By Deb Patterson
WARSAW — Willard ‘Bill’ Morton and his wife Victoria ‘Vicki’ Morton, Syracuse, whose involvement and compassion has left an impact on the community, were awarded the 2023 Charles D. “Charlie” Smith Award by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.
The award was presented Tuesday evening, Sept. 26, during the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.
“Vicki and I are deeply honored to stand here today as recipients of the Charles D. Smith award. This recognition has a profound meaning to us as it represents the values and ideals that guide our lives,” said Bill Morton.
He continued by stating “bestowing this prestigious honor upon us, to be counted with the likes of Charlie Smith and past recipients is truly humbling. We accept this award with … responsibility and a debt of gratitude to the countless individuals and organizations who have partnered with us in Kosciusko County. Through collaboration, shared visions and dedication to community, we’ve been able to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve.”
Bill Morton added that volunteering is not a solitary endeavor but a collective force for positive change.
He noted he became a Big Brother through the lunch buddy program, which turned into a community based match. Since his first Little has now turned 18, he has been matched with a second lunch buddy. “My two Littles have made a huge impact in my life … you will receive a huge return on your investment of time on mentoring a Little.”
Vicki, who saw how much fun her husband was having with his Little, joined the program and received the same experience. She has moved on to a second lunch buddy. “Trust me, we have gotten more out of our experiences with Big Brothers Big Sisters than we could impossibly imagine. We have also learned a lot about the residents in the community and ways to help those in need.
“We would not be living in this community … if not for agencies like Cardinal Center,” stated Vicki Morton. Because of Cardinal Center, they are able to have a place for their son Andrew, who has cognitive challenges, to go during the day, which he loves. “We are able to handle CASA cases, teach Junior Achievement classes, be lunch buddies and even have a few minutes to ourselves.”
The Mortons’ dedicated the award to all those who “continue to inspire us with their unwavering commitment to make the community a better place,” stated Bill Morton. “Your dedication fuels our passion together to create a brighter future for all … We are excited to continue our journey of service and look forward to working together to make a lasting impact on the lives of those in need.”
Bill Morton also noted the Big Brothers Big Sisters Scholarship fund they started in 2020. This scholarship fund assisted four Littles last spring with financial assistance to a college or trade school.
Some of the highlights of the impact the Mortons have made on people’s lives were noted in a 7-minute video featuring representatives of the organizations they volunteer their time. They were described as caring, generous and advocates, being all in, and champions for youth with the selfless and giving of their time and energy to help out in the community, stepping in where needed and having compassion for people in a vulnerable situation and pouring themselves into the life of children that has a ripple impact.
Some of their involvement noted include:
Vicki Morton’s commitment to offering rides to voters without transportation during past elections, ensuring every voice was heard. She is also the Kosciusko Democrat County Chair and Bill Morton is on the election board.
Their dedication to advocacy extends to the Cardinal Center with their involvement including a generous Leadership Gift enabling the center to provide meaningful work opportunities and artistic endeavors for adults with disabilities, creating a more inclusive society.
Regarding their work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bill’s mentoring journey began in 2014 with his first match in the School Buddies program, later transitioning to Community-Based Mentoring in 2016. Over the years, he continued to foster connections, exemplified by his ongoing match with Little Brother Spencer. Vicki, too, has left a lasting impression through her mentorship journey, starting in December 2014 with LS Racheal transitioning into a community-based mentoring in 2015.
Tammy Smith, community development director, stated the award bestowed upon Bill and Vicki Morton is a reflection of their exceptional contributions and selfless devotion to bettering their community. Through their roles in local government, their commitment to education, and their compassionate mentorship, the Mortons stand as shining examples of the transformative power of service.”
Michelle Smith, daughter of Charlie Smith, spoke about her father prior to the announcement of the award. “Those who knew my dad know he valued people, family, friends and relationships above everything else. He was generous and intentional with his time and resources and invested in the community. He had a very special way to make you feel valued and important … his gifts and strong leadership skills provided an invaluable resources … most of all his genuine down to earth nature, contagious smile brought new live to countless organizations and individuals that he helped and he is truly missed. His dedication to family, faith and community …. set a very high standard for volunteerism.”
The Charles D. Smith Award was established in 2015 and recognizes an individual or individuals who demonstrate passionate volunteerism, strong community leadership and a lifelong commitment to serving others.
Smith was an avid supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the children in his community, He contributed to a 100% increase of children served in Kosciusko County. His altruistic gifts and his strong leadership skills provided the agency with invaluable resources to make Big Brothers Big Sisters one of the top mentoring organizations in the Midwest.
Additionally, the evening included a story from Big Couple Nick and Alyssa and their journey with their Little Christopher, a fashion show by some of the Big and Littles, and presentation of an award to Zane Hollar, 2022 Indiana State Big of the Year.