By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times
As a child who made visits to Cullman with her family, Sister Tonette Sperando noticed something different about the town. However, she could never put her finger on it.
It wouldn't be until years later that Sperando figured it out, as she posed the question to several of her older Benedictine Sisters.
"They responded by saying what makes Cullman a unique place to live is because the residents care about one another," she said.
She's since been able to attest to that, and on Tuesday, spoke of the neighbor helping neighbor mentality to a group gathered at Cullman Church of Christ for the annual United Way awards luncheon.
"It's days like today, and celebrations like this, when individuals like us, who support efforts through United Way, truly realize the impact we are making on the people of Cullman," she said. "To know that together we are playing a small role in trying to make Cullman a better place, a better place to live, by enabling its citizens to live a more productive and fuller lives, leaves me with a feeling of fulfillment and a grateful heart."
Sperando added that as she was preparing what to say for Tuesday's event, the image of a pebble being tossed into a pool of water kept coming to mind.
"Just as the ripple reaction that can't be stopped, so too does the action of United Way of Cullman cause a ripple outward motion that travels throughout the various agencies and organizations in Cullman who directly assist our citizens in need.
"No one organization or agency alone can meet the needs of so many people in Cullman," she continued. "However, by partnering together, we can accomplish much to further what first began as a simple pebble tossed into a pool of water. Together we can help to inspire hope, and create opportunities for a better tomorrow, and for a better Cullman."
Following the presentation, the organization gave away awards to members of the community who have made outstanding contributions of time or money to the organization.
The top 10 companies were General Dynamics, Cullman City Schools, Cullman County Schools, Cullman Regional Medical Center, Lufkin Industries, Rehau Incorporated, American Proteins, Rusken Packaging, Topre America, and Walmart.
Donna Mackentepe, of Walmart Transportation, was Board Member of the Year. Mackentepe was a United Way board member from 2007 to 2012, serving as chairwoman in 2011. The past two years, she has volunteered her time to Daystar House.
The organization also appointed its new board chair, Dr. Greg Meiman, who will lead the board into the next year of charitable work.
Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org