The Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet where it names an outstanding citizen of the year is a signature event held each spring. Since 1968, a notable person from the community gets the award and the recognition that goes with it.

W. Robert Scott got the first honor in 1968. Since then, many notable people have earned the award, including William Buffington in 1984, Aaron Martin in 1991, Barry Kanofsky in 1992, Thomas Swett in 2000, Michael Perna in 2003, Mabel Thompson in 2001, Tony Talamonti in 2002, Michael Perna in 2003, Kathi Lafferty in 20005, Jim Horn in 2008, Michael Walker in 2009 and Terence Farrell in 2011.

This year’s award went to a truly deserving person – Joan Holliday.

Holliday has been a community volunteer for the past 23 years and is founder and leader of Study Buddies, a program to help at-risk children excel in school. She also is actively involved with ACTIVATE Chester County, a local community health initiative, and Bridging the Community, an organization that meets once every other month and links community organizations with volunteers. Bridging recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

She also volunteers with many other organizations, including La Comunidad Hispana, Healthy Start, Inter Gen Coalition and Kennett Family Center, and many more.

But it’s her work with the local homeless that really stands out. She organizes frequent walks to end hunger and homelessness in the community. She visits many who are at-risk for hunger and homelessness and helps to guide them to the proper resources.

And if she comes upon a situation where people are in dire need, such as living in an unhealthy environment, she will work with local officials to help get a solution.

Lives of many, many people in the community are better today because of the work of Holliday. One is Esther Rochester. Holliday helped her get her GED, and gave her the guidance she needed to succeed. Today, Rochester calls holiday her one of her very best friends.

It’s a rare sight indeed to see Holliday’s traits in today’s society. Many people are so consumed with work, family and other issues, that they have little time for volunteering. And some people just don’t care about giving back to their community. But for Holliday, giving back is her passion.

The award “honors individuals who make exceptional contributions through exemplary volunteer efforts that positively influenced the welfare of the southern Chester County community.” Holliday certainly qualifies under that definition. She really cares about her community and it shows in all she does.

We congratulate Joan Holliday on her work, and her mission to help people in need, and we hope she continues this mission for years to come. We have a true gem living among us.

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