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Funder lauds grassroots heroes

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RALEIGH, N.C. – The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation has tapped three “unsung heroes” to receive its annual award recognizing grassroots leaders.

The 23rd annual Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards, which come with $5,000 for each recipient and $20,000 directed toward the charity of each recipient’s choice, were presented at a luncheon in Raleigh Nov. 24.

Benny Bunting of Oak City received the award for personal service. A farmer and farm advocate, Bunting has become an expert on government programs designed to help farmers weather changing market conditions.

He uses that knowledge to represent farmers, in North Carolina and elsewhere, as they work to keep their land and livelihoods, and has help saved farm families an estimated $42 million, the foundation says.

Phyllis H. Crain, executive director of the Crossnore School in Avery County, was recognized in the area of advocacy on behalf of her work for children.

As head of Crossnore, a residential facility in Avery County for abused and neglected children, Crain brought her skills as a former teacher and school superintendant to turning the school into a model that has received national interest.

Benny Nichols, fire chief for Fayetteville since 2004, received the award for race relations. In the wake of a racially-motivated murder a decade ago, Nichols took the lead in bringing about community healing.

His efforts included working to rebuild the fire station in an underserved African-American part of town, and efforts to bring more minorities and women into the city’s fire department.

The award is named after Nancy Susan Reynolds, philanthropist and daughter of one of the founders of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem.

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