Sec. of state honors Kentucky civic leaders

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)- Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes honored four Kentuckians Thursday with a Medallion Ceremony at the State Capitol Rotunda.

Raoul Cunningham, Tamara Sandberg, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams, III, and Mary Sue Helm were recognized.

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The Office of the Secretary of State says the award “recognizes outstanding service and the furthering of the National Association of Secretaries of State’s (“NASS”) goals in elections, civic education, service to state government, or a commitment to philanthropic giving.”

It is the highest honor a Secretary of State can bestow.

“I am pleased to celebrate Raoul, Tamara, Ben and Mary Sue today for the countless sacrifices they have made in this Commonwealth and nation,” said Grimes. “They have each made a huge impact respectively on civil rights, the initiative to end hunger in the Commonwealth, assisting our veterans, and the election process in Kentucky.”

According to the Secretary, Cunningham joined the NAACP as a teenager in 1957.

He led demonstrations that ended segregation in Louisville.

He took part in the 1963 March on Washington.

He now serves on the Kentucky Advisory Committee for Help America Vote (HAVA).

The Office says Cunningham has worked with it over the years to ensure African Americans can vote.

“Secretary Grimes has been a leader on the front linef of civil rights especially when it comes to increasing access to the ballot box for all Kentuckians,” said Cunningham. “I am honored to receive this award and there is still work to be done. I remind each of you that the most important thing we can do in this democracy is vote.”

Sandberg started volunteering at food pantries and soup kitchens as a high school student. She is currently Feeding Kentucky’s Executive Director.

The Secretary of State says that has allowed Sandberg to support legislation to end hunger.

She has worked with the office on the annual Commonwealth Bowl, a competition between public and private groups to collect items for food banks.

They also worked together on the Farms to Food Banks initiative, which pays farmers to give produce to food insecure Kentuckians.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” said Sandberg. “Although I am being recognized today, it is leaders like Secretary Grimes that make my work possible every day. To me, working with her is the biggest honor I could receive.”

Brig. Gen. Adams has served 40 years in the U.S. Army and the Kentucky National Guard.

Right now, he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Kentucky National Guard Memorial.

He worked with Secretary Grimes on putting together the state’s first ever Military Civic Health Report.

They also worked together on a statewide Boots to Business initiative, which encouraged veterans to become entrepreneurs.

Grimes says Adams also made it easier for the elderly and disabled to vote by turning nursing homes into polling locations.

“Although Alison claims that I mentored her these last eight years, it is I that has been mentored,” said Adams. “Her leadership and commitment to the veterans of the Commonwealth is incomparable and we will continue to stand up for our veterans and serve those who serve our country every day.”

Helm has a career of over 30 years in state government, starting in the Jefferson County Clerk’s office. The majority of those years, though, were spent in the Office of the Secretary of State.

She has served as Grimes’ Director of Administration and Elections for both terms.

“Many people ask why do I stay with the secretary of state’s office,” said Helm. “To them, I simply say, ‘You must not have met the Secretary.’ Working for the past six Secretaries of State has been the honor of my life and I am humbled for the recognition today.”