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First Shelby County United Way APEX Award Presented

Scott Barr, president of the Shelby County United Way (SCUW), awarded Executive Director of the Mercy Mission House (MMH) Emily Neu with the Volunteer of the Year APEX Award on the MMH campus on Aug. 14.

“The SCUW has witnessed the incredible work that is done throughout our county by nonprofit organizations who focus on human services and helping people throughout their journey. In order to help acknowledge and celebrate this work, we have created the APEX Award,” Barr said.

The APEX Award is divided into two categories: the Volunteer of the Year Award and the Champion of the Year Award. The latter will be presented on Wednesday.

“The Volunteer of the Year APEX Award is given to an individual who has dedicated his or her time and talents to human service nonprofit organizations to make a difference in the lives of others,” Barr explained. “The term APEX was chosen because it symbolizes the meaning behind the award — the highest point or level of service to others that one can give.”

Barr explained how MMH came to fruition and Neu’s role in it. The idea of an emergency shelter started when Neu was the board chair of the Alpha Community Center. When she left the board and there was still no emergency shelter, Neu felt called to take on the responsibility while still employed full-time at Mama Rosa’s. In less than five months during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she raised over $1.3 million for the start of the shelter.

Barr shared statistics of the MMH for 2023, including that it has provided over 7,000 nights of shelter to clients; served 147 unique clients; and served 23 children under 18 years old. He also provided quotes from the people who nominated Neu for the award, such as, “Emily’s dedication to the MMH’s mission of providing emergency shelter for area residents and providing support with their journey to stabilization by connecting them with the necessary services and agencies to become independent shows her desire to invoke positive change in the community.”

MMH Board Chair Amy Berning also shared her experience working with Neu and quotes from people who have had experience with the MMH. “It is only a small token of our appreciation for the priceless work you have done over your many years serving this community. Perhaps God Himself is the only one who knows all the blood, sweat and tears. She learned throughout the fundraising process that it was her own grandfather who had taken on the same cause years ago and raised a significant amount of funds which did not make it to the building phase. What confirmation that she was indeed called to bring the Mercy Mission House into fruition.”

Berning explained how Neu took on the MMH executive director position while employed full-time with the SCUW while the MMH looked for a new executive director five months ago, but the board decided Neu was the best fit for the job.

Receiving the award was a surprise for Neu, as she thought her family was there to tour the facility.

“This is really cool and this means a lot for lots of different reasons. Obviously, my heart is totally, 100% here and in helping, but it’s kind of cool because I designed the logo when I was in United Way,” Neu said. “I will always try to do what God asked me to do.”