Hickory – The City of Hickory Community Relations Council (CRC) held its “A Celebration of Relations” Banquet on Thursday, June 16, at Ridgeview Recreation Center to honor the recipients of the CRC’s Human Relations Awards.

The annual Human Relations Awards are designed to recognize any individual, youth, or organization/business that has gone “above and beyond” in promoting good human relations in the City of Hickory.

Congratulations to the two award recipients selected this year: United Arts Council of Catawba County and Soraya Place.

The United Arts Council of Catawba County has a history of promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within the community. One most exemplary effort was the pursuit of a grant partnership with the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to commission a public art display to commemorate The Untouchables, the 1964 Ridgeview High School football team that went undefeated and unscored upon the entire season. The commission included an archway with two murals honoring the team and the high school. The arched entryway and murals are located at Samuel Davis Field, where the team played. The murals, created by local artist Adele McCarty, depict the people, images, and symbols of Ridgeview High School. This project was spearheaded and championed by Kathy Greathouse, the recently retired executive director of the Arts Council.

Soraya Valdez Place has worked as a community organizer in youth development for over seven and a half years in Catawba County. In 2015, she started working as an adjunct faculty member in the Humanities and Social Sciences College at Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she continues to teach courses in Spanish and Hispanic Culture. That same year, she also began working as a library specialist leading programs in Hispanic community outreach. In 2021, Place joined forces with North Carolina State University, St. Stephens High School, and Arndt Middle School, serving as the family liaison in a program called Juntos (meaning “together” in Spanish), which is designed to reduce high school drop-out rates and increase post-graduation educational opportunities for all students with a focus on Hispanic students. She also serves as a very active board member in Centro Latino, a non-profit organization that helps scores of Latino youth receive academic assistance and enhanced educational opportunities. Throughout her many roles in the community, Place works to unite families for the enhanced academic and social development of children and integrate them into the greater community of Catawba County and all of the amazing opportunities available.

“The CRC endeavors to promote positive relationships, diversity, and unity within the City of Hickory. This year’s Human Relations Award recipients truly exemplify this goal and make Hickory a stronger and better community,” said Mandy Pitts Hildebrand, Chair of the CRC.

During the event, the CRC also honored the previous year’s Human Relations Award winners, Reverend William “Bill” Garrard and the Hickory Choral Society, that were recognized in a special video announcement in 2021.

“Although the pandemic prevented an awards ceremony being held for the 2020 Human Relations Award recipients, the CRC is happy to honor these important members of the community at this year’s awards banquet,” added Hildebrand.

The City of Hickory and the CRC congratulate all Human Relations Award recipients and commend them for the important work they do to bring people together.

For more information, contact Captain Philip Demas with the Hickory Police Department at 828-261-2608.
Human Relations Award Winners