Dedicated. Committed. Passionate. Nurturing. Giving.
That's how Harlem residents and leaders described Margaret "Margie" Bennett on Jan. 11 after she was named Harlem Woman's Club 2006 Outstanding Citizen of the Year.
"If you ever want a really true friend who will be with you through thick and thin, you need to get you a Margie Bennett," said Doris Belcher, a former 4-H extension agent who worked with Bennett when she served as an extension agent and eventually county director.
Roger Vest, the pastor of Harlem United Methodist Church, said Bennett is faithful to the church.
"That is her lifeblood," Vest said of her faith. "She is Miss Methodist."
Bennett, a Harlem resident since 1954, is a longtime member of the church. She was instrumental in starting its preschool, where she taught for two years, and has served as a Sunday school teacher, counselor, church treasurer and a member of the United Methodist Women, which she has served as president and as a district officer.
Vest said Bennett has a list of families and ailing children she supports with regular visits.
"She's got probably a dozen or more on her list she checks on," Vest said.
Robin Root, a city councilwoman and Harlem Woman's Club member who oversees the Citizen of the Year program, said it was difficult to keep it a secret that Bennett was the winner because she is involved with the city.
Bennett, who also is a club member, normally stands at the door in the back of the club building greeting guests as they enter for the annual ceremony.
She said she was surprised to receive the Citizen of the Year honor.
"They got me, they really did," she said.
Bennett is probably best known for her coordination of the county's STAR Student program, which the Harlem Woman's Club sponsored.
Charles Nagle, the associate superintendent of student support for the Columbia County school system, represented Superintendent Tommy Price, who could not attend the ceremony, by reading a letter from Price.
"Through the years, I have grown accustomed to your telephone calls each winter regarding plans for the annual STAR Student/STAR Teacher event sponsored by the Harlem Woman's Club," the letter read. "Needless to say, this recognition program is one of the most prestigious honors available to our students and their chosen teachers ... You, through this program, have become a special part of our school system."
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