Jefferson Awards: Cathy Palmer

By: Melissa Warren Email
By: Melissa Warren Email

 

On any given day, you can find Cathy Palmer in her spare time at a local school a charity function, or delivering necessities to a family in need.

She began this day at Warren East High School talking to kids about the importance of planning their futures, and she says it's things like this anyone can do.

"When we get up, we put our feet on the floor every morning and we have the opportunity to change our world. No matter who we are, no matter what we have, and we owe it to the world to do that," said Jefferson Award Nominee Cathy Palmer.

Palmer says it's those who serve in the shadows, not recognized, and giving what they can despite not having much, that are inspiration for anyone no matter the circumstance.

"Things for all of us could be worse than they are, or they could be better than they are, and it's within all of our power to make it either way," said Palmer.

Volunteering has shaped Palmer's life. It's something that transcends her career, spare time and family.

"I owe so much of my life to volunteerism. I met my husband volunteering," said Palmer.

"When I first met her, we talked and I became kind of infatuated, so I thought well, if I accept this maybe we could go out on a date later," said husband Alan Palmer.

Seven months after co-chairing the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon together, they were married. They now have a son, who watched his mother befriend person after person while helping numerous organizations throughout the years.

"My husband and son like to say I collect people the way people collect things," said Palmer.

It was when her son was in grade school, and she was helping with his Future Problem Solving team at school that she met Patrick Duncan. Duncan remained close to the Palmers through the years, and he says he owes much of his career to her.

"Actually the job I have right now, I heard about from her son... who heard about it from a contact of Cathy's, so I wouldn't have this job right now, where I have the opportunity to volunteer and help students if it weren't for her, so it's pretty monumental that I met her in FPS," said Warren East High School Americorps Kentucky College Coach Patrick Duncan.

By helping Duncan get that job, Palmer wasn't just passing on a career, but a passion.

"My passion is education, because I believe education can change a life," said Palmer.

As a member and former president of the Philanthropic Education Organization, or PEO, she changes the lives of young women by helping them gain college scholarships. One of those young women was the daughter of a local educator, who says the women of PEO did so much more than just help her daughter pay for school.

"All these leading ladies in Bowling Green, meeting in one room. It's like a powerhouse of ladies, and they're showering my daughter to go to college, not only giving her a scholarship, but also providing her with all these wonderful, meaningful gifts to follow her to college," said Susan Thomison, Warren Central High School Teacher.

It's that spirit of going above and beyond with a smile that makes others want to follow in her footsteps.

"When you see someone enjoying what they do... then it's like maybe I'd like to do that," said Angie Smith, Warren East High School Youth Services Center Coordinator.

"I love being around her. She just makes everybody laugh and makes everybody happy when she's in the room," said closer Pamela Napier.

Following in her footsteps is exactly what one Chamber volunteer did when she became the chairperson of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce's small business committee.

"Cathy is a very dynamic individual. She's a great motivator and a great delegator, and I think that's very important when you're leading something," said Chamber of Commerce Small Business Committee Chair Meredith Thornton.

Thorton says Palmer set the standards high, and it's her goal to break through them.

"The highest compliment you can pay a mentor or someone who had led you into a volunteer operation is to beat their records, and to do better than they did. I welcome anybody to take anything they see that they think I've done, and do better," said Palmer.

The challenge to do better, better for ourselves for others, and for the world that challenge is the legacy of Cathy Palmer.


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