First place: Gabe Whisnant, The Shelby Star

About this entry: “Each fall over the last six years, The Star has sponsored, ‘Connect, Commit to Change – a partnership between The Star and the community.’ The event, which is hosted on a Saturday morning and afternoon at our City Park, brings together local agencies – in need of volunteer help, manual labor or help in linking up with another agency or community entity. One of the beauties of this event and the partnership is that isn’t centered around financial goals or donations. Simply, it focuses on ‘how can you help?’

It could mean being a lunch buddy for a child who needs a friend. Assisting the Boys & Girls Club with a playground or special project. Or, volunteer work with Communities in Schools.

As ‘Connect’ has grown, the event has stretched into a year-round process of planning and coordinating – and that’s a good thing. Agencies depend upon us to link them with individuals, and in turn, it builds our trust and foundation with those agencies and the greater community.

Last year, we helped make 200 connections. Over the last six years, those connections are now in the thousands. Many are repeats but some are newcomers as word continues to spread about the benefit.

We can’t wait to get started on this year’s ‘Connect.’” — Gabe Whisnant

Read online: Editorial: Community shines during ‘giving season’: Get ready for Connect, Commit to Change, ‘Time, talent or treasure’: Connect, Commit to Change totals 202 commitments, Connect, Commit to Change draws Hentry to Graham lunch buddies

Follow Gabe on Twitter @GabeWhisnant

What an amazing effort to inspire a community. This was well-thought out. You looked for ways to not just identify but also got to the heart of why these problems exist. Then you stretched your efforts by partnering with other agencies to explore this issue thoroughly. One of my favorite pullouts was the improvement list where you laid out the community’s ideas and explained the status and next steps. You showed the medium-sized papers how it should be done.