Five Pine Belt residents were recently honored for their commitment to caring for the community as winners of the Spirit in Action Awards. Dr. Rodney Bennett is the 10th president of the University of Southern Mississippi. But, before he even became president, he jumped into action leading the university’s recovery from the powerful EF-4 tornado that ripped thru the Southern Miss campus and the Hattiesburg area on Feb. 10, 2013.
Kathy Garner has worked diligently for more than 30 years to improve the city of Hattiesburg and the surrounding communities. Most recently, she has developed programs to address homelessness, HIV/AIDS and poverty.
Carolyn Hood has given freely of her time over the years and served on numerous boards — United Way, United Methodist Hour, Millsaps College, Diabetes Foundation, Governor’s Fitness Program for youth. She has always been very active in Parkway United Methodist Church and provides professional counseling to those in need. However, it is her work in missions in Honduras through Baptist Medical Dental International that emphasizes what a caring person Hood is.
Robert St. John is a father, husband, restaurateur, chef, author and columnist. Although those are significant achievements, it is his work with Extra Table that makes him so deserving to be named as a Spirit in Action Award winner. Extra Table was founded by St. John and is a statewide non-profit organization that helps supply mission pantries and soup kitchens with healthy, shelf-stable food.
Rick Taylor serves as executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission and the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission. His hard work and vision is evidenced in the Lake Terrace Convention Center, the Saenger Theatre, two museums and most noticeably at the Hattiesburg Zoo.