WELDON — The efforts of 20 people who have deeply impacted the Roanoke Valley were recognized Aug. 17 at The Daily Herald’s third annual Roanoke Valley Community Champion Awards.
A common thread shared by some members of this group was respect for each other.
“I am stunned,” said Tina Gregory, named the overall Community Champion. “I am just one of many. I was dragging my friends along with me, but I was just driving the bus. It’s very astonishing and very humbling.”
Christon Martin, 29, of Weldon, was named Young Community Champion. Tears welled from his eyes as he thought about Lift Camp, an organization he founded and directs that reaches out to children age 6 and up in Halifax County.
“I didn’t have what I’ve given to other kids; I didn’t have that in my life,” he said.
The most important thing adults can give to kids is their time, Martin added.
“Take up time with them; mentor them and cater to their needs,” he said. “That’s the most important thing, and the legacy that goes on.”
He spoke of the support he received as a young man by another Community Champion nominee, Chester Williams, who also works with youth across the county.
“I have to give a big shout out to him,” Martin said of Williams. “I couldn’t have made any of this possible if it wasn’t for Chester Williams.”
Williams serves two organizations that he’s founded: A Better Chance, A Better Community, and the Southeastern Halifax County Coalition. He’s also involved as parent leader at Pittman Elementary School.
“I am really shocked,” he said of his nomination as Community Champion for 2015. “I’m just happy to be among so many great community champions. All of them have played a role in my life. To be a part of this, to be considered a Community Champion, is an honor.”
The banquet and awards ceremony filled the auditorium at The Centre at Halifax Community College, with every seat occupied. Ceremonies were conducted by Titus Workman, publisher of The Daily Herald, and Bill Kessinger, vice president of Mill Operations for KapStone Paper and Packaging in Roanoke Rapids. Both companies were partners in the event, which also was sponsored by Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District, The Center for Energy Education and Geenex, Iluka Resources, Roanoke Electric Cooperative and Halifax Electric Membership Corp.
Kessinger said KapStone has been involved with the event since its inception.
“Titus approached us not long after The Daily Herald developed the idea, and we thought it was a great idea,” he said. “An important point for us is we live in a community that is heavily involved with volunteerism. So many of our employees serve as volunteers, and by supporting this, we are supporting them.”
Gregory, a retired art teacher, is one of those volunteers who is involved in many efforts locally. She’s involved with the Historic Halifax Restoration Association, the Roanoke Canal Advisory Board and is secretary of the Halifax County Convention & Visitors Bureau board of directors, among other associations. She helped create the Halifax County Butterfly Trail, providing more than 30 habitat locations for migrating Monarch butterflies. The award caught her off guard, she said.
“It’s very astonishing and very humbling,” she said. “It’s remarkable to see all these people, and hear about all these youth programs. What an incredible array of hearts.”
Other nominees were James Boone of Rich Square, Charolette Bradley of Roanoke Rapids, Claude Cooper of Enfield, Clayton Darnall of Littleton, Fannie Greene of Garysburg, Katie Green of Roanoke Rapids, Gavin and Kathey Gutterson of Littleton, Gary Hackenburg of Roanoke Rapids, Jim Lander of Gaston, Stanley Lewis Jr. of Littleton, Ann Moore of Roanoke Rapids, Mildred Moore of Scotland Neck, Ruth Morgan of Littleton, Bill and Terryn Owens of Littleton, Patricia Peele of Roanoke Rapids, Jackie Stanley and Edna Crouch of Roanoke Rapids and Darrick Wood of Halifax.
“After three years, I’m still in awe of these people and how much they give to the community,” Workman said this morning. “When you read the stories about all the things that they’ve done, how in the world would we get along without them?”
He said he hopes other people will be inspired by them.
“Claude Cooper — Coach of the Year for 13 years. Mildred Moore of Scotland Neck who’s getting kids off the street,” Workman said, mentioning several of the nominees. “The list goes on and on.”
The nomination process for community champions begins in the spring with an open call for nominations. The nomination form is extensive, and takes 30 minutes to an hour to fill out fully.
“They have to put some thought into it,” Workman said of those nominating people.
The finalist group of 20 is picked by a panel of judges from the community, based solely on information provided on the nomination form.
“It needs to come from the community and those who are touched by those people,” Workman said.