Sixteen Union County organizations received grants totaling more than $20,000 at the annual UNITE awards dinner Thursday night, April 23rd.
UNITE (Union County/New Albany Initiative to Excel) was established in 2002. The foundation’s purpose is “to improve the quality of life for individuals in Union County.” This year’s UNITE president, Travis Wiseman, said his view is that “UNITE stands in the gap” in providing additional support for the work of Union County non-profit organizations. This is the 13th year UNITE has awarded grants. It is an affiliate of the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo.
Hudson Hickman, a Union County native, was formerly a vice-president of MGM and recently retired to New Albany with Susan, his wife of 32 years. After working in Mississippi in 1976 on the movie treatment of Bobbie Gentry’s iconic hit song “Ode to Billy Joe,” Hickman moved to California, where he got an entry level job in the motion picture industry. During a career that took him to positions of major management responsibility, Hickman worked with producers including Aaron Spelling and James L. Brooks. He said he kept up with things in New Albany and, while still living in California, started admiring the work being done by UNITE.
He and his wife decided to retire back to Mississippi a couple of years ago and first thought they might live in Oxford. However, after being the 10th car at an Oxford traffic light and not making it through when the light changed, Hickman said he decided he “didn’t want to move from LA traffic to sit in traffic in Oxford.” They subsequently sold their home in Los Angeles and bought a home on South Central Avenue in New Albany, which they are extensively renovating. Hickman said he considers New Albany “a happening place,” one whose best days are yet to come.
Organizations receiving UNITE grants Thursday evening include Agape Health Services, Boys and Girls Club, Good Samaritan Center, Union County Historical Society and Museum, New Haven Center for Special Needs Adults, the New Albany/Union County Symphony League, Union County Library, Junior Auxiliary, Literacy Council, UCDA, Union County Master Gardeners, Pilot Club and Lighthouse Enrichment Center.
Last year UNITE presented its first Volunteer of the Year Award. Rheta Ann West was the first recipient and was introduced to the approximately 80 people that attended the Thursday night dinner.
New Albany attorney Thad Mueller presented the 2015 UNITE Volunteer of the Year Award to Linda and Bill Everett.