FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Four Kentuckians were recognized for their unique contributions to the state during a Medallion Ceremony on Thursday in the office of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The Medallion Award recognizes outstanding service and the furthering of the National Association of Secretaries of State's goals in elections, civic education, service to state government, or a commitment to philanthropic giving and is the highest award that a secretary of state can present.
Those honored were Raoul Cunningham, Tamara Sandberg, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams, III, and Mary Sue Helm.
"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."
Cunningham’s civil rights activities began in 1957 when he joined the NAACP as a young teenager, soon leading demonstrations that would end segregation in Louisville, even participating in the 1963 March on Washington and working on the successful Georgia Davis Powers campaign for the Kentucky Senate.
He serves on the Kentucky Advisory Committee for Help America Vote and has received numerous awards for his contributions to civil rights. Cunningham, through the NAACP, has worked diligently with the Office of the Secretary of State over the years to ensure that the voices of African Americans are protected and heard on Election Day.
Sandberg began volunteering in soup kitchens and at food pantries in high school. She currently serves as executive director of Feeding Kentucky, which has seven regional food banks and 800 local charitable food organizations. She has aided Grimes with the annual Commonwealth Bowl, a competition between both public and private organizations to collect food bank items. In three years, about 400,000 pounds of food has been collected, providing around 4,000 Kentuckians with a year of meals.
She also partnered with Grimes on the Farms to Food Banks initiative, which compensates farmers for a variety of produce that is distributed to Kentuckians facing food insecurity.
Adams has spent 40 years in the U.S. Army and in the Kentucky National Guard. He is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Kentucky National Guard Memorial. Adams worked with Secretary Grimes to produce Kentucky’s first ever Military Civic Health Report that highlights the contributions from veterans to the Commonwealth, as well as issues plaguing our military men and women, such as employment and PTSD.
He also contributed to Grimes' statewide Boots to Business initiative, which has encouraged our veterans to pursue entrepreneurship. Adams was also instrumental in turning nursing homes into polling locations, making it easier for senior and disabled Kentuckians to vote.
Helm has worked in government for more than 30 years, first in the Jefferson County Clerk’s office, but mostly in the secretary of state’s office. She has served as director of Administration and Elections during Grimes’ two terms, managing fiscal and personnel matters, public documents, legal affairs, and special projects and commissions.
Helm has given a wealth of election law and process knowledge and experience to the Office of the Secretary of State under six secretaries.