SENECA FALLS — Despite her reluctance to be in the spotlight, Corky Jarrett will have her moment to shine.
Jarrett will be the 16th annual recipient of the George Bailey Award as part of this year’s It’s A Wonderful Life Festival. Karolyn Grimes, the actress who played Zuzu Bailey in the 1946 Frank Capra classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” will present the award at 10 a.m. Dec. 14 at Trinity Episcopal Church.
The public is encouraged to attend, especially those whose lives have been touched by Jarrett in some way.
A Seneca Falls resident for more than 50 years, she is well-known for her volunteer efforts, including work for the Seneca County Community Christmas Project, the School Supply Project, the Coats for Kids Project and the St. Francis-St. Clare Parish Nicaragua Mission Project.
“Corky doesn’t like the spotlight,” said Anne Wilkes, former program director of the Cayuga-Seneca Community Action Agency in Waterloo. “I think Corky should be recognized as the behind-the-scenes Santa Claus of Seneca County.”
Her daughter, Judy Hoffer, describes her mother by saying the country song “Humble and Kind” sums her up.
“She is very practical and giving. She wants to make sure everyone is served. Her work is behind the scenes,” Hoffer said.
The person nominating Jarrett for the award wrote that she is “humble, generous with her time, has a good sense of humor and cares deeply for others.”
“Work was a career, not a job. For Corky, volunteer work was and is something one does for no other reason than it is simply the right thing to do,” the person wrote.
Jarrett has volunteered with the Christmas project for almost 30 years, one of the few who have been with the program since its early days. Her work includes taking applications and entering them into a computer database, purchasing gifts after searching for sales to stretch purchasing dollars and going out of her way to meet with the families who have missed the signup deadline.
In 2018, the project provided 330 families, including 1,330 children, with gifts, food and gift certificates.
She is instrumental in organizing and still volunteers with Coats for Kids Project, which provides new and gently-used coats to children, teens and adults in need in Seneca County. Last year, 220 coats were given to 78 families.
Jarrett worked in the Seneca County Workforce Development Office for 19 years, serving as deputy director at the time of her retirement. Debbie McGrimley, a colleague of hers at workforce development, said that Jarrett “would go above and beyond at workforce. She always did her best.”
“If a consumer of WFD services needed a ride to work to get started, Corky would drive them,” McGrimley said.
Jan Walter, former director of the Seneca County House of Concern, said, “Corky was really good about placing consumers of WFD at the House of Concern who wanted to work. Corky is a cooperative, sincere, fun person.”
“Even though Corky has many personal responsibilities, she is always willing to take the time needed to meet the project deadlines in a calm and cool manner,” said Mary Ann Bender of the Nicaragua Missions Project. Project volunteer Mary Grace said that Corky would willingly take on the jobs no one else wanted, such as packaging kitchenware.
Jarrett said she was “surprised and a bit humbled” by getting the award.
“I known that the very people who nominated me are also deserving of recognition,” she said. “I like to think that by helping people, I am, in some small way, paying it forward. We have so many caring people in Seneca County and I look forward to continuing our work together.”
The George Bailey Award was created by the IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity in 2004 to honor a person who embodies the spirit of George Bailey of the Wonderful Life movie by consistently contributing to the lives of her neighbors and without whom Seneca Falls would be a very different place.
The IDEA Center also is home to the Seneca Falls It’s A Wonderful Life Museum. For more information, call (315) 568-5838.