Four community volunteers who have committed time and talent to United Way of West Tennessee were honored by the organization Aug. 18 during the organization’s Unitas community event held at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson. Dr. Charley Deal, Gem Bell, Judy Long and Leigh Anne Bentley all received United Way awards during an evening that included a presentation by George Foreman, two-time world heavyweight boxing champion and an Olympic gold medalist.
Deal and Bell received the first Joe Exum Service and Leadership Awards, while Long and Bentley received the inaugural Charlotte Stanworth Harris Service and Leadership Awards. Both awards are named for longtime Jackson community leaders and volunteers. Exum was a former United Way board chair, and Harris was the United Way of Tennessee’s first female campaign board chair.
Deal is UT Martin vice chancellor for university advancement; Bell is a supervisor with Teknor Apex Tennessee Co. in Brownsville; Long is president and chief operating officer for First Citizens National Bank in Dyersburg; and Bentley is the chief marketing officer for Leaders Credit Union in Jackson. Deal, Bell and Bentley are current United Way of West Tennessee board members, and Bentley is past board chair. All four are UT Martin WestStar Leadership Program graduates, and Deal serves as WestStar board secretary.
Deal’s United Way involvement covers 12 years, including one year as United Way of West Tennessee board chair, two years as Weakley County United Way board chair, and county campaign and UT Martin campaign chair for four years. He encourages others to support non-profit work.
“We have an obligation to leave our ‘home’ a little better than we found it, so I challenge everyone to get involved with a non-profit and to put your talents to good use.”
“This award is very humbling to me and very much appreciated. There are numerous other people who are dedicated to serving the needs of their communities. I just happened to be selected,” Deal said. “We have an obligation to leave our ‘home’ a little better than we found it, so I challenge everyone to get involved with a non-profit and to put your talents to good use.”
Deal congratulated his fellow award recipients and recognized their significant work on behalf of the organization. “Leigh Ann, Judy and Gem are all great friends to me, and I am honored to share the stage with them as we are honored with our awards,” Deal said. “All three are huge advocates for helping those in need and give of their time and talent to make positive impacts in communities across West Tennessee.”
Matt Marshall has served as president and CEO for United Way of West Tennessee since October 2019. A 2022 WestStar Leadership Program graduate, Marshall said that volunteers are key to the United Way’s success.
“Unitas is a celebration of each and every person who has helped make an impact in our community through United Way,” Marshall said in a statement.
“Unitas is a celebration of each and every person who has helped make an impact in our community through United Way,” Marshall said in a statement. “Without our volunteers — who have sacrificed so much time and energy into bettering West Tennessee — our organization would not exist. We are truly better ‘United,’ so we thought it appropriate to recognize Charley, Gem, Judy and Leigh Anne for their exemplary service to our region.”
The United Way of West Tennessee is celebrating 80 years of service by uniting agencies in ways that improve individual access to health, education and financial stability. Counties served include Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Dyer, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Madison, McNairy and Weakley. Learn more or donate at uwwt.org.