The award is a beautiful custom-made Frabel glass sculpture personally designed by her husband, Gary Kennedy. Rita’s family, Gary, Elizabeth, and Michael Kennedy, have helped us to carry on her legacy by initially sponsoring and presenting this annual Award. The Kennedy’s contribution is very special and we are honored to have had them be a part of the Georgia Chapter. The award not only represents the accomplishment of the recipient but also represents its namesake. The Frabel is an established and strong oak tree that appears to be blowing over in the wind. This is meant to represent Rita’s strength through her long battle with Cancer. The tree has thirty-four branches on it because that was Rita’s age when she left us far too early. Finally, there is a single frosted flower which represents her beauty. Rita, herself, was presented with the first Rita Kennedy Award before her passing and it remains on display in the Kennedy household today, more than two decades later. It is presented at the Sponsor/Volunteer banquet/luncheon at the end of the year when all prior recipients are also recognized.
Rita Kennedy proudly served as the Chapter’s first Executive Director and she served in that capacity until she passed away from her long and relentless battle with cancer. Without her limitless and spirited devotion to CAI and its members, we would not be where we are today. Rita was the wheel from which all of our spokes emerged.
In the beginning, our local chapter of CAI was a small organization that operated on a shoe-string budget. The Chapter was comprised of a modest group that sought to proudly represent the National Organization and its educational initiatives. In the early years, our primary source of revenue was the small share of dues we received each year from National based on the Chapter’s then “exclusive” membership. The Chapter’s brown bag lunches, typically held at the public libraries, were routine and more than sufficient. The evening educational sessions for homeowners and managers we hosted had better turnouts, but only if the then hot TV show was a re-run as there were no DVR’s back then. Notwithstanding our smaller size, the Chapter had a strong core of dedicated individuals who were recruited and led by Rita. She was passionate about CAI and her enthusiasm was infectious. She led by example and people followed. She just loved doing what she did. In fact, she cared so much about our organization that she even hand-picked her successor to make sure we were in good hands after she was gone.
Rita’s ongoing determination and compassion for the industry is was what kept the Chapter running. Her leadership and tireless devotion created the foundation that we continue to build upon today. Rita’s love for the organization, and its members, was evidenced in her willingness to always go above and beyond. Her service, dedication and commitment were no doubt key elements to our Chapter’s success. However, her vibrant, energetic, warm and fun-loving personality (along with her great sense of humor) is what made Rita Rita, and our Chapter flourish and become the success it is today.
Rita would be proud of what we have accomplished. Selfless contributions and relentless efforts from our volunteers is what clearly sets our Chapter apart from the others. Whenever we attend a National Conference and talk about our Chapter, others are amazed by our success. While many people have worked long and hard to get us there, it was Rita’s Service, Commitment and Dedication to our Chapter that truly established the backbone of the organization we enjoy today.
Jamie Platt Lyons, Esq., Lazega & Johanson, LLC.