'It's the heart'
Gala honors women for contributions to Gwinnett

BRASELTON - The water towers near Interstate 85 in Norcross say Gwinnett is great, but Gwinnett Technical College President Sharon Bartels said the county is a magical place to live.

"If you can't make it in Gwinnett, you just can't make it," Bartels said. "It's the heart that makes the difference."

Bartels and three other women were honored Saturday at the United Way Women's Legacy in Gwinnett's fifth annual awards event for the contributions they have made in the community.

Bartels received the Legacy Award, given to a woman who has made volunteerism a way of life and who gives freely of her time, talent and treasure.

"Sharon's greatest legacy is probably her contributions for tomorrow," said Louise Radloff, who received the award in 2006.

Radloff said Bartels understands the changing culture and diversity in Gwinnett and knows education is the only way out to success.

Bartels said the award makes her think of the strong women who have been a part of her life and "what really, really special people we are as women."

The recipient of the award for time, Nancy Amestoy, was described as an "angel in our midst."

As a child, Amestoy prayed every night to see how she could help others, said Carole Boyce, who received the award last year. For many years, Amestoy has opened her home to foster children and adults in crisis.

"How fortunate we are to have someone in our community who can give of herself in such a loving way," Boyce said.

Amestoy said she helps others because, in doing so, she is helping herself and the whole community.

"We really are one in the greatest way of being one," she said. "We're all coming from the same source."

The woman honored with the award for talent, Laura Moore, is "one of the most caring and compassionate people" last year's recipient, Judy Waters, said she has ever met.

"When Laura met Joey, he was a quadriplegic, medically fragile child whose family had abandoned him to life in a hospital room, alone, with only the nursing staff to care for and love him," Waters said.

Joey was the catalyst that defined Moore's dream for children dependent on life-sustaining medication, treatments or equipment, Waters said. Moore believed the children deserved to have a stable home environment, so she opened the Dream House, a nonprofit organization for medically fragile children.

Moore attributed the success of her organization to the community's support.

"You've been a big part of giving these children a voice when they had none," Moore said.

The recipient for the award in treasure, Sheila Stevens, has raised more than $1 million for Gwinnett Medical Center, said Renee Byrd-Lewis, who presented the honor. Stevens lost her mother to breast cancer, and when a friend was also diagnosed with the disease, she turned to her passion for tennis to found Volley for a Cure, now known as VolleyFest.

What started out as one tournament now includes several events including SwingFest and RunFest, which fall under the umbrella of the Sport of Giving.

"It's really not me," Stevens said. "I'm just a talking figure. I like to ask people for money for a good cause."

The annual awards ceremony also serves as a fund-raiser, with proceeds helping women and families in need. The event this year at the Chateau Elan Inn and Conference Center included a fashion show.

"We've done a gala in the past. We thought a fashion show went so much with women," said Sheila Adcock, the event chairwoman. "The event is a celebration of the inside of women as well as the outside."

Last year's event proceeds enabled United Way Women's Legacy in Gwinnett to award $54,000 in community grants to Family Promise, Foster Children's Foundation, Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry, Norcross Cooperative Ministry, North Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry, Partnership Against Domestic Violence, Rainbow Village and The Impact Group.