by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Carrie Mitchell said she was shocked when she found out she would be the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the YWCA of Niagara’s 2012 Niagara Awards.
Especially at the point of her life she now enjoys, she said.
But no matter when she's been called upon to help her community, the retired teacher and program director at the Falls City School District said she's answered the call, whether she wants to or not.
"I find every time somebody's asked me to do something to help, I find I can't say no," she said before accepting her honor. "This is actually really special because it's countywide, not just the city. But I find everything starts at home, and of course Niagara Falls is home."
Mitchell credits her long-time volunteer work as the catalyst toward the recognition. Ever since 1956, when a young, fresh-out-of-college young woman went to help out the New Hope Baptist Church on Buffalo Avenue and the city's community center.
Then she got a job as a substitute teacher in the city, where she eventually took a full-time position and turned it into a way to engage the community as much as possible.
"The district gave me a way to go beyond the classroom," she said. "Community service is just a part of my life. If you're a teacher, I truly believe you're a part of the community. It's vitally important you know the parents and become an integral part of the community."
The annual awards ceremony serves both as a way to raise the profile of what area women are doing in the community and as the local YWCA's largest fundraiser of the year, according to YWCA Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Granchelli.
The money the awards dinner takes in helps the YWCA with its mission to end racism and domestic violence against women and children.
"The money goes to fund programs which serve women and children in Niagara County," she said. "Places like Carolyn's House, right here in Niagara Falls, as well as domestic violence and rape and sexual assault services for the community, as well as children's programs."
In addition to Mitchell's honor, this year featured 30 women nominated for seven awards, including Education, Management and Youth awards.YWCA's 2012 Niagara Awards • EDUCATION AWARD: Carole Harris • ENTREPRENEUR AWARD: Sally Reid • FRONT LINE AWARD: Laurie Ferris • HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES AWARD: Stacey Branchini • MANAGEMENT AWARD: Phyllis Phillips • PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD: Judy Arlington • YOUTH AWARD: Ashley Butcher • LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Carrie Mitchell