The Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach and the Ponte Vedra Recorder presented the 26th annual Local Heroes Awards last week, recognizing five local residents for their contributions to the community.
Held Thursday, May 24 at Marsh Landing Country Club, the event honored efforts in five categories. The local awards ceremony was first started by former Rotary Club member Vic DiGenti in 1993.
“Each of our honorees is the ‘somebody’ who responded to that old lament, ‘Somebody ought to do something about that,'” said Chuck Day, past president of the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach and master of ceremonies for the Local Heroes event. “Without prodding, and with a smile, they’ve done plenty, and help make Ponte Vedra Beach, Palm Valley and Nocatee the wonderful places they are.”
The “Local Heroes” Class of 2018 includes:
“Bucket” Bob Davenport — Environmental Hero: Nominated by Rotarian and former Recorder Editor Jennifer Logue, “Bucket” Bob Davenport was recognized as the Environmental Hero for his efforts to keep Mickler’s Landing Beach clean.
Over the past three years, Davenport has made it his duty to pick up trash from the beach with a 5-gallon bucket and a pair of tongs. From soda cans to toys to a mountain’s worth of cigarette butts, Davenport gets it all, to ensure everyone else enjoys the beach experience they expect to experience.
“When we go to the beach, it’s a place we expect to find the ocean, the sun and sand and nothing else,” said Davenport. “So, whenever you leave the beach, leave only your footprints.”
Rhonda Hurley — Vocational Hero: Nominated by Rotarian and Mission House Executive Director Lori Anderson, Rhonda Hurley received the Vocational Service Award for her 11 years of dedication to the nonprofit homeless day facility in Jacksonville Beach.
When introducing Hurley, Day said many of her patients and professionals assumed she was a nurse because of the tender and loving care she provided and her strong grasp of medical conditions and diagnoses, among other factors. Day added that her colleagues might have also assumed she was a chef due to the annual culinary masterpieces she prepared for Mission House’s annual fundraiser on Fat Tuesday. In truth, Day noted and Anderson affirmed, she was simply a dedicated staff member who cheerfully tackled whatever needed to be done.
“Just watching her through and through, I wanted the community to know what an exceptional soul she is,” said Anderson, who accepted the award on behalf of Hurley. “I thank the committee for accepting Rhonda as a Local Hero because she really is (one).”
Donna Garro — Education Hero: Nominated by Rotarian Joni Zwick, Donna Garro was honored as the Education Hero for her contributions to students and learning.
Garro started teaching at Palmer Catholic Academy when it opened its doors in 1997. She continues to serve as the school’s reading resource teacher, working one-on-one with students who struggle with reading comprehension. When school is out, she turns her attention to tutoring students, three-to-four hours a day, three days each week … free of charge.
“I am truly blessed I get to do what I love to do every single day,” said Garro. “I can’t wait to walk through the door every morning. This award is just the icing on the cake.”
Connor Dunwoodie — Youth Hero: Nominated by Jennifer Logue, 2018 Nease graduate Connor Dunwoodie received the Local Heroes Youth Award for a fundraiser he organized to support Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
When Dunwoodie heard about the tragic shooting that took place at the high school in February, the avid filmmaker took off for Parkland to document how the students were coping. After meeting with the students, however, he learned the students were planning to create their own documentary about the ordeal. So, Dunwoodie decided to shift his focus and help, by pulling together a fundraiser benefiting the high school’s media department with dollars to buy cameras and supplies.
“What really impressed me about this situation was this was a young man who took what he was passionate about … and found a way to use that passion to give back to the community,” said Logue, who accepted the award on behalf of Dunwoodie. “I think if we could all learn to do that, find what our own unique gift is and give it back to the world, the world would be a much better place.”
John “Jack” Hardman — Volunteer Hero: Nominated by Rotarian and St. Johns County School Board District 4 Member Kelly Barrera, John “Jack” Hardman was recognized as the Volunteer Hero for his efforts on the school district’s audit and tax advisory committees.
Among other projects, the former banking and finance executive has tackled the tough task of enlightening the community about the details of St. Johns County school sales taxes.
“I’m really very humbled by being up here,” said Hardman. “I look out at some close friends and neighbors I know. I just think what I do is nothing compared to what this group does on both a collective and individual basis. I’m glad to be here.”