People Make a Community Special

Many visitors tell me, and of course I agree: Hilton Head Island is truly a blessed community. But, what visitors don’t know is that the blessings go much deeper than our magnificent beaches, recreation facilities and dining pleasures.

What they don’t know is how Hilton Head Island emerged from the bloodshed of the Civil War and its mandate for equality for all men, and then lingered peacefully for a century like a “Sleeping Beauty” beside a beautiful shoreline looking out to the Atlantic. Fortunately, the island’s “Prince Charming” turned out to be founding fathers, who were focused on setting new standards of excellence in resort real estate development, based on environmental stewardship. They donated land for open space, hospitals and churches, knowing that physical, emotional and spiritual welfare of the community’s future residents would be paramount to quality of life.

Thus, an early precedent was set—a precedent that was very unlike most other resort areas of the 1970s. As a result, the resurgent island attracted a special breed of entrepreneur and retiree—individuals and couples who were like-minded in their desire to establish a new hometown that, in many ways, would follow the biblical principle of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So it is that, today, Hilton Head Island is replete with people, organizations and businesses that continue to give back to their community.

I sincerely believe that Hilton Head Island’s greatest asset is its sheer volume of extraordinarily talented individual citizens who willingly volunteer their time, talent and treasure to help their community and their fellow man, whether it is mentoring an underprivileged child, volunteering at a local hospice, helping at the annual PGA Tour golf tournament or serving on a myriad of boards of civic organizations that try to manage—the challenges of growth and economic diversity. As your mayor, I am continually impressed by people who love our community and show it through volunteerism.

Our town seeks to recognize some of these individuals with a quarterly “Mayor’s Honored Islander Award,” selecting residents who make a significant sacrifice of their time, talents and/or resources to better the community without compensation or significant public/media attention. The individuals are nominated by their peers and are judged on the basis of their service to others, professional excellence, civic and professional recognition and community activities. There is no age limit for eligibility.

So far in my tenure, I have been privileged to recognize nine such individuals: Kaye Black, Emily Starry, David Erdman, Dorothy Law, Everett Miles, Paul Lang, John Shkor, Luther Strayer, III and Loretta Warden. While I would love to tell you about all of these fine individuals as they each have served our community in extraordinary ways, space limitations for this article necessitate that I only highlight three at this time: Dr. Lu Strayer, Dot Law and Loretta Warden.

“Doctor Lu,” as he is affectionately known at Volunteers in Medicine, has arrived early at the clinic every Wednesday for the past 20 years to provide needed medical care to the uninsured and the working poor on Hilton Head. He is a physician and a Princeton graduate. He is also former team doctor for the U.S. National Rowing Team and has been a driving force behind our new Community Rowing and Sailing Center as well as donating thousands of hours of mentoring youth interested in rowing and sailing.

Dot Law has proven to be a powerful voice in the native island community. She has provided ongoing leadership in organizing property owners associations and actively participating in discussions on the town’s LMO rewrite and in the resolution of issues surrounding “open burning.” She has been a valuable advocate in bringing harmony and understanding among citizens of diverse backgrounds through the “Bridge the Gap” committee. She also actively works with young disadvantaged girls in our community.

Loretta Warden has been a behind the scenes force in many civic responsibility areas for the past two decades, both on a local and statewide level, where she has helped make ethics reform and transparency a state legislature priority. She is president of the Hilton Head League of Women Voters, where she helps build public awareness for various referendums and sponsors public candidate forums and voter registration drives. She was a member of the Town Planning Commission for seven years.

There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of life we enjoy on Hilton Head Island is the result in large part of the efforts of everyday people like these, who are passionate about responsibly sustaining and expanding the best aspects of our community.

We on Town Council are anxious to recognize more residents like these. If you know of someone who fits the profile, we encourage you to download a nomination form at the Town of Hilton Head Island website or stop by Town Hall and pick one up.

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