Natalie King was an undergraduate student at the University of Florida (UF) and wanted to find a way to get more involved in her new community.
She joined Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Mid-Florida as a mentor and was matched with her little sister, Caitlin, in 2006 and the two remained paired until Caitlin graduated from Eastside High School on June 6.
"We have built a reciprocal relationship where I have mentored Caitlin and supported her over the years, and she has taught me about life," said Natalie, the winner of the E.T. York Distinguished Service Award who is also a devoted wife and mother of two small boys.
“Our relationship has gone far beyond the program requirements,” Natalie said. “Although the match will close for Big Brothers Big Sisters – Caitlin will be my little sister forever.”
When the two met at Duval Elementary School, Caitlin was a shy third grader and Natalie was starting her career at UF. Caitlin is now a high school graduate who plans on enrolling in the United States Air Force and Natalie is pursuing her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at UF.
“Even though I’m going off to the Air Force, I’m still going to keep in touch with Natalie,” Caitlin said. “I appreciate everything she did for me and I will always love her, not just as a big sister but as family.”
The pair met once a week when Caitlin was in elementary school and Natalie would help with homework. As Caitlin grew up and her schedule became more crowed, the two would meet less frequently but never lost touch.
Natalie has been able to remain invested in her family, her education, her community and her role as a big sister. Throughout her time as a big sister, she earned her bachelor’s degree in applied physiology and kinesiology and her master’s degree in special education through UF.
Natalie also volunteers with several other organizations. She serves as a board member of the Twenty One Pearls Foundation, Inc., Martin Luther King Commission of Florida, Inc. and Girls Place, Inc. She is also the founder and director of the Fostering Opportunities and Cultivating Upstanding Students (FOCUS) Program through the Southeast Educational Enterprise Kingdom (SEEK) Community Center, Inc. in Gainesville.
With more than 40 nominations, the E.T. York Work of Heart Awards recognized exemplary Alachua County volunteers at a reception on July 8. Fourteen nominees were honored with Work of Heart Awards at the reception, which was held at the Best Western Gateway Grand.
Dr. E.T. York is the namesake of the E.T. York Work of Heart Awards and of the Haven Hospice E.T. York Care Center in Gainesville. In 1968, Dr. York was asked by President Nixon to serve on the newly formed board of directors of the National Center for Volunteer Action. He then spearheaded the formation of the Volunteer Action Center in Alachua County and became the first board president. Since 1971 the Work of Heart Awards has honored the volunteers in Alachua County and the impact they make.
Volunteer Action Center in Alachua County and became the first board president. Since 1971 the Work of Heart Awards has honored the volunteers in Alachua County and the impact they make. Other winners were as follows:
Group Volunteer Awards:
UF Physician Assistant Class of 2016—University of Florida Collegiate Group
Advantage Publishing —Corporate Citizenship
Project Downtown Gainesville —Nonprofit Organization
Heart of Community Award winners:
Girls Rock Camp - Chelsea Carnes, Jen Vito
Family Treasures Thrift Shop Angels - Rita Hamilton, Laura Davis, Clair LaMar
Individual Volunteer Awards:
Wafaa Ateyah —Youth Volunteer Award
Ralph Horky —Good Neighbor Award
Tim Vinson —Volunteer Board Member Award
Katelynd Todd —University of Florida Collegiate Individual Award
Jan LeDuc —Senior Volunteer Award
Heart of Community Award winners:
Andrew and Kim Mitchell