Amy and Gaines Dempsey, 2023 Awards of Honor Recipients

Amy and Gaines Dempsey

Gaines is a native of Rome and Amy, a native of Cedartown. They are graduates of Darlington School and the University of Georgia.

Amy is a nurse in Labor and Delivery at Atrium Health Floyd. Gaines is the owner of Dempsey Appraisal Company. They have three daughters, Cade, Callie and Eloise.

As parents of a special needs child, they were interested in Extra Special People which operates in Athens. One component of ESP programs is Java Joy. This is a coffee catering business which trains & employs adults with special needs. It is run like a business; Joyristas are interviewed for positions and are provided with opportunities to interact with others and show their strength and spread joy. Several have grown in their employment with Java Joy and have secured other jobs in the community.

Working with ESP on an expansion plan for the city of Rome, Java Joy was first brought to Rome by the Dempseys. With their faithful leadership, advocacy, and fundraising the Dempseys have championed ESP for Rome. ESP provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Nominator: “Java Joy/ESP is poised to do remarkable things. Since ESP began in Rome with Java Joy in 2020, it has already done amazing things. Success stories have already happened. None of this would have been available if the Dempseys had not seen the need and taken a leap of faith.”

Ford, Gittings & Kane Jewelers, 2023 Awards of Honor Business Award

Ford, Gittings & Kane Jewelers

In 1958, Ford, Gittings and Kane opened their store on Broad Street in Rome. In 1973, at the age of 17, Jan Jones Ferguson began working there for the Christmas season.
Under the guidance of Joe Gittings, Jan began her career as a Certified Gemologist. She continued to flourish by becoming co-owner of FGK in 1996. In 1981 she became the first female Certified Gemologist in the state of Georgia.
A former Award of Honor recipient for the Heart of the Community, her mentorship has led the team to have a servant’s leadership approach in Rome and Floyd County.

Their activities and donations include:
Kickback to the Community – in store Silent Auction for multiple Charities; Mission is Possible – Birthday Club and projects for “Differently Abled Children”; Rome Community Kitchen; One Community United; Brighter Birthdays; Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation “Evening on the Runway”; Annual participation in the Heart of the Community “Awards of Honor” gala and Silent Auction; Rome Floyd Chamber member and annual participation in Business EXPO; Rotary Club of Rome; Seven Hills Rotary Club of Rome; Coosa River Basin Initiative; Northwest Georgia Council, Boy Scouts of America; Java Joy; Rome International Film Festival; Initiated Annual Pay It Forward Easter Basket; Elevation House; Summit Quest; Salvation Army; Restoration Rome; Living Proof Recovery; Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Georgia; Rome Braves “Player of the Month” Sponsor; Open Door Home; Past President of Georgia Jewelers Association; Past President of Southeastern Guild of the American Gem Society.

Nominator: “Jan and her team have given so much time and energy toward making our community vibrant.”

Melissa Phillips, 2023 Awards of Honor Recipient

Melissa Phillips

Melissa is an advocate for children. She and her husband, Dan moved to Rome in 2007. They have two children, both 11 years old, and enjoy hiking, fishing, and traveling as a family.

Her activities include:
• Harbor House – The Northwest Georgia Child Advocacy Center; serving 8 years on the Board of Directors and as Past President
• Berry College Equestrian Team – Assistant Coach
• Vikings Booster Club and fundraising efforts for the Berry College Equestrian Team
• Floyd- Polk-Chattooga Medical Alliance – 15-year member and former Board of Directors
• Townview Garden Club – Club President
• Obtained a national grant for landscaping and renovation of the Harbor House
• Served 2 years as a Kindergarten “Room Mom” at Berry Elementary and planned the Kindergarten Wedding at Frost Chapel

Nominator: “She is one of the hardest working community volunteers I have ever met.”

Melissa Rutledge, 2023 Young Heart Award Recipient

Melissa Rutledge

A native of Cedartown, Melissa received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Her activities include:
• Founder and organizer of Rome Knitterati
• Secretary and graphic designer with Rome International Film Festival
• Board member, Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful
• Former Gallery Coordinator and former board member at Makervillage
• Volunteer fundraiser for Floyd Felines
• Creator of Free Art Friday in Rome
• Other volunteer activities have included volunteering with: Brighter Birthdays; Cancer Navigators; Rome Downtown Development; CRBI “Catfish Kissing Contest”; Davies Shelters; Hospitality House for Women, Inc; Public Animal Welfare Services (P.A.W.S); and Rome Area Council for the Arts (RACA).

Nominator: “Melissa is always working on at least one if not more community service projects.”

Kelly Sanker, 2023 Awards of Honor Recipient

Kelly Sanker

Kelly worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 10 years before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom and yoga instructor. Originally from Lagrange, she and her husband, Jason, have lived in Rome for 18 years. They have three children ages 16,13 and 10.

• Sustainer in Junior Service League of Rome with active membership and leadership positions
• Worked closely with Harbor House – The Northwest Georgia Child Advocacy Center
• Member of the First Baptist Church of Rome where she serves as a Deacon, Bible Study Teacher and on church committees
• Exchange Club Family Resource Center – 2022 Star Volunteer and current President
• Fundraising for Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower 5K Race
• Chairman for “An Evening with Scott Thompson” benefitting the Family Resource Center
• Volunteer with Rome Community Kitchen
• Volunteer with Living Proof Recovery
• Teacher of trauma Yoga

Nominator: “Kelly is an amazing mom who loves her community and continues to give back on a daily basis.”


Cristin Warden, 2023 Awards of Honor Recipient

Cristin Warden

Cristin is a native of Michigan and grew up in a military family. After working more than 10 years in the financial industry, Cristin elected to home school her children and serve the community. She and her husband, Anthony, reside in Rome and have two daughters.
Cristin received a Bachelor of Science in Management with a minor in Organizational Psychology from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Her activities include:
• Founder of Brighter Birthdays which provides birthday party supplies and gifts to 2500 children annually in Floyd County and surrounding areas
• Volunteer with Floyd Felines
• Crocheted pieces that were sold at Mel and Mimi’s to benefit the Community Kitchen
• Participates with Rome Knitterati projects including winter wear for homeless individuals and pieces displayed on Broad Street
• Financial Literacy Coach for the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Georgia and Restoration Rome
• Oversees and gives direction to the ministry of teen moms at Young Lives
• Donates time and meets needs at Community Kitchen

Nominators: “Where there is a need, Cristin tries to fulfill that need as soon as possible. She has a big heart and compassion for those who are struggling.”