The support system for the Floyd County’s social support system was recognized Thursday at the 2019 COVA Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon that drew about 150 people to Berry College’s Krannert Center

The Council of Volunteer Administrators is an alliance of 15 local organizations dedicated to addressing community needs that fall through the cracks.

They provide extra help to a wide range of people — from abused children, sexual assault survivors and dying senior citizens to families struggling with mental illness, developmental disabilities and addictions.

COVA President Bonnie Jones said their volunteers are their backbone, giving over 28,360 hours in 2018 to make the county a better place.

Berry, which fields two volunteer programs, has sponsored the luncheon for the past seven years and the alliance continues to grow. Michael Zirkle of the Bonner Scholars Program led the effort this year, although he said they just helped.

“They did most of it,” Jones cut in with a smile.

At tables decorated with bright and cheerful symbols of their work, the groups laughed and shared stories and a meal together. And they applauded their peers singled out for special recognition.

Presentations were announced by Rogena Walden of GeorgiaCares, part of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission’s Area Agency on Aging. The organization helps over 100,000 people in the 15-county region with Medicare education and counseling.

Larry Walker, a strong advocate for the Rome Exchange Club Family Resource Center, was named Volunteer of the Year.

Walker chairs the Exchange Club’s child abuse prevention committee, is a passionate public speaker in spreading word of the organization’s successes and needs, encourages the staff, takes on any task and recruits other workers and donors as well.

Eight nominees from other organizations were also recognized:

♦ Christyn Griffin is a volunteer court-appointed special advocate with Floyd County CASA, dedicated to guiding the progress of children involved in family court cases.

♦ Jan Greene is a board member of Compassionate Paws who brings her pet partner to uplift people in nursing homes, hospices and other stressful situations.

♦ Pat Sweezy of DIGS works tirelessly with adults with developmental disabilities, directing their “Just As I Am” choir and working personally with each member.

♦ Nichole Varnell called her work for GeorgiaCares “a heart job.” Her clients have called her a “bulldog” for them, spending weeks if necessary to give them peace of mind.

♦ Deborah McGuinness is key to the success of Habitat for Humanity Coosa Valley’s Chattooga County outreach and is one of the organization’s “pack rats” who collect items for the Habitat ReStore.

♦ Debra McCain serves on the Floyd County Juvenile Court’s Citizen Review Panel, tasked with reviewing the cases of children in the custody of the Division of Family and Children Services.

♦ Gussie Bradfield leads family support group meetings for Living Proof Recovery Center, sponsors and mentors a number of women recovering from addiction, and offers financial support.

♦ Jamie Griffin is a peer facilitator and educator for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Rome. She makes presentations throughout Northwest Georgia, putting a personal face on the struggles and successes.

Other local organizations involved in COVA are:

Elevation House, with a mission to end social and economic isolation for people living with mental illness in Rome; Harbor House, dedicated to lessening the trauma of victims of child abuse; Heyman Hospice, which supports families and their loved ones with less than six months to live; the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia, offering crisis intervention and healing for survivors and their families; and the United Way of Rome & Floyd County, which works with groups across the board to strengthen direct-service programs.