Dallas Gay was selected at the Gainesville Rotary Club's Man of the Year, while Georgia's former First Lady Sandra Deal was named the Woman of the Year.
The theme for the Gainesville Rotary Club Annual Banquet was "Ties To The Community" and everything about the evening - even the bow tie door prizes given to each attendee - was a reminder of the close ties Rotary's mission has to the local community.
As it has been for decades, the highlight of the evening was the presentation of Man of the Year and Woman of the Year honors for the past year.
Dallas Gay, local businessman turned advocate for the fight against opioid abuse, was named the 2018 Man of the Year.
"This is an easy presentation for me, because this man's efforts have saved countless lives in the state of Georgia," Dr. Pepper Brown, who presented the Man of the Year Award, said.
After Gay's teenage grandson died from an opioid overdose, Gay put his energy into fighting the opioid epidemic.
"In 2010, he was a co-founder in the 'Think about it' campaign," Brown said. "This campaign emphasizes the simple steps to help prevent medication addiction. He then helped persuade the Georgia Medical Foundation to make this a state-wide campaign, raising over $400,000, this program raised awareness of the addictions and dangers of opioids and prescription drugs," he said.
Gay has been a part of several drug-related campaigns which have been accredited for saving thousands of lives by providing police and the public with Naloxone, a drug used to reverse an opioid overdose.
Gay was also recognized for his charitable work, and his efforts put into the St. Jude’s Children's Hospital. Brown said that Gay received recognition by the hospital as being the number one collector in donations in a day after hosting a 5k in Gainesville.
"He is described by friends as being highly intelligent, industrious, inquisitive, diligent, a problem solver, a voracious reader, thoughtful and compassionate, and a man with a big heart," Brown said.
Former First Lady Sandra Deal was named 2018 Woman of the Year.
"She is a gracious, friendly, open person and she loves meeting new people," Jane Hemmer, who presented First Lady Deal with the Woman-of-the-Year Award, said. "She's been a partner in her husband's career, all the while establishing her own identity in her professional work, her church and her community," she said.
One of the biggest personal projects of First Lady Deal involved reading to school children across the state of Georgia. Deal has been recognized for her loving-nature to children during her husband's time in office, but as a former Hall County teacher, it was a passion that never left Deal.
"How many people here tonight have read to a child's class," Hemmer asked the audience. "I imagine a few of you have, but I would wager you would need to read to quite a few more to match our honoree's dedication. She has read to children in over 1,000 schools in the state of Georgia," she said.
After an annual mammogram appointment in 2018, Deal was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"Even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she met it head on," Hemmer said. "And then she went on to advocate for all women to have mammograms."
Deal was also recognized for her published books and love for history.
Other awards distributed Monday night included:
- The Sidney O. Smith Fellowship Award for most outstanding Gainesville Rotary Cloub member: Brent Cochran
- Guardian of Ethics Award: Richard Oates
- Lee Arrendale Vocational Excellence Award: Kay Blackstock