Celebrating service

Leadership Blount 20th Anniversary Gala packs hall at Clayton Center

The Leadership Blount 20th Anniversary Gala was a success in large part because of the volunteers who rallied behind it, gala committee chair Patti Clevenger said.

“It was a great event. We had a lot of positive comments from it. We had a great gala committee. Everybody dove into subcommittees, and it worked like a charm. Everything came together like we wanted it to,” Clevenger said. “Everybody worked hard but not one person had to carry the load. It was a huge event when you look at magnitude of the event, and we spent a lot of hours on it.”

Guests began arriving about 6:30 and socialized and went through the buffet line catered by Aubrey’s Restaurant and open bar before the program started.

“Will Carver told me when we started the program that being a few minutes late was a testament to this event. Everyone was enjoying visiting so much that the program started late,” she said. “It didn’t look like we were starting late because everyone was socializing, talking and catching up. It was great we had that much time for the reception.”

Leadership Blount chair Teri Brahams said the gala was a wonderful evening to celebrate not only what the program has done but what individuals have done. “I think it was a enjoyable event and provided an opportunity to mix and mingle and fellowship that we don’t always get with such a wide variety of class members,” she said.

Outgoing executive director Cathy Cate enjoyed seeing the packed hall at the Clayton Center. “It’s amazing to see this many people from all over the community who absolutely love this program,” she said.

Clevenger said guests appreciated the recognition of each class and the special recognition given to eight alumni for their work in the community.

“We recognized our alumni service award winners. They were an incredible, incredible group of people. Those award winners are something else, and I’m glad we had something like that to recognize them,” she said.

Those honored included Joe Ingram, class 1991; George Williams, class of 1995; Sharon Hannum, class of 1998; the late Anthony Dunnings, class of 2001; Virginia Hardwick, class of 2002; Randy Burleson, class of 2004; Jennifer Wackerhagen, class of 2004; and Edward Harper, class of 2008.

Shelley Dunnings accepted the award on her late husband’s behalf and said he would have been humbled by the honor. Dunnings passed away at home in Alcoa on Feb. 8, 2008. “It’s an honor, and he would probably say he didn’t deserve it,” she said. “He was a humble person. He had a big heart.”

Clevenger praised Anthony Dunnings. “For Anthony Dunnings’ wife Shelley, I just think, when his name was announced, there was a standing ovation,” Clevenger said. “That was testament to Anthony. He has been gone almost two years and his legacy lives on.”

Williams said what struck him most was that he looked around that room and saw so many people he felt were more of a contributor than myself. “That room was filled with dozens of people whom I felt had made significant contributions to the community so I was humbled,” he said.

Williams said he feels like the luckiest person in the world because he gets to work with youth through the leadership development academy he founded in his late brother Richard Williams’ name.

“Getting the chance to see some of these kids progress and grow, next to raising my own kids, is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done,” he said. “We owe the community, church and fellow man and women a helping hand.”

Hardwick said she was really very flattered and honored. “I like to work and do things and be helpful,” she said.

Wackerhagen said she also was very honored and humbled. “I was surprised to be honored for the service I have done,” she said. Her father, Joe Ingram, added, “It’s a great thing, especially with my daughter being honored,” he said.

Hannum also said she felt humbled. “It is awesome to be nominated by your peers. It does not get any better,” she said.

Harper said the award was a surprise to him but that the award winners represented Leadership Blount classmates working tirelessly in the community. “It is absolutely about everyone else,” he said.

Burleson praised the residents of Blount County. “It’s all about Blount County. I have restaurants in Knox County and businesses there, but I have never received the love anywhere else I received in Blount County,” he said.

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