Clare Anderson has been chosen as the first Columbus Volunteer Citizen of the Year, a new award honoring outstanding local volunteer efforts.
The award is presented by Direct Energy and ThisWeek Community News, with the help of HandsOn Central Ohio.
Anderson is one of the founders of the Scholarship Opportunities for Success, a grass-roots organization that raises funds for low-income women to continue their education.
By awarding these grants, SOS members said they believe recipients become more economically self-sufficient and their children benefit from that growth and independence.
Anderson's vision for SOS began 12 years ago when she and her friends attended a meeting where a mother of two young children received a scholarship to help with her college funds.
Anderson said she wondered how many other local women were struggling to make ends meet and reach their educational goals.
She rallied her friends together and they decided that their mission would be to provide low-income women with not only scholarships for tuition costs, but also grants for supplies such as computers, books, child care and transportation costs.
Shortly after, Anderson sprung into action and tirelessly conducted research on how to form an organization and how to obtain 501(c)3 tax-exempt, nonprofit organization status.
Nearly a year later, SOS received its nonprofit designation. In its first year, SOS was able to award two $1,000 scholarships.
After SOS established itself, Anderson became vice president of fundraising development for the program.
There were many times the founders of SOS felt burnt out and felt like giving up, but Anderson insisted on keeping the mission of SOS going and established an endowment fund to ensure sustainability of the scholarships over time.
Described in her nomination as the driving force behind SOS, Anderson has helped the organization raise more than $250,000 and awarded 125 scholarships.
"Clare is remarkable," said Cory Byzewski, vice president and general manager for Direct Energy Residential.
"Not only did she identify an opportunity to help others, but she put her vision into action," Byzewski said.
"Her dedication to SOS and its mission to assist women in receiving the education they need to thrive and care for their families is very important to the Columbus community.
"We applaud Clare for her willingness to go above and beyond to ensure that others have a better quality of life," Byzewski said.
By winning the Columbus Volunteer Citizen of the Year award, Anderson will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a $5,000 donation to SOS.
The donation will be used to help additional women who have exhausted all of their available financial resources and enable them to complete their college degrees.
"It is our honor to help recognize someone like Clare and to support an organization like SOS," said Roy Biondi, publisher of ThisWeek Community News.
"We received 35 nominations for this year's program but Clare's stood out from the rest due to her admirable story of dedication and resilience," Biondi said.
A special event honoring Anderson will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 at HandsOn Central Ohio, 195 N. Grant Ave., Columbus.
Representatives from Direct Energy, ThisWeek Community News and HandsOn Central Ohio will present Anderson with the award.