United Way of St. Johns County Celebrates 7th Annual Givers Gala, Honoring Community Champions

United Way of St. Johns County Celebrates 7th Annual Givers Gala, Honoring Community Champions 

St. Augustine, FLFebruary 5, 2024 

“United We Thrive” was the theme of the 7th Annual United Way of St. Johns County Givers Gala, as community leaders and partners gathered to support and celebrate the agency’s continual community service and to help address the priorities of health, education, and financial stability 

With the support of The Hutson Companies as title sponsor, the black-tie gala was held January 27th at the Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort. The evening featured signature cocktails by The St. Augustine Distillery, dinner, a lively auction by Tanner Roberts of Morrison Auctioneers and dancing to the sounds of the Bold City Classics band. But the focus of the evening was on honoring those who provide lasting inspiration for all that United Way of St. Johns County does to serve its community.  

Joe Pickens, Board Chair of United Way of St. Johns County, agreed. “Every year, the Givers Gala is a momentous occasion for us to come together and celebrate the incredible generosity within our community. This event highlights the essence of selfless giving and showcases the power of collective action in creating positive change. We are proud to honor those who have made a significant impact on St. Johns & Putnam County through their dedication and philanthropy.” 

Awardees of the 7th Annual Givers Gala: 

John & Peggy Bailey, Sr. Community Leadership Award: Dr. William T. Abare 

Dr. William T. Abare, former President of Flagler College (2001-2017), is the deserving recipient of the John & Peggy Bailey, Sr. Community Leadership Award. Dr. Abare’s lifetime of selfless dedication to our community has left an indelible mark, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps. 

Corporate Philanthropy Award: Ameris Bank 

Ameris Bank is honored with the Corporate Philanthropy Award for its remarkable 52-year history of giving. With a culture deeply rooted in generosity, Ameris Bank’s mission to change lives “one person at a time” reflects their commitment to positive community impact. 

Nancy Burns Trail Blazer Award: Malinda Peeples and Charles Moretti 

Malinda Peeples and Charles Moretti, residents of Armstrong, received the Nancy Burns Trail Blazer Award. Malinda, a dedicated leader and advocate for the SEA Community Center, and Charles, a retired contractor, inspires young volunteers and mobilized businesses and churches to respond to a neighbor’s tragic house-fire. 

Chair’s Award: Jennifer Harvey 

Jenny Harvey, recipient of the Chair’s Award, served on the staff of UWSJC for 9 years, demonstrating unwavering dedication. Her commitment to volunteerism extends beyond her professional role, embodying the spirit of the Givers Gala. 

“The Givers Gala is a testament to the strength of our community. It brings together individuals and organizations who understand the importance of giving back.” United Way President/CEO Mark LeMaire said. “This year’s awardees have shown exceptional leadership and dedication, and we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on their remarkable contributions.” 


Serving both Putnam and St. Johns Counties, United Way of St. Johns County is the only organization that brings together agencies, businesses, organizations, faith-based groups, government and individuals to focus on the community problems that matter most. Partners share the vision and have the energy, passion, expertise and resources to get the work done. For over 65 years, United Way-SJC has improved lives and built a strong, healthy community by strategically investing in quality programs, building partnerships, advocating for better policies, engaging the community and leveraging resources. Success is measured not by dollars raised, but by lives improved and changed. Visit unitedway-sjc.org, follow @unitedwaysjc on social media, or call 904-829-9721 for more information.