Citizen of the Week: Nwadike's personality leaves people with 'a smile on their face'

The annual Indian River Fruit Sale is a critical fundraiser for Learning Tree Elementary School, and no one is more integral to the operation than Ben Nwadike, longtime coordinator of the event.

"He volunteers his time, and he doesn't even have kids in school here anymore," said Niki Knowlton, a teacher and secretary at the school. "He's just a member of the" Dalton Seventh-day Adventist Church — which shares a property on South Tibbs Road with the school, which is part of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist school network — "who cares deeply about our kids and wants to help."

And organizing the fruit sale, from procuring the Florida grapefruits and oranges to making sure all orders are correct, is "not an easy" thing, Knowlton said. "We feel very blessed we have people (like him) who donate their time and money."

"It's a blessing to have such a supportive congregation," she added. "We could not do what we do without them."

"We love Ben, (who) is a big kid at heart, and he has a big heart for all of God's kids," said Twila Brown, Learning Tree's principal and a teacher at the school. "He has either been assisting or coordinating the fruit program here for over 16 years," and he recruits volunteers, including Learning Tree's students, to assist with the unloading and distributing of the fruit.

The fruit sale is "one of our three big fundraisers" and provides "a significant amount of money," Knowlton said. "The fruit program is big every year in our budget."

Those who missed Monday's distribution have one more opportunity this year to obtain Indian River fruit, which will be distributed again at the school Dec. 14, she said. Anyone interested must order by Nov. 24.

To order, email ltescitrus@gmail.com, visit floridaindianrivergroves.com/ecommerce/1015234 or call (706) 529-4758.

Nwadike also also helps coordinate classes on Saturdays for children and offers Bible studies for those who want to learn more about the Bible and its teachings, Brown said.

"Between Ben's enthusiasm and his sense of humor, everyone around him always has a smile on their face."

For spearheading Learning Tree's annual fruit sale fundraiser year after year, as well as his other contributions to Learning Tree and Dalton Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Daily Citizen-News names Ben Nwadike Citizen of the Week.

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