DAR award photo

Ron and Caroline Brown have received a Community Service Award for spearheading a multi-million dollar fund- raising effort that benefits downtown Monroe.

MONROE — The local John Foster chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) presented two Community Service Awards to Ron and Caroline Brown and Mike McGee earlier this month.

The awards are given to individuals and/or organizations, highlighting their contributions to their community. They are awards given outside of the DAR chapter. DAR members are eligible for an award so long as their acts of community service do not coincide with volunteer efforts organized by the chapter. There is no competitive judging on any level.

Ron and Caroline Brown’s efforts to raise money for programs at the Dowd Center Theater as well as naming rights for the Theatre and exhibits at the Monroe Science Center. The couple, with assistance from a committee, raised $2.5 million for the ”Get Centered” capital campaign — through focus groups, a meeting with community service leaders, showing a promotional video of the Center Theatre.

The Browns told the Enquirer-Journal in an interview they chose to volunteer because of their love for the city and their hope to see continual growth. They want to see the city offer more attractions for residents and visitors.

“The more things you have, the more things it’ll draw,” Caroline said.

Caroline is a Monroe native. She has seen times where the city thrived and when residents seemed to be complacent about where they lived. Today, the city is thriving as more people open small businesses downtown, combined with the efforts of the City to remodel historic buildings — turning them into destination attractions like the Dowd Center Theatre and the Monroe Science Center.

“This is the biggest growth spurt I’ve seen or that I can remember where the community is really buying into making Monroe a vibrant place for everyone,” Caroline said.

Ron added: “I think you see a lot of little, small towns are going back to that, a lot of love to downtown areas that kinda … died and they’re getting rejuvenated and I think that’s where the nostalgic part of it. People want to get back to downtown where you can walk around …”

The Browns were surprised to learn they earned a Community Service Award, because their intention behind fundraising was never about attention. Their focus is on revitalizing the downtown portion of a city they love and hope everyone comes to love just as much.

Mike McGee was presented with a service award for his generosity in helping build the Community Shelter of Union County’s new facility, which spans 20,000 square feet — a major upgrade from the old building that was 7,000 square feet. The new facility has more beds, an expansive soup kitchen and it has tripled their programming and pantry space, according to a letter of recommendation on McGee’s behalf.

McGee served as the construction project general contractor who wanted to build a great facility at the lowest cost. “Why would he do this when he was already an incredibly busy businessman and church leader … because his stance was it was the right thing to do to help others in need,” the letter read.

The letter also explained how through donation of or reduced cost of materials, professional services and more saved the Community Shelter an estimated $700,000 in a $4 million project.

“Perhaps the most impressive donation I personally witnessed was the exterior bricking of both buildings. Under Mr. McGee’s direction, close to seven brick masons and laborers volunteered their time, product and skill and bricked each 10,000 square foot building on two separate days in only three to four hours each day,” the author of the recommendation letter penned. “The Community Shelter moved into our new facility in June 2019 able to nearly triple the number we served onsite. I can’t imagine what we would have done just nine months later when the pandemic hit if we had not been in this new facility. The design, space and capacity of the new facility allowed the Community Shelter to remain open, serve the most vulnerable, and even expand our services when the need was greatest.”

After the Community Shelter’s new facility was built, McGee continued to volunteer with them. He spent time conversing with shelter residents. He along with family, friends and church members provided meals in the soup kitchen and to clean the facility. He also assisted in acquiring a multi-passenger van for the shelter as well as helping get a new box truck at a reduced price, the letter explained. His efforts didn’t stop there. When McGee learned the shelter paid warehouse storage fees, he offered the use of his private commercial warehouse at no cost to the shelter so they could store home goods for rehoused clients and supplies.

“And today, he has embarked on a new project with the current Shelter CEO, Melissa McKeown, and staff in building a new warehouse onsite at the Community Shelter property,” according to the author.

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