Hudson and Hopkins honored with Humanitarian Awards

VERO BEACH — Soft-spoken yet inspirational, the two gentlemen honored Thursday evening at the Dan K. Richardson Humanitarian Award Celebration embody a rare, modestly persuasive quality in a world filled with sensory overload.

Dr. A. Ronald Hudson and Carter Hopkins were recognized as this year’s award recipients at the annual fundraising banquet to benefit the Gifford Youth Activity Center (GYAC).

“It has certainly been all that I dreamed of and more,” said Hudson as we chatted during the cocktail hour.  “I’m proud and happy with the way it has developed.  The people working there are very committed and the community continues to support it.  I’m very optimistic.”

“I started with GYAC when they committed to do the expansion,” said Hopkins.  “I was working in the soup kitchen at the Macedonia Church and I met Freddie – Mr. GYAC.  I told Dan Richardson that I would raise the money and he’d get the credit.  I fell in love and have been involved ever since.”

Members of the Gifford “Tigers” Youth Violin Ensemble entertained as guests sat down to dinner, followed by Freddie Woolfork, GYAC Development and Marketing Administrator,  who gave a brief introduction.

“We’re giving flowers to individuals who can get to smell them,” said Woolfork.

The first award honoree six years ago was its namesake, Dan K. Richardson, a founder of the Gifford Youth Activity Center along with this year’s honoree Dr. A. Ronald Hudson and the late Dr. William Nigh.   Other honorees were Alma Lee Loy, Ellie and Bob McCabe, Father Richard Murphy, and Dr. Hugh and Ann Marie McCrystal.

“They are just like magnets; if you come into their circle, they will draw you in,” said Woolfork of this year’s recipients.

He described Hudson and Hopkins as behind the scenes individuals, more interested in getting the work done than getting credit for it, who inspire others to be the best they can be.

Katherine Washington gave a moving poetic tribute to Dr. Hudson.  A lifelong educator, Hudson began his career with the Indian River County School District in 1957, progressing through its ranks from chemistry/physics teacher and department chair, to Principal of Vero Beach Elementary, Vero Beach Junior High and Vero Beach High Schools, and eventually retiring in 1988 as Assistant Superintendent.

Joe Lembo paid tribute to Carter Hopkins via video, saying Hopkins’ philanthropy comes from the heart.  A successful real estate broker and businessman, Hopkins was a GYAC board member for nine years, and co-founded the GYAC Foundation in 2002.  He has also contributed his quietly effective leadership skills to numerous other organizations, including the Hospital Foundation, United Way Foundation, Saint Edward’s School and the restoration of the Macedonia Black Church, now listed on the Historic Register.  His wife Susan is one of Dan Richardson’s daughters.

“I am humbled to be here tonight,” said the eloquent Hudson in accepting the award from Scott Alexander, GYAC Board Chairman.  “I tried my best to sabotage all the efforts to bring me here tonight but I failed.”

During its conceptual days, Hudson remembered Richardson telling him, “I’ll get the money and make the connections, you do the talking, and Dr. Nigh will provide divine intervention.”

Hudson also made special mention of René Perez, who he described as Richardson’s right arm, as being on the front lines throughout the organization’s history.

“GYAC is in good shape and solid ground, but the work is not done.  Young people need to understand that it’s dependent on them to be good citizens and give back to society.  We have crossed the river; the ocean is still ahead of us.”

Todd Fennell, GYAC Foundation Chair, presented the award to Hopkins, noting that Hudson had been his high school principal and Hopkins his mentor.

“There are so many people in this room who do so much,” said Hopkins in a short but sweet acceptance speech.  “It’s been a joy working with you.  Keep the Gifford Center in your prayers.” {igallery 372}



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