Ellen Painter will receive the Bettye Meyers Humanitarian Award from the United Way of Denton County during its eighth annual UNITED Tribute event on Jan. 18.

Since it was founded in 1951, United Way of Denton County has worked to improve the lives of people throughout the county. This work requires many volunteers, including a particularly dedicated local woman named Ellen Painter.

Painter will receive the Bettye Myers Humanitarian Award in recognition of her service to the community at United Way of Denton’s eighth annual UNITED Tribute gala celebration on Jan. 18.

“I love what United Way does,” Painter said. “They really are the backbone, I think, of this community, in the sense of the services that we provide and the support that we provide to our partner agencies in this community.”

Painter said that she believes relationships have been a central part of her life and her work in the community. One relationship forged during her time with United Way was a friendship with Bettye Myers, the award’s namesake.

She said that Myers was caring and outgoing. Painter said she even had lunch with Myers just one week before she died.

“I miss Bettye,” Painter said. “We were blessed with her for 97 years. At that last lunch we had she was as sharp as a tack ... I just had so much joy and happiness knowing that that’s my last remembrance of her.”

In Myers’ absence, Painter is continuing to develop United Way through a capital campaign. This is an endeavor to raise money for renovations to United Way’s facilities. Painter said that she is hoping to put some of the money toward a “community complex,” an auditorium that will seat about 200 people.

“I’ve said all along, ‘We can talk about a building, but it’s about the community we serve under United Way,’” Painter said. “Whether we have the Denton Housing Authority individuals coming in, or whether we have our partner agencies needing to come in and have meetings or orientations or education programs, we’ll have a place now for that to happen.”

Originally from Tullahoma, Tennessee, Painter has lived all over the South because of her husband’s corporate role with Sears. After living Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, they eventually moved to Colleyville. Painter started working at Texas Health, known as Denton Community Hospital at the time, in 1990 and began working with United Way a few years later. Even though she retired seven years ago, she has remained an active member for both.

“I have to have a purpose everyday,” Painter said. “I think if you don’t have a purpose, then you start aging, if you’re retired.”

During her 25 years with United Way, Painter has served on multiple committees. She has held several positions in the organization, including Marketing & Communications chairwoman, Partnership Development chairwoman and Board of Directors chairwoman. Marci Pritts, United Way of Denton County’s director of communications, said that Painter has given at least 300 hours of community service to the organization.

“This is the most prestigious award that United Way of Denton County gives out,” Pritts said. “It is given to an individual who has made a huge impact in Denton county.”

Painter’s work expands beyond United Way and Texas Health. She has also been involved with the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Association. She said that she has enjoyed her time serving the Denton community and her time with Myers.

“When I heard that I had received [this award], I just thought, ‘Oh, Bettye, I wish you were still alive,’” Painter said. “If [someone] didn’t know her, it’s almost like you feel sorry for somebody because they didn’t know that person. And not many people go through your life that way.”

The UNITED Tribute Gala is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased online at e.givesmart.com/events/e7S/.

CAMILA GONZALEZ can be reached via Twitter at @camila_approves.

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