During the inaugural State of the City Address last Thursday, May 9, local citizens were presented with the first ever Madison Awards to honor their service and dedication to improve the lives of those in their hometown community.
The award recipients included The Benford Family, specifically, Willie James Benford, Kathryn Cardwell, Sherry Terrell and Jenny Cofield.
“This night will be one of celebration of both spirit and success. Tonight we recognize a family and three individuals who, through sacrifice, benevolence and love made a difference in our community and the world,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman.
“We live and govern in a unique city brimming with talent and drive. Madison’s City Council follows your lead in every way. We seek to match the abundant volunteerism our citizens show by example. You inspire us, to, we hope, inspire you.”
Perriman awarded the Benford Family, specifically Willie James Benford, for serving in the Armed Forces in defense of our country.
“We have a very special family in Madison, the Benford Family, who knows all too well what sacrifice means. They are a family of veterans who answered the call when our country needed them,” said Perriman. “Because of their dedication, most of us will never know the anguish a military family endures. The soldiers, the mothers, the fathers and children are all heroes, every one of them. They have earned the honor and respect of a grateful nation and in turn a grateful city.”
Kathryn Cardwell received a Madison Award for her tireless efforts to improve opportunities for local youth. Cardwell spearheaded the fundraising campaigns for the new Morgan County High School auditorium and for the new Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club facility. Cardwell led committees to raise more than $3 million between both projects.
“Kathryn led the charge to raise the money to save the auditorium. She did so with fortitude and persistence. There was never a thought that the project would not be completed. The auditorium has become a showplace for the new school,” said Perriman.
Perriman shared how the Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club has struggled for years to accommodate the growing number of children in need of the program. The club needed a space that could house more than 200 children at one time, a facility that would cost more than $3 million to secure.
“She and her committee raised more than $2 million to get the project going. Ground was broken a few weeks ago and deserving children of Madison and Morgan County are going to be given a chance,” said Perriman. “Children’s lives will be changed. And it will be generational change.”
Sherry Terrell earned a Madison Award for leading the way in founding the Madison-Morgan Community Food Pantry during a time of heightened food insecurity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“When people in Madison were desperate for food to sustain them at the beginning of a devastating pandemic, Sherry found a way. She continues to find a way,” said Perriman, who attributed her relentless servant spirit to the love and example of her parents R.L. and Hazel Terrell. “Sherry knows that food security is the first step in a family’s stability and health. So, she gives. She inspires. She shows the rest of us what we can aspire to become, the better version of ourselves. And, she does so with no expectation of riches or reward. She does so with a fearless intent that defies the odds. Where others saw a problem, Sherry Terrell saw an opportunity.”
Jenny Cofield, a Spanish teacher at Morgan County High School, was recognized for nurturing a spirit of inclusion among her first-generation American students.
“When Jenny Cofield saw children who were unsure and afraid, who felt unwelcome, she welcomed them. She brought a group of first-generation Americans together in a special class period and showed them the best part of being an American citizen,” shared Perriman.
After helping the students create a publish a bilingual children’s book for to encourage early literacy for all families in Morgan County, Cofield teamed up with the Morgan County Citizen and the City of Madison to help local Spanish-speaking people gain access to the news and local government.
“When the class told Jenny people in the Hispanic community couldn’t read the local newspaper, Jenny Cofield and her students began producing a monthly two-page section in the Morgan County Citizen; one page in Spanish and the next translated to English,” said Perriman. “When her students said they didn’t understand how democracy, how government functioned in America, Jenny brought the class to Madison’s City Council meeting room and were given a primer by our local city officials.”
Perriman described Cofield as “the spark” igniting positive change, inspiring others to join her.
The Madison Awards will be an annual tradition from now on at each future State of the City Address.
“Each year we shall select from a bountiful pool of citizens, persons who have shown through selfless acts the undeniable ability to change lives through thoughtful works,” said Perriman.
“These recipients didn’t live their lives to get noticed by a thankful city. Instead, they saw problems and offered solutions through hard work, innovation and caring.”
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