As 2020 comes to a close, Ten at the Top exchanged its annual Celebrating Successes Luncheon for a virtual Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes gala to honor the individuals and businesses that put their time, and sometimes lives, on the line to serve the Upstate community during the pandemic.
“To adapt to these unprecedented times, Ten at the Top felt it was necessary to change both the format and focus of this annual event,” Dean Hybl, executive director of Ten at the Top, said in a news release. “We decided to bring the Upstate together by recognizing the hundreds of individuals who have remained committed to serving others amidst the many unfortunate circumstances this pandemic has brought our way.”
The winners of the Burdette Leadership Award and The Welling Award for Regional Collaboration, two annual awards usually presented during the Celebrating Successes Luncheon, were announced during the event along with those recognizing resilience and service throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michelin North America received the Welling Award for Regional Collaboration, named after Ten at the Top’s founding chairman Irv Welling III, for its collaboration with regional leaders in support of efforts to improve transportation and mobility through its funding of the Upstate Mobility Alliance.
Will Whitley, director of state, local government affairs and community relations of Michelin North America, accepted the award from Welling himself.
“All I want to say is, anyone who knows Mr. Welling knows the work that he’s done, and it couldn’t be more of an honor that Michelin, the company and myself, to have worked with him on initiatives around Connect Mobility and the Upstate Mobility Alliance,” Whitley said during the event. “On behalf of Michelin North America, our 20,000 employees, our 19 facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada, I just want to say again, thank you. We very seriously work around initiatives and we say we like to give community members and the environment a better way forward, and that’s some of the work that Ten at the Top is doing.”
Borg Warner, the largest industrial employer in Oconee County with a workforce of 1,000 employees, was honored with the 2020 Business Resilience Hero Award, presented by Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts.
Despite the double hit of a pandemic and a tornado that killed the plant’s security guard, the automotive parts supplier Borg Warner is on track to resuming full production in a matter of weeks.
“It’s been a very emotional experience the last six, seven, eight months going through that. And to be honest with you, to receive this award is quite humbling, because it’s the community that really should be receiving this award,” Olga McBride, human resource manager at Borg Warner, said during the event. “We’ve been able to rely on so many different organizations in the community that helped us bounce back.”
Local businesses opened their offices to Borg Warner after the tornado devastated the building, she said, adding that the Oconee County School District and Oconee Economic Alliance also stepped in as significant partners during that time.
Beth Padgett, recently retired as Compass of Carolina’s executive director, was also honored with the Burdette Leadership Award for her career with Compass of Carolina and her current service as the district governor for the District 7750 Rotary Club, according to a news release. Carol Burdette, the first female chair of Ten at the Top and executive director of United Way of Anderson County, presented the award, which is given to women for their leadership and service across the Upstate.
The following individuals, one from each county, were awarded with the “Unsung Hero” award from 130 nominees:
- Abbeville: Ethan Cornick, volunteer with Dreams with Open Arms
- Anderson: David Baker, emergency services director of Anderson County
- Cherokee: Dr. Carol McFadden, volunteer director of Know(2) Neighborhood Association
- Greenville: Marina Lewis, social worker at Mauldin High School
- Greenwood: emergency management director of Greenwood County
- Laurens: Joey Avery, emergency management director of Laurens County
- Oconee: Vanessa Earle, community health worker with Prisma Health
- Pickens: Lesa Howard, director of 5 Point Church Food Pantry
- Spartanburg: Charlene Cheeks, CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Upstate
- Union: Shanna “Nikki” Burgess, talent development specialist supervisor of SC Works Greater Upstate
“We hope that our event has not only shown great appreciation to these 132 nominees, but also highlighted the number of heroes we have living amongst us in the 10-county Upstate region that we encounter daily,” Hybl said in the release.