Don't underestimate the power of caring, homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson told those attending an annual fundraising event for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Valley.
"We all have the power within us to make a difference in our lives and in other people's lives. We can do even more. I don't think we should ever underestimate the power of caring," Atkinson said as she accepted the club's annual Living Legacy Award.
"I've seen how a little thing like a hug or a smile can turn someone's life around," she said.
Also honored was The Road Home, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit organization that provides housing for the homeless. The group was represented by Executive Director Matt Minkevitch.
The awards were presented at the club's 22nd annual dinner and auction at the Salt Lake Downtown Marriott. The event helps fund Boys and Girls Club activities all year long.
Atkinson, who has spent decades caring for Utah's homeless and who has been called the Mother Teresa of Utah, stressed the importance of building teams in the community to help the homeless.
"I'm proud to be part of our team," she said. "I'm part of about 12 teams in the community, and I am so honored."
She said people in the homeless community respond positively to being treated with caring and respect and said a good example was a steak dinner served to the homeless during the holiday season.
"When we served that steak dinner, 57 of my friends and I had the most wonderful time serving over 700 people. We heard things like, 'You make us feel important by caring for us and our children and serving us such great food,' " she said.
Community members helped the make the meal memorable.
"I called the LDS Church and asked for 600 steaks, and they asked if I wanted 600 potatoes as well," she said.
Minkevitch said his organization views finding housing for the homeless the first step in solving the problem. In the past two years, The Road Home has found permanent housing for more than 400 individuals who had spent years living on the street.
"It is a deep honor to work beside the men and women and their families and their beautiful children who come to us each day in the search to overcome homelessness each day," he said. "They need our support."