Longtime volunteer, co-founder of ‘A Taste of Hanover,’ receives top community services award

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Pat Thacker, a volunteer with Hanover Community Support Services since its beginning in 1991 and one of the founders of the “A Taste of Hanover” fundraiser, is the 2013 recipient of the Jean C. Harris Award for Excellence, the top annual award given by Hanover Community Services.

Pat Thacker is the 2013 recipient of the Jean C. Harris Award for Excellence

Thacker retired in 2007 as director of mental retardation services for the Hanover CSB after 24 years of service. Since her retirement she has continued to lead volunteer efforts centered on supporting those with disabilities.

“A Taste of Hanover” is a successful collaboration with private community partners whose proceeds support individuals with disabilities. Since 2005, the annual event has raised over $115,000 to support services for people with disabilities in Hanover County.

Thacker has donated hundreds of volunteer hours every year to make sure “A Taste of Hanover” is a big success. The money raised through her efforts has provided respite services for caregivers of individuals with disabilities, paid for emergency housing needs and provided more support to independent living opportunities for adults with serious mental illness, for example.

Thacker was quick to give credit to others.

“I did not do this alone, but worked with Hanover Arc, volunteers, businesses and organizations to create this fun event, which has developed into a community-wide public/private partnership,” Thacker said. “An unplanned benefit of ‘The Taste’ is that many businesses connected with the event are now more aware of persons with disabilities and their needs, and have become advocates themselves.  Two prime examples of this are Bass Pro Shops, and the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club, both of which are now actively involved in providing services and supports to Hanover residents with disabilities.”

Thacker, who knew the late Mrs. Harris personally, was “very honored and humbled to receive this award.”

“To say she was an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities is an understatement,” Thacker said.

“Jean’s advocacy was both very public and very private,” Thacker recalled. “Publicly she fought hard, often against public opinion, prejudice and hypocrisy, to establish many of the programs in existence today. Privately, she helped anyone who came to her in need, regardless of race or disability, always treating all with dignity. None of us will ever know the true number of those she helped because she did it without recognition, and because it was the right thing to do.”

The late Mrs. Jean C. Harris was a founding member of both the Community Services Board (on which she served for 20 years) and Hanover Community Support Services. The award named for her is presented annually to individuals who exemplify the many contributions that Mrs. Harris made to the mission, purpose and achievements of the CSB.

The 2013 Jean C. Harris Award is the 14th annual.

Previous winners are Clint and Jen Dowda in 2012; John O’Connor in 2011; Steve Coy in 2010; Al Dickerson in 2009; Sandy Roll in 2008; Mike and Kathy Healey in 2007; Del. Frank D. and Oriana Hargrove in 2006; Charles “Buzz” Jeffrey and Larry Forcum in 2005; Richard R. Johnson in 2004; Ray Ratke and Cindy Rinker in 2003; Dorothy Gibson, Doreen Sherrier, Anna Wright and Tammy Wright in 2002; Bob Bailie, Kitty Hamilton and Dr. Robert Williams in 2001; and Susan Robertson, Gail Taylor and Florence Watt in 2000.

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