

Always on a mission to right the community wrongs, Sandra began her career as a social worker with the Head Start Program in Central Florida. Now retired, her efforts serve economically disadvantaged children in her own Grant Street neighborhood.

As Chairperson Emeritus and Organizer of the Powell Subdivision Neighborhood Watch, she promotes community and police partnerships.

Five years ago, the City of Melbourne renamed Randolph Street, the street on which she grew up, to Pelham Street in honor of her extraordinary efforts and relentless pursuit to make the once-crime-ridden Powell Subdivision a safe zone.

With the help of her sorority Delta Sigma Theta, Sandra volunteers with "Connecting Children to Reading," which provides a weekly enrichment hour for children in the community in need of improving their reading scores. Sandra was the brainchild behind this project and rallied support of community leaders to volunteer to read to the children.

Ever dedicated to the enrichment of children's lives, Sandra is also involved in the Community Read and Feed project, which over this year's summer break from school served over 3,300 meals to 200 children living in food insecure households.

Sandra Price Pelham is of the community and in the community, and she believes that it’s what you do for others that matters.

Business of the Year: Florida Power & Light

Immediately after a hurricane is when Florida Power & Light's service to the community hits the headlines. But it's FPL's everyday ethic of company support, community partnership and employee giving that help improve the quality of life over the long term.

The diversity of FPL's support is immense. In schools, they support energy-related projects and curriculum. With their solar and wind technology, they are working to preserve wildlife and natural resources.

They support the needs of a varied customer base with a focus on seniors and low-income groups. Working to improve the quality of life, they support affordable housing, arts and culture, economic development and government initiatives.

The company makes it easy for these charitable acts to happen through a defined giving strategy and a community affairs department that coordinates all these projects.

Every year, FPL holds a Power to Care Week to encourage employees to roll up their sleeves to help clean beaches, landscape gardens, spruce up parks, beautify schools, and more – all to give back to the communities they serve. The company's Dollars for Doers program rewards nonprofits for the volunteer work of employees.

As a result of these efforts, over 1,500 nonprofits were supported last year. Since 2003, $844,951 in employee pledges were made and $422,300 in corporate gifts were given to United Way of Brevard.  FPL sheds a "light" on community service, positively impacting millions of lives.

Citizen of the Year: William Ellis

This award was presented posthumously. Bill Ellis died July 4, 2017 at age 81 following a stroke.

Only the luckiest among us will ever meet someone like Bill Ellis – a person who makes such a difference in someone's life they couldn't possibly forget his name or how he made them feel.

A Southern gentleman who never met a stranger, Bill truly loved working with others to make Brevard a better place.

His life is woven into the fabric of our region as he was part of the glue that helped hold the entire Brevard community service family together.

With a legendary smile, charm and a subtle joke, Bill was able to navigate through politics and business, connecting people for the benefit of the community, catalyzing cooperation among teams and organizations.

Bill reached thousands of people by his leadership in key organizations that affect the different aspects of life here in Brevard County, whether it be for the environment, economy, tourism, business, healthcare, or otherwise.
He consistently demonstrated vision, empathy, a passion for his job and community, and a caring spirit that was unmatched.

Because he refused to say "no," despite incredible demands for his time that he met without complaint, Bill's volunteer service hours simply cannot be counted.

He was a mentor and role model for the ages, making each person he met feel at ease and significant, treating them with dignity and kindness. Bill Ellis was truly someone people looked up to and strive to be like.