Byrnes Downs resident Donna Jacobs receives Robert Ballard Award for Excellence in Volunteer Service

by Lorne Chambers | Editor

In 1998 the City of Charleston’s Excellence in Volunteer Service Award was created to honor a single citizen whose selfless contribution to our city makes it a better place to live. Following the passing of former winner Robert Ballard in 2018, Mayor John Tecklenburg changed the name of the award to the Robert Ballard Award For Excellence In Volunteer Service.

This year, the 23rd recipient of the award went to Donna Jacobs of West Ashley. Jacobs, a longtime contributor to the West Of Free Press, is an local author, historian, and tireless volunteer for the West Ashley community. She was the second president of the Byrnes Downs Neighborhood Association, served for many years as the treasurer, served on the Ashley Bridge District Board and twice as its chair. She has also served on the West Ashley Revitalization Committee and is on the Planning Commission.

“We would be here a long time for me to name every contribution that Donna has made to her neighborhood, the West Ashley area, the Charleston community, and most fortunate for me and other staffers, the City of Charleston,” said Tecklenburg when presenting Jacobs with the award virtually on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at the last meeting of city council.

“I’ve enjoyed being part of the community and meeting my neighbors both residential and business and helping to make this happen,” said Jacobs. “It was an honor to bring the recognition to West Ashley and I look forward to continuing the work in the community.”

At the city council meeting, the mayor went on to note that Jacobs holds the distinction of being nominated for this award consistently over the years.  “People recognize and admire the essence of her civic leadership both small and monumental over 35 years of service,” said Tecklenburg.

Jacobs has worked with the City on a multi-million dollar drainage improvement project. She has worked with SCDOT on numerous projects. She is involved in helping bring a safe bike & pedestrian access to the T. Allen Legare Bridge connecting West Ashley to downtown.

Jacobs has  helped plan public meetings to gauge public opinion on how to improve the Greenway including a surface trail to benefit the disabled, and then she worked on the Master Plan. 

“I love my community and have enjoyed watching Byrnes Downs, Avondale, the greater Ashley Bridge District mature into a thriving area where people can really live ,work and play,” says Jaobs. “Add in the gem of an amenity known as the Greenway and it is hard to find a cooler place. Parents can bike or walk their kids to a school, neighbors can grab a beer or a quick bite to eat, community can gather (when there isn’t a pandemic), shopping and services are very convenient, churches are close.”

In addition to her volunteer work, Jacobs is the unofficial historian for West Ashley and St. Andrew’s Parish. She is the published author of the books West Ashley and Byrnes Downs. She continues to write a column entitled West Ashley Flashback in this paper and is gathering more stories and putting the area’s oral history down on paper for future generations.

“Everyone that knows Donna Jacobs can finally and simply say she is one person who has made a difference,” said Tecklenburg.

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