News Release

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Local Citizens Receive Honored Islander Awards in Recognition of Their Community Service

December 14, 2021

Congratulations to Karen Bittman, Carol Clemens, Mike Kelly and Mike Rudy on receiving the Hilton Head Island Mayor’s Honored Islander Award in recognition of their service and contributions to community organizations.

"Our community is filled with amazing residents who unselfishly give back to help our organizations and others who live here. They are passionate about their volunteer service. Each of our honorees this month are so deserving of this recognition, and I'm proud of all they do to support our Island," said Hilton Head Island Mayor John McCann.

Among her many activities, Karen Bittman has been a loyal volunteer with the Deep Well Project and participates in the All Saints Church Garden Tour. At the start of the pandemic, Karen took it upon herself to orchestrate food drives for Deep Well. She arranged for the Deep Well truck to come to many of the private communities to collect tons of food that were ultimately distributed unemployed workers at a time when they need it most. She provided hand-made items for a craft sale that generated proceeds for the church's annual garden tour. All proceeds from the garden tour are distributed to local charities.

When Carol Clemens retired from teaching high school Spanish in 2005, she found other ways to use her Spanish-speaking ability. For 15 years, she has been tutoring Hispanic children at the Boys and Girls Club and serving as an interpreter for Hispanic patients at Volunteers in Medicine. She teaches genealogy software classes at the Heritage Library and is a docent at the Coastal Discovery Museum.

For over 30 years, Mike Kelly has used his culinary skills to cook food sold at sports concession stands for the Hilton Head Gator football program, a high school booster club and Dixie youth baseball events. Patrons have enjoyed his burgers and barbeque. But Mike can do more than just flip burgers. He took it upon himself to build a concession stand at a local high school so there would be a place to cook burgers and organized a troop of other tradesmen to help. By trade, Mike is a plumber. He has contributed countless hours of service to Deep Well clients who needed plumbing repairs.

Mike Rudy's contributions to the Hilton Head Island community are seen in his dedication and service to the Island through his volunteer efforts with the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. Serving as both a program director and deputy grand knight for the Knights, Mike spearheaded the organization’s annual spaghetti dinner and golf tournament. These events are staples of the St. Francis By the Sea social calendar and provide substantial fundraising for the Knights' charitable efforts including scholarships for local youths. When he moved to Palmetto Hall in 2016, Mike helped create a security plan for the community. While he juggled his volunteer activities, Mike showed his caring side by personally helping a longtime friend who suffered with Parkinson’s Disease until the friend passed away.

About the Mayor’s Honored Islander Award Program
The Mayor’s Honored Islander Award Program publicly recognizes Hilton Head Island residents who make a significant sacrifice of their time, talents and/or resources, to better the community without compensation or significant public or media attention. A committee of individuals appointed by the Mayor reviews nominations and selects individuals to receive the award. Anyone or any organization may nominate individuals for the award. For more information or for a nomination form, visit

Carolyn Grant, Communications Director