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Tallahassee Democrat: Volunteers honored at Democrat awards, ‘Man in Overalls’ Nathan Ballentine wins Jefferson Award

Friday, May 02, 2014

Sweaty palms and an eager smile accompanied Ramsay Grant’s anticipation to hear her name at the Tallahassee Democrat’s Volunteers of the Year awards luncheon on Thursday.

The 11-year-old anxiously stood next to two other young nominees. They all waited for the unveiling of the winner in the student volunteer category. Ramsay won.

“I was trembling like crazy when they were about to announce the winner,” said Ramsay. “Volunteering makes me feel like I am really making a difference.”

Ramsay’s efforts in the community include running “Ramsay’s Lemonade Stand,” which sends all its profits to charities and volunteering at Gilchrist Elementary School and Trinity United Methodist Church.

The young scholar wasn’t the only one honored at the luncheon. The University Center Club was filled with 440 community members who applauded and congratulated individuals for their above-and-beyond efforts in volunteerism.

“It shows that the community sees what we are doing and is very proud and appreciative of all the hard work we put in,” said Jordyn Berrian, a Pearls of Perfection member and nominee for the nonprofit category.

Pearls of Perfection is a youth service organization underneath the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. The program provides high school girls with the tools to reach full potential in all aspects of life through community service.

The Volunteers of the Year program had 87 nominees in seven categories: business/government agency, health/wellness, nonprofit organization, social/civic services, education, arts and student. Three finalists were picked from each by a panel of judges.

While all nominees are supreme changemakers in Tallahassee, a single winner had to be selected for each division. The champions of volunteerism were Bannerman Pet Care for business/government agency, Greg Burns (a Big Bend Hospice volunteer) for health/wellness, Honor Flight Tallahassee for nonprofit organization, Nathan Ballentine for social/civic services, Tim Wolff (a Gilchrist Elementary, Florida State University School and Student Astronaut Challenge volunteer) for education, Peter Jefferson (a Museum of Florida History volunteer) for arts and Ramsay Grant for student.

“For anybody to be nominated is such an honor. Win or lose it’s definitely a great thing to be nominated,” said Ambria Daniel, a Pearls of Perfection member and nominee for the nonprofit category.

The Volunteers of the Year program also honors one individual amongst all of the winners with the Jefferson Award for Public Service. The prestigious award, sponsored by the Tallahassee Democrat and CenturyLink, recognizes ordinary people who do extraordinary things in the community.

The co-founder of Tallahassee Food Network, Nathan Ballentine — or as he likes to refer to himself “The Man in Overalls” — was this year’s winner. Growing up, Ballentine always had a knack gardening. He carried this passion into his creation of TFN and other volunteer efforts in the community.

“I feel like it’s almost like a joke that I’m in this position, because there’s so many incredible folks that are on the stage today,” Ballentine said.

Ballentine’s volunteer efforts include being TFN co-director, TFN co-coordinator of the youth empowerment program iGrow Whatever You Like, and co-manager for Manna Food Pantry Garden.

As the Jefferson Award recipient, Ballentine will be sent to Washington, D.C., to represent Tallahassee at the Jefferson Awards for Public Service banquet.

“I’m really happy for the recognition for the Tallahassee Food Network and I’m extremely honored,” Ballentine said.

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