A lifetime of volunteerism
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Sep 30, 2013 | 1908 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RON BRAAM, center, a longtime volunteer with Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, has been named recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of selfless work with the local organization. From left are Tracie McCartney, JA president; Braam; and Rick Platz, chairman of the JA board of directors. Submitted photo
RON BRAAM, center, a longtime volunteer with Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, has been named recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of selfless work with the local organization. From left are Tracie McCartney, JA president; Braam; and Rick Platz, chairman of the JA board of directors. Submitted photo
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Ron Braam, a veteran industrialist and longtime volunteer supporting Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, has been named recipient of that organization’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

The honor was presented during the recent annual meeting of the local JA chapter which provides support to area school systems in five counties: Bradley, McMinn, Polk, Meigs and Monroe.

Celebrating its 48th year of service to the Southeast Tennessee region, JA also elected its new board for 2013-14, while introducing new additions to the governing body of volunteers. New members, and the organizations they represent, include Kim Davis, Tennessee Technology Center in Athens; Doug Moore, Cleveland City Schools; Steven Litz, Olin Corporation; and Robin Jennings and Gregg Gibson from Synalloy Corporation.

JA board members also have elected new officers for the coming year. They include Rick Platz who is returning as board chairman; Margaret Schenck, vice chairman; Mark Gravelle, treasurer; and Mike Griffin, secretary.

Reflecting back on the past year of JA operations, Platz pointed out “... there have been many changes, including an entirely new staff.” JA staff members include Tracie McCartney, president; Marnia Alexander, program manager; and Amy Fletcher, executive and special events assistant.

During the board presentation to Braam, Platz praised the JA volunteer’s years of support for the organization and the supplemental work it is providing to area schools and thousands of students.

“Ron’s involvement with JA of the Ocoee Region began in 1985 and has continued uninterrupted until his retirement from the board this summer,” Platz said. “During that time, he has served in a number of leadership positions, including chairman of the board and chairman of numerous annual fund drives.”

Braam’s leadership with JA has also come during difficult times, Platz said. Like most nonprofit organizations, Junior Achievement has been forced to dedicate more and more time to fundraising because of dwindling resources and increased demand within area school systems.

“Ron introduced the idea of a President’s Council made up of influential members of the Cleveland and Bradley County community to help lead then-President Sandy Moore through the financial recession,” Platz stated. “While serving on that Council, Ron piloted the first Reality Check which takes high school students through the steps of adulthood including banking, further education, daycare costs, bills and the often unseen challenges, and even the hidden dangers, of financial dependence.”

Additionally, Braam and his wife, Mary, have taught many Junior Achievement classes over the years as unpaid volunteers.

Braam’s deep, hands-on involvement in Junior Achievement has been recognized at the national level as well. In 2005, he received the highly coveted “Above and Beyond Award,” and in 2012 he earned the prestigious “Impact Award,” both of which are accolades bestowed upon individuals who have shown unwavering, and longtime, support for the ideals and mission of Junior Achievement.

Another action taken by the JA board is the creation of the “Ron Braam Service Award,” an annual recognition that will be presented for the first time at next year’s annual meeting.

“This [service award] will recognize an individual’s lifetime contribution to Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region,” Platz explained.

The local Junior Achievement operation dates all the way back to the years of the former Magic Chef Company which was led by the late Skeet Rymer. It was Rymer who is credited with recognizing the need for an educational supplement like JA in area school systems. His reasoning was the type of work provided by JA was an invaluable asset to young adults who are completing their formal educations and entering the “real world” of work, personal development and professional success.

Magic Chef’s roots date back to the original Dixie Foundry Company whose name was later changed to Dixie Products Company and later to Magic Chef. In 1986, Magic Chef merged with the former Maytag Company to form Maytag Corporation. In March 2006, Maytag was acquired by the Whirlpool Corporation which currently employs more than 2,000 workers in Bradley County at Whirlpool Cleveland Division, the premium cooking products plant; and Whirlpool Cleveland Customer eXperience Center, the call center on 20th Street.