Busy Hilton Head volunteer wins AARP award for state

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Carole Galli

She has helped feed hungry kids, built a house for a family in need, organized and publicized a huge garden tour, made a CD for a hospice fundraiser, taught music to students in another country, and distributed used instruments to give young musicians.

And now, she has won the prestigious AARP Andrus Award, an honor presented annually to recognize the outstanding community service of one senior citizen in each state.

This year's South Carolina recipient is Hilton Head resident Carole Galli.

Galli and her family relocated to Hilton Head in 2004 from Michigan. She quickly found volunteer opportunities. She joined the Hunger Coalition Board, focusing on their Backpack Buddies program that addresses the needs of disadvantaged children who are at risk of going hungry.

Then Galli used her expertise to build the first Habitat for Humanity house on Hilton Head Island. As All Saints Episcopal Church Committee Chair, she helped her relatively small congregation raise $70,000 needed to sponsor a house.

Two of her biggest fundraising successes were held at the Jazz Corner. By November 2016, the house was dedicated and a family had decent, affordable housing. Galli likes to call it "The house that jazz built."

While coordinating the Habitat project, Galli undertook another big task for the church, its 30th annual garden tour. A non-gardener, she was a bit skeptical but knew they needed her organizational skills, not her green thumb, or lack thereof.

With her usual vigor, Galli accepted the challenge and orchestrated a successful tour that raised funds for the church's charities.

When Galli's mother died, she produced a CD as a tribute to her mom and in gratitude for the Hospice Care of the Lowcountry's support. She and local Jazz Corner musicians donated all proceeds to the nonprofit organization.

Galli has volunteered internationally too. She and her church group traveled to the Dominican Republic where she brought the joy of music to 300 non-English speaking students.

"As a classically trained soprano, I studied many languages, but not Spanish," Galli said at the time. "Fortunately, the word 'Alleluia' is universal and there are a multitude of tunes using only that word!"

Galli supports the Jazz Corner's Junior Jazz Foundation program that provides used instruments for students who do not have the means to buy them. She volunteers as the liaison between school band directors and the Jazz Corner.

Galli assesses local students' and instructors' needs, then delivers refurbished instruments provided by the Jazz Corner to Beaufort County schools.

Galli also belts out Dixieland tunes at the Jazz Corner to raise funds for the Junior Jazz Foundation. Naturally, when AARP asked her to select a fitting venue for her award presentation, Galli immediately suggested the Jazz Corner.

Teresa Arnold, AARP State Director of South Carolina, and Emma McGraw Myers, AARP S.C. State President, will make the presentation at 2 p.m. Oct. 28. Attendees will then enjoy the Dixieland Jazz Society's monthly jam session featuring Galli's vocals with the Alligator Dixieland Jazz Band.

AARP has more than 620,000 South Carolina members. "I'm flabbergasted by this recognition," Galli said. "I'm sure there are many people in this state who do just as much, if not more than I do. But they probably don't have as much fun!"

Eleanor Perry lives on Hilton Head Island.

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