Like cream, the elite among humanitarians will rise to the top when matters of dedication, empathy and heart are part of the measure.Such has been seen within our Cleveland and Bradley County …
Like cream, the elite among humanitarians will rise to the top when matters of dedication, empathy and heart are part of the measure.
Such has been seen within our Cleveland and Bradley County community — as well as in two neighboring jurisdictions — with the recent naming of the Community First awards by Cleveland State Community College.
In nine distinct categories, 10 deserving recipients will be honored during the Community First Gala on Thursday, April 5. One of those 10 will be selected Community First Person of the Year.
Of the roughly 75 nominations received, members of the Community First Awards Committee identified categorical winners based on “extraordinary commitment of time, talent or treasure to the community.”
Winners, and their respective categories, include:
• Arts: Connie Gatlin of Cleveland, artistic director of the Cleveland City Ballet, and a writer and storyteller.
• Business: Roger Pickett of Cleveland, president and owner of MurMaid Mattress Inc.
• Education: Carmen Choat of Decatur, secondary supervisor of Meigs County High School.
• Healthcare: Dr. William “Bill” Johnson of Cleveland, chief medical officer of Tennova Healthcare-Cleveland.
• Nonprofit Leadership: Matt Ryerson of Cleveland, president and CEO of United Way of the Ocoee Region.
• Philanthropy: Dr. Rodney and Margot Fitzgerald of Cleveland. Rodney is a retired dean at Cleveland State Community College and former director of public information for the After-School Program and Cleveland Public Education Foundation, Cleveland City Schools. Margot is a retired manager of National Projects for Rosetta Stone.
• Public Service: Mike Bell of Riceville, a state legislator in the Tennessee Senate.
• Student Leadership: Kenzi Morgan of Sweetwater, a student at Sweetwater High School in Monroe County.
• Volunteer Service: Kelvin Bishop of Cleveland, a Certified Public Accountant and financial advisor.
From this group of respected public servants — regardless of age, location or profession — an ultimate award winner will be named. He, or she, will become the recipient of CSCC’s Community First Person of the Year.
It is not just any award. It is a prestigious honor bestowed upon a deserving individual by a two-year higher education institution that takes great pride in keeping the word “community” in its name.
In addition to these individual accolades, another recognition — another equally as deserved one — will be given. CSCC, and its Foundation, will honor the many years of service given to the city of Cleveland by Mayor Tom Rowland who is ending a 26-year tenure as the community’s top administrator.
“We are thrilled to have another outstanding group of Community First Award honorees,” said Dr. Bill Seymour, CSCC president. “Each in their own special way exemplifies the value of always putting your community first.”
The personable college president added, “We look forward to honoring them at our gala and identifying one as the Community First Person of the Year.”
Not only are Seymour’s sentiments spot on, they tell a story of humanitarian service at its best. One might argue it tells 10 humanitarian stories. Each involves a living and breathing superhero, one who — to borrow from the familiar Rotarian theme — puts service above self, and not just on this day or that day but everyday.
Obviously, earning the “Person of the Year” award will be the envy of this community, and throughout the region, but in truth all 10 nominees are already winners. Each — through acts of selflessness and personal giving — became an honoree long before the Community First selections were announced.
It is just what superheroes do.
It is just what superheroes are all about.
And this funny thing, none would ever approve of being billed a superhero. It is our word, not theirs. But it is fitting.
Let us offer a special thanks to the First Tennessee Foundation that serves as premier sponsor for the coming gala. Follett Higher Education Group and SouthEast Bank serve as partnering sponsors.
Proceeds from the gala will support the CSCC Foundation Annual Campaign, an initiative that will provide matching funds for state appropriations that will be used to finance a new academic building on campus, as well as other improvements.
For those who believe in education, the gala can use your support.
For those who believe in the humanitarian spirit, the gala is a worthy investment — either through your ticket purchase or your corporate sponsorship.
For those who believe in their community, this is a community event worth sharing.
The gala kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the L. Quentin Lane Center on the CSCC campus.
We hope to see you there.
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