I considered myself a winner for just getting to share an evening with a room full of distinguished guests and friends.
The Erwin Record held the fifth annual Record of Service Awards last Thursday night at Unicoi United Methodist Church Family Life Center. Although I have helped with the event each year, this was my first time of hosting it.
Much work had gone into the planning stages and the entire day of the event was one of running and assembling. I had read through my notes on each winner a few times earlier but, as the time got closer, I was starting to feel the butterflies of nervousness.
After the tables were readied, the candles lit and the aroma of food starting to fill the facility, I knew my time on stage was quickly approaching. Oddly, as the guests arrived I started feeling calmer. The warm smiles and eagerness of the night ahead brought with it a peacefulness.
These were friends, some almost family, slowing down from the fast pace of life to visit, enjoy a delicious meal prepared by the Carrabbas staff and honor some of those that have made a difference in the lives of us all in some way. I had the honor of announcing them from the vantage point of the podium and seeing the expressions of surprise, humbleness and delight.
The first award went to Bill Gaines, former tax assessor for the county, in the public service category. He not only did a tremendous work while in that office, but has made such a difference throughout the county with his volunteer work and generosity. Bill has been such a friend and encouragement to me over the years.
His daughter, Kristen, was able to get him there without knowing he was being honored. As I read the list of his involvement with the community, I felt small in my acts of service.
Toni Buchanan received the honor for health care. Although I was familiar with Toni, I was not aware of her tremendous acts of giving and compassion that go way beyond the daily duties of her job. She has helped so many on a personal level.
Rebecca Love received the award in the education field. I have known Becky and her family most of my life. Growing up with a mother as a teacher, I realize the hard work the education field is during the day as well as the many hours required after school.
Becky is such an example, showing her support through every Unicoi County High School event she can possibly attend during and after hours. In fact, I know she was torn last Thursday night over missing the homecoming queen pageant or attending the Record of Service ceremony.
Hazel Berry received the honor for service to the community. I didnt know Hazel until this event, but I feel better for having met her. Most of us would be put to shame compared to her life of unselfish giving. She taught herself to drive years ago and has been visiting and looking out for the needs of others ever since.
Her tenderness and caring heart was evident as she approached the stage with humbleness to accept her award. She is the type person you just want to put your arm around and soak up her sweet spirit.
The business award went to WEMB radio team. Jim Crawford and Chuck Ray were on hand to accept the award. I felt so small to be standing among them with my nervous voice knowing the strength in theirs and the strength they bring to this community.
They have done so much for the athletes in our county as well as helping promote community events. In fact, their contribution to the Kiwanis K-Day event stands in a class of its own. It is so wonderful to be in a small community where you can work together with other media as friends.
Erwin Utilities won the honor for emergency services. The crews in the electrical and water departments are always on call, in all conditions. We, as citizens, are often forgetful of those bringing us the comforts we are so used to.
No matter what the weather, these employees are out in risky situations to restore comfort to the rest of us.
The Record of Service was a joy for me, but certainly not one I could deliver on my own. My staff at the newspaper had
worked for weeks to ensure that everything would go as smoothly as it did. After the event was over, each pitched in as well to accomplish the massive effort of putting everything away and cleaning up.
This process would not have been near as smooth without the efforts of the Erwin Rotary Club, co-sponsors of the event. With the diligence members show in all their projects, including apple butter making, they wholeheartedly did anything that needed to be done. Many club members showed up with their spouses, who helped as well.
In a brief time, all was back to its original state. All that is but our hearts, and they had been forever touched by some of the most giving people in our county who we had just honored.