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Awards honor service to the community

Last week, The Erwin Record honored individuals and businesses for their service to the community in six different categories at the newspaper’s fifth annual Record of Service Awards.
Former Assessor of Property Bill Gaines was selected for the Public Service award, given his extensive work in various civic organizations in the county, including the Jaycees, Ruritan, United Way and Kiwanis.
Gaines also served an unprecedented eight terms as the Unicoi County Assessor of Property and was involved with the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, American Cancer Society and various other organizations.
“It seems difficult to put everything this man has done into a single speech, and have that list be comprehensive,” Erwin Record Publisher Keith Whitson said of Gaines. “His heart for service is bountiful, and it would be impossible to list every life that has been touched by his compassion.”
Hazel Berry was presented the Record of Service Award in the category of Service to the Community.
Berry, who taught herself to drive in the 1960s so that she could volunteer at the Mountain Home nursing care facility in Johnson City once a week, has lived a life of continued and dedicated service to disabled veterans, as well as shut-ins in Unicoi County, ever since.
A World War II-era Navy veteran, Berry made a point of baking tarts, cakes and cookies for the residents at Mountain Home. She also baked for shut-ins locally.
“She would often respond to calls from family by stating that she was standing in the kitchen, looking out the window and wondering who she could bake for today,” Whitson said of Berry.
Toni Buchanan, chief financial officer for Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, was selected to receive the Health Care award.
Buchanan was nominated for her willingness to go the extra mile for patients and friends she encountered through her job, as well as in the community, including a couple she helped find a place to stay and helped pay their expenses.
Buchanan also once assisted a local minister who had no health insurance in receiving charity care and expedited surgery.
Buchanan has also helped buy school supplies for underprivileged children in the community, and she serves as a “big sister” for an autistic child, who she takes to the movies or to eat dinner weekly.
“Her skills as a leader are exceptional, but her skills as a public servant say even more about the kind of person she is,” Whitson added of Buchanan, who also graduated from the Tomorrow Leadership Class conducted by the Chamber of Commerce.
The Record of Service Award for Education was presented to Unicoi County High School Principal Becky Love, whose career in education spans nearly three decades.
Love, who has been honored as a distinguished administrator by the Tennessee Education Association, began her career as a teacher at UCHS, before serving as an administrator at Unicoi County Middle School.
She went on to serve as supervisor over the county’s special education programs, and helped usher in the community’s first preschool programs. Five years ago, she was hired as principal at UCHS, where she continues to serve today.
This year, the Record of Service Award for Emegency Services was presented not to an individual, but to a business, for the company’s involvement in several emergency situations this year.
Erwin Utilities received the award, and Whitson indicated that although a utility company may not come to mind as the kind of agency who would get an award for emergency services, Erwin Utilities deserved the honor this year.
“Earlier this year, one of the deadliest storms to hit this area in a century ripped through parts of our own county, and did hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage in several communities in Greene County as well,” Whitson said.
“Erwin Utilities was quick to respond in not only getting power restored locally, but in being a good neighbor as well,” he added. “The company’s general manager, as well as a line crew, traveled to Greene County to lend a hand in restoring power to hundreds of tornado victims, working for hours on end to do their part in service to the community.”
Steve Lockner, an employee of Erwin Utilities, was on hand to accept the award on the company’s behalf.
“This is a real honor,” Lockner said. “We were just doing our jobs, as always.”
Finally, The Erwin Record honored broadcast radio station WEMB with a Record of Service Award for Business, due in part to its unique and original programming, and the company’s faithfulness to bringing live sports coverage to listeners in the county.
“This particular business has stayed true to its original mission for many years, and has built up a daily listener base in the community,” Whiston said of the station. “I daresay that there probably isn’t anyone sitting in this room right now who hasn’t seen them out and about, or turned the dial over to AM 1420 to listen.”
Station manager Jim Crawford accepted the award on behalf of the company, and said he was “speechless, but honored” to be presented with the trophy.
The fifth annual Record of Service Awards was catered by Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and all proceeds from the event will benefit the Unicoi County Humane Society, as well as the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center.
Also during Thursday’s awards dinner, Mike Davis was presented with the town of Unicoi’s 2011 Samuel Edmond Leedy “Good Neighbor Award.”