The United Way of Gaston County held its 64th annual meeting on Jan. 20 at Gaston County Club.

The event gave United Way the opportunity to recognize companies and individuals that contribute to the organization through employee donations and volunteerism. It also highlighted the various programs it funds in the areas of education, financial stability and health, along with other initiatives such as 2-1-1 referral line, FamilyWise prescription drug card program, Imagination Library, Duke Energy Utility Assistance and Christmas Wishes, all which are changing lives in Gaston.

The United Way presented three awards to individuals who have had a significant impact on the community.

The Caroline Garrison Award was presented to Barbara Yarbrough, the 2016 Chair of the United Way of Gaston County Board. She was honored for her dedication and commitment to the United Way. The award, now in its 7th year, recognizes women who have exhibited compassion, strength and innovation through their volunteer service to the greater Gaston area.

The Dr. Edward D. Sadler, Jr. Award was presented to James Buie, the retired chief of the Gaston County Police Department, for diligent dedication and body of work in law enforcement in Gaston County. This award, now in its 4th year recognizes individuals for their work in a particular industry or area of service in Gaston County.

The Harold T. Sumner Award was presented to Ralph Robinson for his service in Gaston County as both a volunteer and philanthropist. He is a long time United Way leadership donor. This award is now in its 14th year, recognizes individuals who have contributed a lifelong commitment to service in Gaston County.

The meeting also served as an opportunity for United Way to thank outgoing Board Chair, Barbara Yarbrough, and outgoing board members James Allen and David McMahan for their service to the board of directors. Yarbrough was presented with the Harold D. Mercer Award for her service as United Way’s Board Chair. David Williams, Director of Planning and Development Services for Gaston County, is the 2017 Board Chair for United Way of Gaston County.

“This past year has been an exciting year for United Way of Gaston County," said Deborah Ally, president of the United Way. "We became more focused, more visible and more involved. We continued to receive, as we have for the past 64 years, support from donors throughout the county to provide financial support in areas where they are needed the most. Supporters have written checks, held fundraisers, sponsored events and given their time and for that we are grateful.”

The annual meeting is also United Way’s opportunity to thank companies and individuals that contributed significantly to the campaign in 2016. The 2016 Award winners were:

Golden Eagle Award: American & Efird and Mann + Hummel

Community Leadership Award (1-50 Employees): BB&T

Community Leadership Award (51-500 Employees): Beverly Knits

Community Leadership Award (501+ Employees): GSM Services

Spirit of Caring Award: FMC Lithium

Employee Campaign Coordinator of the year: Cross Company- Motion Solutions

For the Love of Golf Award: Brent Dueitt and Matthew Farabaugh of Allen Steam Station

Winget Award (Campaign Chair): Larry Bumgardner of FMC Lithium

Pacesetter Awards: American & Efird, Duke Energy- Gastonia Operations Center, Duke Energy Allen Steam Station, Edward Jones Investments – Jay B. Smith, Firestone, PSNC Energy, Röchling Engineering Plastics, Standard Distributors and Watson Insurance