Community servants never stop working

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2008

True community service does not end when the fundraiser does. It does not stop when the sun goes down. And it occurs no matter who is around.

Oh, and it certainly never takes a break for glory.

An editor of this newspaper who came long before my time decided The Natchez Democrat would take some time away from the daily newspaper each year to select a Citizen of the Year and several Unsung Heroes. The newspaper’s staff chooses the Citizen of the Year — based on community service, civic involvement and all around goodness — and the community nominates the Unsung Heroes.

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We publish a special edition announcing the honorees. This year’s edition came out at the end of February.

Later, and slightly less publicly, The Democrat hosts a reception for the honorees. We mail out invitations to those directly involved and we prepare plaques and other gifts for those receiving the honors.

At the reception, we introduce each honoree, reading a little about their contributions to the community.

But at this year’s reception last week the honorees hijacked our show. In a good way.

Citizen of the Year Logan Sewell started things off by asking to say a few words. When soft spoken Sewell speaks everyone listens. He’s a fixture in our community who is responsible for bringing industry to Vidalia, a knife show to Natchez and smiles to all those who know him.

What Sewell started, the seven Unsung Heroes on hand finished, each turning what should have been acceptance speeches into platforms to promote the community.

Erle Drane recruited drivers for the van that takes veterans to the hospital in Jackson.

Thelma White told the crowd that Watkins Street Cemetery needed more work than just she could provide.

As I stood behind the podium and listened to the off the cuff speeches, I realized that this year’s group of Unsung Heroes was still hard at work, even during their own reception.

Close to 50 people attended the reception — the biggest crowd ever, we think. Seven attendees were Unsung Heroes, one was Citizen of the Year. For the remainder of us, one lesson rang true — we aren’t doing enough.

These eight people (plus one Unsung Hero who was not present) are carrying more than their own load. They are doing it all and then some.

But their speeches didn’t make us feel bad, they merely inspired us.

Our community has plenty of unaddressed needs to go around. Each year we pick between eight and 15 Unsung Heroes. But if this year’s nominees had anything to do with it, more people would be involved and more awards would have to be given.

As our reception came to a close I overheard a few conversations. Thelma White was pushing Forest Persons — husband of Hero Barbara Persons — to get his lawn mower and come to the cemetery.

Unsung Hero Liz Brooking of Ferriday told Erle Drane she would begin working to find drivers for his van.

The group networked with each other and with everyone else in the room. It’ll be great to see what comes of their conversations.

It’s the people that make a community, and the Miss-Lou has some great ones with or without a plaque.

Thanks one last time to these nine — and all the others out there — who make our community tick.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or