‘Celebrate United’: Torbett receives Johnson award
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Mar 06, 2013 | 1856 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Cleveland native who epitomizes service to others and giving back to the community in a united way on Tuesday night earned what most consider to be the ultimate volunteer honor — the William F. Johnson Sr. Community Service Award.

Mickey Torbett, city president of United Community Bank who over the years has served in virtually every volunteer leadership role for United Way of Bradley County Inc., was named the 41st recipient of the Johnson award during the nonprofit organization’s Annual Dinner in the Professional Development Center at Life Care Centers of America.

“Wow!” the honoree exclaimed before a crowd of almost 400 United Way supporters, volunteers and contributors.

Looking back on the field of 40 award recipients who came before him — including last year’s honoree, Art Rhodes, who made this year’s presentation — Torbett said he never imagined such a moment.

“I never thought I’d be standing here for this,” the longtime banker, philanthropist and public servant admitted. “... The people I grew up around, and looked up to, and now being counted among them is such an honor.”

Cradling the shining plaque in nervous hands, Torbett added, “I am so grateful for this. I am undeserving ... but United Way has a special place in my heart.”

Although the recipient used the term “undeserving,” his presenter — Rhodes — said just the opposite.

“Tonight’s honoree is very deserving,” Rhodes told the eager audience in Torbett’s introduction. “... He has the same desire to serve our community [as his predecessors].”

After making the presentation, Rhodes said he can think of no better recipient because of Torbett’s conviction for helping others through United Way, a sentiment he shares with the late Johnson who was a dedicated United Way volunteer for life.

“I can’t think of any more deserving individual to receive this award more than Mickey Torbett,” Rhodes said. “Mickey exemplifies the spirit of Mr. Johnson who was one of the most dedicated volunteers to work with United Way.”

Torbett began his volunteerism with United Way in the 1980s when he joined the former First Citizens Bank. Torbett said he remembered the bank encouraging its employees to be involved in their community and to give back, whether through United Way or another civic organization focused on social service and people care.

Torbett remains active as a United Way volunteer decades later.

During United Way’s most recent campaign, which currently has raised more than $2,002,000 with at least two company campaigns outstanding, Torbett and his wife, Teresa, served as co-chairs of the Pillars Club. Torbett also served the year as a member of United Way’s Executive Committee and board of directors. Both are posts he has held for several years.

Torbett is a past United Way board chairman and campaign co-chair, the latter role which he shared with Cleveland businesswoman Nancy Casson. He also has served on various United Way committees, including the Blue Ribbon Committee. The Blue Ribbon group makes personal calls to area companies in hopes of promoting United Way awareness and enhancing internal campaigns.

“Mickey has devoted many, many years to United Way, and this is our way of saying thanks for all that he has done, and most importantly, that he continues to do,” Rhodes said.

As a dedicated community servant, Torbett shares his civic side between United Way and other volunteer leadership roles in Cleveland and Bradley County. One example is found with the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. During his chairmanship of the Chamber board, the business-friendly organization celebrated its 75th birthday.

Coincidentally, Torbett has earned the celebrated Johnson award the same year that United Way is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Tuesday’s night Annual Dinner was billed as the launch of the yearlong United Way observation.

Torbett’s family — his wife, Teresa, his daughter Amanda and other loved ones — were on hand to witness the award presentation. On a side note, a brief video clip was shown in the background after the presentation. The film depicted Torbett as a superhero, and it included cheers and serenades from community leaders like Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, Lee University athletics director Larry Carpenter, Dr. Rodney Fitzgerald, Don Lorton, Beecher Hunter of Life Care Centers of America, Cindy Slater of Whirlpool Cleveland Division, Dr. Rubi Porter and members of the Chamber of Commerce staff.

Cameron Fisher, outgoing chairman of the United Way board, concurred with Torbett’s assessment of the slate of past Johnson award recipients.

“I agree with you, Mickey,” Fisher said after retaking the podium. “This is such a special list [of community leaders].”

The prestigious group of past award recipients includes: Art Rhodes, 2012; Stephen Crass, 2011; Nancy Casson, 2010; Forrest Preston, 2009; Terry Henry, 2008; Bob Card and Keith Barrett, 2007; Ricky Sanders, 2006; Georgia Gann, 2005; Cathy Barrett, 2004; John Kimball, 2003; Ron Braam, 2002; Ray Beckler, 2001; Lee Stewart, 2000; Tom Wheeler, 1999; Carolyn Jackson, 1998; Don Lorton, 1997; Jim Breaux, 1996; Charlotte Thorogood, 1995; Nelson Wooldridge, 1994; Ralph Buckner Jr., 1993; Dr. Lewis Willis, 1992; Jim Nowack, 1991; Ken Rayborn, 1990; Steve Bivens and Sam McReynolds, 1989; Hoyle Rymer, 1988; Jim Williams, 1987; Lou Patten, 1986; Wayne Cooke, 1985; Joe Rodgers Jr., 1984; Jerry Ward, 1983; Harry L. Dethero and Dr. T.L. Lowery, 1982; Sam Colbert, 1981; Winston Varnell, 1980; Dr. Fenton Scruggs, 1979; John Bryan Jr. and Mike Callaway, 1978; and Buck Thorogood, 1977.