The community is invited to join in the recognition of these community champions at an awards gala to be held on Friday, September 16 at Leaside. Tickets are $25 each and include cocktails and heavy hors d'oeuvres. To register, visit www.yourfoundation.org.
Ken and Lisa Kasper are the winners of the Family Community Champions award. The Kaspers are actively involved with Pawmetto Lifeline and are well known for their commitment to service. They donate time and money to rescuing animals from municipal shelters and educate the public regarding the need for spaying, neutering and the humane treatment of animals.
Gigi Shevchik and Morgan Polans tied for the Student Community Champion award. Gigi began creating her own jewelry at the age of seven. Two years later, her jewelry is located in more than 15 Lexington retail locations. To date, she has donated $250 to Children's Chance, $750 to the Ta-tinis and $500 to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Morgan volunteers her time with the Boys and Girls Clubs, Richland County Recreation Commission, Sistercare and Columbia College's Clubhouse, teaching young children to make art projects in after-school community programs.
The Gilbert Elementary School Relay for Life Team claimed this year's Group Community Champion award. For five of the last 12 years, this three-grade rural elementary school has been Lexington One's top fundraiser for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event, encouraging kids, faculty and staff, parents and community members to get involved throughout the year.
The Local Business Community Champion is presented to Kristian Niemi, the owner of Gervais & Vine and Rosso Trattoria Italia. His signature Wine Goddess events each spotlight a different nonprofit that helps women or children. Niemi donates the food and beverages for each event, in addition to the ticket proceeds which are awarded to the featured charity. Besides helping needy women and children throughout the year, Niemi supports animals in tough situations.
Finally, Julia Colson and Cheri Brown Thompson tied for the Individual Community Champion award. At the age of 85, Julia volunteers six days a week, serving as a community chaplain, delivering Meals on Wheels and teaching English classes at First Baptist of Columbia. Cheri strives to reach kids in need through Healing Species, an Orangeburg-based education ministry that helps children overcome violence, bullying and crime. She has worked for 10 years without compensation and has adopted two young boys she met during a Healing Species lesson. She also created a sanctuary to house abused or neglected dogs.