The founder of the Widow’s Mite Society was honored Friday as the 11th recipient of the Axel W. Carlson Award.
Etta Marie Young of Jamestown, whose group last year alone delivered more than 200 Thanksgiving baskets to widows and widowers, accepted the honor as one of the community’s unsung heroes.
Looking around at the standing-room gathering of more than 100 at Sheldon House, she said: “I’m sure my God in heaven is looking. This is what God, I feel, wanted Earth to look like.”
Some of Ms. Young’s eight children attended the ceremony, a move probably in their best interests.
“They knew if they didn’t show up, they couldn’t come knock on my door,” Ms. Young joked.
Ms. Young and four friends began the Widow’s Mite Society in 1979, delivering fruit baskets around the area. Since then, the baskets have grown into traditional Thanksgiving dinners, with soup, stuffing, cranberry sauce and turkey, and are being assembled and delivered by volunteers to 10 different Chautauqua County communities.
The group was founded on a simple biblical notion: “Remember the orphans and the widows.”
Ms. Young follows another credo: “We don’t look for payback. We just look for God to bless us.”
Along with the award, Ms. Young received $1,000 – $500 for herself and a $500 check for the Widow’s Mite Society.
The award is named for Axel W. Carlson, a man who moved to the Southern Tier from his native Sweden while a teen. Carlson worked hard and saved and invested his money wisely. He was known well for working behind the scenes to help others.
Carlson passed away in 1981, leaving behind a substantial portion of his estate to assist people in the community. Four years later, a portion of this fund was set aside to honor individuals like Ms. Young.
The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation uses the award as an expression of appreciation to recognize the importance of individual effort in the community, said Tyler C. Swanson, president of the foundation’s board of directors.