City honors volunteers for efforts

Clark Grffith, the retired Air Force lieutenant general who has answered Mayor A.J. Holloway’s call to duty and has served as the city’s point person on two major issues, was named the city’s Volunteer of the Year during the 23rd Annual Volunteer Recognition ceremony Thursday evening.

An audience of nearly 400 people attended the gathering at the Donald Snyder Sr. Community Center on Pass Road. The city’s ceremony capped a day where a few hours earlier at a church several blocks away, President Bush, in his 11th visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was in Biloxi to pay homage to volunteerism.

“You volunteers are giving us the most precious thing that you have – your time,” Holloway told the audience, which included a number of out-of-town relief workers. “In the days after the storm, I promised the people of Biloxi and the rest of this nation that we were going to meet this unprecedented natural disaster with an unprecedented response.

“You people in this room and thousands of others of volunteers are making that happen. Your efforts also should inspire others to join us in reviving the renaissance here in Biloxi.”

Griffith, a three-star general whose 35-year career included commanding the 81st Training Wing and the Second Air Force at Keesler, was recognized for helping shape the city’s strategy to sidestep threatened cuts as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. The success Biloxi enjoyed on that issue, however, was overshadowed weeks later when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

In February, Holloway announced that Griffith would chair the Renaissance committee.

Retail giant Wal-mart also was recognized by the city for efforts that included a Christmastime project in which store manages rode bikes from Biloxi to neighboring states to raise funds for 100,000 bikes for families in storm-ravaged communities. The 10-day effort raised more than $10 million for the Salvation Army to help provide the bikes.

Among others recognized during the ceremony:

Community Volunteer of the Year: Ellie Vasilopoulos

Youth Volunteer: Anastasia Kalinina

Health Volunteer: Biloxi Regional Medical Center Auxiliary

Sports Volunteer: Kim Wilson Daum

City of Biloxi Employee Volunteer: Biloxi Bacon Brigade

Adult Volunteer Group: Bay Vista Baptist Church

Education: Sr. Mary Joe Mike

Business: IP Casino and Resort

Beacon of Hope award: Team Wal-mart

To see a complete list of the honorees Thursday, click here.