United Way Givers Gala honors community leaders


“United We Thrive” was the theme of the 7th Annual United Way of St. Johns County Givers Gala, as community leaders and partners gathered to support and celebrate the agency’s continual community service and to help address the priorities of health, education and financial stability.

With the support of The Hutson Companies as title sponsor, the black-tie gala was held January 27 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort. The evening featured signature cocktails by The St. Augustine Distillery, dinner, a lively auction by Tanner Roberts of Morrison Auctioneers and dancing to the sounds of the Bold City Classics band.

But the focus of the evening was on honoring those who provide lasting inspiration for all that United Way of St. Johns County does to serve its community.

“Every year, the Givers Gala is a momentous occasion for us to come together and celebrate the incredible generosity within our community,” said Joe Pickens, board chair of United Way of St. Johns County. “This event highlights the essence of selfless giving and showcases the power of collective action in creating positive change. We are proud to honor those who have made a significant impact on St. Johns and Putnam County through their dedication and philanthropy."

Here’s a look at the awardees of the 7th Annual Givers Gala.

John & Peggy Bailey, Sr. Community Leadership Award: Dr. William T. Abare

William T. Abare, former president of Flagler College (2001-2017), is the recipient of the John & Peggy Bailey, Sr. Community Leadership Award. Abare's lifetime of selfless dedication to community has left an indelible mark, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.

Corporate Philanthropy Award: Ameris Bank

Ameris Bank is honored with the Corporate Philanthropy Award for its remarkable 52-year history of giving. With a culture deeply rooted in generosity, Ameris Bank's mission to change lives “one person at a time” reflects their commitment to positive community impact.

Nancy Burns Trail Blazer Award: Malinda Peeples and Charles Moretti

Malinda Peeples and Charles Moretti, residents of Armstrong, received the Nancy Burns Trail Blazer Award. Peeples, a dedicated leader and advocate for the SEA Community Center, and Moretti, a retired contractor, inspire young volunteers and mobilized businesses and churches to respond to a neighbor's tragic house fire.

Chair's Award: Jennifer Harvey

Jenny Harvey, recipient of the Chair's Award, served on the staff of UWSJC for nine years, demonstrating unwavering dedication. Her commitment to volunteerism extends beyond her professional role, embodying the spirit of the Givers Gala.

“The Givers Gala is a testament to the strength of our community,” said United Way President/CEO Mark LeMaire. “It brings together individuals and organizations who understand the importance of giving back. This year's awardees have shown exceptional leadership and dedication, and we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on their remarkable contributions."