This past week the Community Council through the Town of Wake Forest named its Citizen of the Year and Organization of the Year. This committee and ceremony have many ties to St. John’s including members of the committee, the Mayor who announced the winners and a beautiful painting by our beloved Shirley Matheny that has graced the program’s cover for many years. This is a time honored and valuable tradition in our wonderful Town for 72 years that recognizes citizens and organizations that improve the quality of life for people in Wake Forest. It was exciting to see our friends at Hope House win the Organization of the Year for their tireless work in ministering to the physical, educational and spiritual needs of the people in the Northeast End of Wake Forest and beyond. I watched the ceremony on Facebook Live after returning home from a cold and wet night at Wake Forest Community meals and I began to reimagine the ceremony that I was watching.
I began to replay in my mind all of the people who I have encountered just in the past month who are the unsung Citizens of the Year in our wonderful Town.
I thought of the grandmother who just lost her life to COVID that I met because she walked her two granddaughters to Hope House every night we served meals to pick up dinner plates and extra food while she cared for the girls during the virtual school day.
I thought of the healthcare workers, landscapers and fast food employees identified by their work uniforms who come through our meal line every week to save money on groceries and make ends meet while they are keeping our town running.
I thought of my new friend Shynese Hockaday who spearheaded the “Share the Warmth Coat Drive” on Saturday at Olive Branch Baptist Church. This young woman collected over 200 coats for her community and worked so hard to lovingly organize this event. In a thank you note to all the partners including St. John’s, which donated 97 of the coats, Shynese wrote: “Yesterday was an example of “Lord, you gave me this vision, and I know you will see it through”. I have never planned a coat giveaway, didn’t know how I was going to get at least 200 coats, and of course I had reasons why I would not have the event….While some are living in a world of uncertainty, not knowing what life will look like from month to month, week to week, or even day to day, WE made a difference in our community during a pandemic “All Praise be to God.”
I also thought of my church family who is deeply committed to every outreach effort St. John’s supports, including TAM, Backpack Buddies, Habitat for Humanity, Church Net, and Joy of Christmas with time, talent and treasures. Your contributions and prayers make the lives of thousands of people in our community better.
In this time of COVID and REIMAGINING, I am thankful that my work connects me to so many extraordinary people who I consider to be Citizens of the Year!