The co-founder of Project Help was the recipient of the fourth-annual award from Dispatch Media Group.
Sandy Waters-Holley has helped thousands of Ohioans with whatever they are in need of at the time.
Through Project Help, an organization Waters-Holley started with her mother in 1984, thousands have received the clothing they need. Another of her programs helped empower girls at a Linden-area school.
Her hard work and selflessness has earned Waters-Holley the honor of winning the overall Everyday Heroes award from the Dispatch Media Group.
Waters-Holley was honored Tuesday during a television program on NBC4 devoted to honoring the 2020 class of Everyday Heroes. As the winner, Waters-Holley will get to direct a $10,000 grant from The Columbus Foundation to a nonprofit charity of her choice.
Waters-Holley sobbed when she found out she had won.
Waters-Holley has been worried about funding for Project Help lately, because funding for nonprofits has been tough during the pandemic.
"We were down to a shoestring budget so this is surreal, I'm just numb," she said. "It's just God. I had been praying for months, saying, `God, you know what we need. What are we going to do?' I was getting a little discouraged there."
Waters-Holley is focusing now on finding a new location for Project Help. The current location on West Broad Street is not in good shape, and she's looking for a new home for the nonprofit.
"The ministry doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the Lord. I'm just the earth angel," she said. "You don't know how grateful I am."
The four finalists — Terry Kelley, Siyat Mohamed, Alli Krivanek and Fred Rieser — each received $7,500 in marketing services from the Dispatch Media Group for an organization of their choice.
"These quiet unselfish acts that heal, unite and improve our communities are even more inspiring — and sorely needed — during this time of a global pandemic, economic turmoil, social unrest and political division. The compassion and kindness of our Everyday Heroes are inspiring — and give some measure of hope," said Ray Paprocki, publisher and general manager of Dispatch Magazines.
Fifteen years after the death of her mother, Waters-Holley, 70, continues to lead Project Help and its Christmas-season giveaway. She organizes donations from companies, rounds up volunteers all year long to sort clothes as they come in, and inspires many around her with her dedication and selflessness.
Waters-Holley worked in the Columbus City Schools for 37 years. She devoted herself to helping children in the Linden neighborhood where she grew up.
At Hamilton Elementary School (now Hamilton STEM Academy), she started an after-school program called Just Us Girls, through which she would advise the older girls at Hamilton on everything from hygiene to homework.
Waters-Holley retired from the school system in 2010, but at the request of an administrator, she came back to Hamilton in 2016 as a part-time consultant, focusing on violence awareness with fifth- and sixth-graders.
She is often helping friends, family and complete strangers.
The Dispatch Media Group honored five finalists and 20 semifinalists. Their stories can be found here or on Dispatch.com by searching Everyday Heroes 2020.
The sponsors are the Columbus Foundation, United Way of Central Ohio, CME Federal Credit Union, AEP, COSI and NBC4.
Below, don’t miss the “2020 Dispatch Media Group Everyday Heroes Show,” a special production that aired Oct. 13 on NBC4 celebrating Waters-Holley and the other honorees.