Community Impact Awardees 2024 Announced

Submitted by bpepke on Mon, 05/13/2024 - 12:03pm

Thank you to all who attended the Awards Dinner and a special thanks to our presenting sponsor, Capstone Health Alliance. We also thank our award sponsors, DMJPS, Colton Groome, GreyBeard Realty, Van Winkle Law Firm, MAHEC, and Modera. And to our Annual Live United Sponsors: Eaton and Mission Health. 



Julia Darity | Live United Award 

This award recognizes an individual whose exceptional leadership, passion, and engagement is improving the lives of individuals and families in our community today and for future generations. This award recognizes someone who speaks out on behalf of or educates others on issues that support and advance United Way’s work with exceptional adherence to specific values or standards, such as diversity, respect, creativity, or innovation.

A dynamic youth leader from Asheville, Julia Darity brings a collaborative and engagement mindset to her work, inspiring peers and adults to advance social justice awareness and action for youth. She is a central stage speaker at many conferences and events. Julia brings her perspective, lived experience, and expertise to the table with other youth and adults, making shared decisions around the issues that impact our community. She actively participated in the community committee investment meetings occurring after school hours and raised questions and comments keeping the youth lens central in the process. 

Pictured: Julia Darity holding her award 


Sybil Jefferson | Gamechanger Award 

This award recognizes an individual or business that embraces United Way’s Guiding Principles and the community school strategy by demonstrating outstanding leadership in improving systems for equitable student learning and educational excellence.


As an alumna of Asheville High School, Sybil Jefferson is a generational leader who is deeply invested in giving back to her community through schools. Her leadership and dedication to the community school strategy make her a true gamechanger in the field of education.

Pictured: Dan Leroy, Sybil Jefferson, and Tatyana Barret 


Hekmat Bessio | Hands On Volunteer of the Year

Community volunteers have always been the lifeblood of this organization and so many of our partners. This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding volunteerism and an extraordinary commitment to the community through United Way.

Since arriving in the United States last July from Palestine, Hekmet Bessio has been a powerhouse of a volunteer, actively contributing more than 220 hours of her time to at least 13 local nonprofits.

When asked about the importance of volunteering she had this to say: “Volunteering is like a seed. You put it in and you keep watering it. You will not see anything for days. And when the seeds start, you will never be able to count how many people will eat from any tree. No human all over the world can count how many people benefit from any tree.”


Pictured: Hekmat Bessio 


Jayme Davis | The Circle of Hope Award 

This award recognizes a nonprofit professional for their extraordinary leadership, creativity, and compassion during a pivotal moment in their organization, our collective history, or over the course of their career. 

For 25 years, Jamye Davis devoted herself wholeheartedly to Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC. Her unwavering commitment to the organization, its mission, and more importantly to the youth of WNC has been truly exceptional.

Pictured: Dan Leroy and Jayme Davis 


Susanne Swanger | Women United Taylor Foss Award

The Women United Award was established in 2017 to recognize a member of Women United’s giving society who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to United Way’s philanthropic mission.



Susanne Swanger’s leadership within United Way as former Board Chair and in her previous role as Associate Superintendent at Buncombe County Schools has been instrumental in establishing the core elements of both Community Schools and United for Youth. 

Pictured: Taylor Foss and Suzanne Swanger 


Blue Ridge Power | Spirit of the Mountain Award 

This award recognizes a business that is ‘all-in’ in its support of the community and United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, generating impact through its financial investments, leadership and employee engagement, and volunteer participation.


Blue Ridge Power’s in-kind contributions, technical expertise, and fundraising efforts made it possible for United Way to install solar panels enabling the organization to support the environment and use the funds from energy savings to support youth success efforts.