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June 27, 2014

Harris, Greenwood receive Halo Awards

DUNCAN — Little did Michael Harris realize when he told people to open their hearts and their wallets that he would be recognized for having opened his heart to Gabriel’s House.

Harris and Lahoma Greenwood were this year’s recipients of the Halo Award, which was presented Thursday during the Gabriel’s House Dinner and Art Auction. Harris served as the master of ceremonies for the event, which was a fundraiser for the non-profit organization that works with at-risk first through third-grade students in an after school setting.

“I’m speechless,” Harris said. “Just saying that might make some of you speechless. I’m very, very honored. If you’re not involved in Gabriel’s House, you should be.”

Harris was recognized for his contributions to Gabriel’s House, including his annual visits to the houses during Christmas. Harris has become the organization’s resident Santa Clause.

Greenwood was noted by award presenter and board member Gina Flesher as “going above and beyond.” Greenwood’s volunteer work in the organization told a story of a boy who received help from Greenwood outside of the Gabriel’s House hours, going as far as to tutor the boy and to translate his homework for his non-English speaking mother.

Greenwood said she was “flabbergasted” by the recognition.

“I’m totally amazed,” she said. “It’s a real blessing for me to be related to that family. It’s the very least I can do. I’m glad I got to do it.”

She said there were many other people she felt were deserving of the award, but was proud to represent the organization.

Bonnie Talley, program director and founder of Gabriel’s House, said the organization has completed its 16th year in Duncan, and she expects the organization to grow in a new direction with the help of its volunteers and donors. Gabriel’s House will grow outside the three houses at Woodrow Wilson, Mark Twain and Emerson elementary schools and will use the schools themselves to run the after school program.

Talley said this will allow the organization and its volunteers to reach more students. Instead of having students age out of the program when they reach fourth grade (the program runs for first through third-graders currently) the program will be in place through fifth grade.

“The saddest thing is to graduate a student from the program in third grade,” Talley said. “This year, we watched a fourth-grader knocking on the Gabriel’s House door saying ‘I don’t know where to go.’ Now that fourth-grader will know where he’s going.”

She said the expanded program will allow for more churches to be involved in the program and will reach more children. She said she hates losing the houses, but knows things will improve for everyone involved.

“You cannot create a future by hanging onto the past,” Talley said.

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