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Auburn’s honors the ‘Heroes of COVID-19’

By CHARLOTTE TUGGLE/ Auburn University

The Auburn University College of Human Sciences hosted the 2020 International Quality of Life Awards Monday, honoring individuals and organizations who have gone above and beyond to improve quality of life amid a pandemic. This year’s honorees, the Heroes of COVID-19, included health care professionals, nonprofit organizations, teachers and education leaders, among many more.

Nick Davis was honored as a Hero of COVID-19 for his work as owner of Momma Goldberg’s Deli, his unwavering support of Auburn University, his support of the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center and his inspiring spirit. Davis honored Julie Broadway for her work creating a virtual learning community for The Broadway Group’s employees, which served parents and children who needed a reliable space to work, learn and play.

“Bob and Julie had a need in Huntsville, and Julie came to the table and answered that need immediately,” Davis said. “Julie decided that since her gymnastics school could not operate normally, she would use that facility to provide breakfast, lunch, instruction time and technical support to children of their employees for the entire school day. Julie created this opportunity for parents of children from kindergarten to 12th grade, and that’s why I think she’s a hero.”

In turn, Broadway honored Ashley Lovell and Chauntel Norris of the Alabama Prison Birth Project as Heroes of COVID-19. Under their leadership, the project works to improve the health and well-being of children born to incarcerated mothers by supporting those mothers during pregnancy and ensuring they have time to bond with their newborns. This year, the Alabama Prison Birth Project staff extended their efforts to the Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka to aid and educate pregnant inmates, deliver healthy meals and share technology to meet with expecting mothers.

Beth Thorne Stukes, who presented an endowment to the International Quality of Life Awards that will help sustain the tradition of highlighting those who improve quality of life for all, honored the Walker Area Community Foundation. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Walker County, Alabama, and the surrounding areas, the foundation provided hot meals and groceries, established a help hotline for out-of-work individuals and mobilized sustainable giving to support the community. And when a tornado struck the area in April, the foundation was on the front lines of disaster relief.

“Our spirits have held up pretty well through the year, but isn’t it wonderful to celebrate so many heroes of COVID-19?” Stukes said. “The Walker Area Community Foundation is a boots-on-the-ground group, working hard every day to improve quality of life in their community. I’m really excited about the tremendous effort growing and reaching others. There are endless stories of generosity and compassion.”

The 27th annual International Quality of Life Awards was hosted virtually, featuring videos from honorees and footage of the event from inside the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center on the Auburn campus. The presentation also included testimony from students who previously participated in the IQLA New York Study Tour, which is designed to broaden the worldview of students, enrich their understanding of applicable science for a quality life and give them the opportunity to serve as human sciences ambassadors at the awards presentation.

Ada Ruth Huntley of Chilton County, a College of Human Sciences senior and Student Government Association president, reflected on how the study tour impacted her.

“It meant everything to me to get to go to the IQLA experience and participate in that with my peers and get to experience New York City, but more importantly, I thought it was really incredible to get to attend the awards,” she said. “To see people who have applied science for a quality life in the real world so well and exceptionally throughout their career was such an honor and a privilege and one that really inspired me and my peers to want to continue on in our work to promote that mission even further.”

To further serve human sciences students, all IQLA honorarium gifts established the Spirit of IQLA Endowed Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to a student or students who demonstrate a passion for improving the quality of life and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The first recipient of the Spirit of IQLA Scholarship will be presented at the IQLA Distinguished Lecture Series with FEED founder and CEO Lauren Bush Lauren on March 25, 2021.

“For close to three decades, the International Quality of Life Awards has honored individuals and organizations that have made significant and lasting contributions to individual, family and community well-being locally and around the world,” said College of Human Sciences Dean Susan Hubbard. “Even though we couldn’t gather in person in New York City as we’ve done for the past 26 years, we knew during this unprecedented year, it was more important than ever to celebrate those who devote their lives to improving quality of life for all.”

To see the full list of the 2020 International Quality of Life Awards honorees, visit iqla.auburn.edu.