It’s that time of year again when I do my best to recognize people who I think are blessings in our community but who may not get the recognition they deserve.

Each year there’s a program called the Heart of the Community Awards of Honor where people and organizations are recognized for their contributions to the wellbeing of Rome and Floyd County. These folks are usually celebrated with a fancy banquet and I think they’re given these beautiful medals. It’s a pretty big deal to be named a Heart of the Community recipient.

Well, I can’t throw anyone a party or give out any special trophies or medals, but mentioning them in my column is my little way of recognizing folks who I think make our community a better place to live, even if they might not be in the spotlight like others are. These are ordinary people who, in their own small way, bring something special to those around them.

So without further ado, here are this year’s recipients of the annual Sevvie Awards:

1. Danny and Dwayne McGhee. These are two brothers. I believe they both went to Armuchee. Dwayne works for Georgia Power and Danny is with the Rome Fire Department. I met these guys many years ago on the tennis court. They are both good athletes, but what struck me most about them was how they treated other people. You can just tell when someone is raised to be mannerly and polite and considerate of others. The McGhee boys would make any Southern mama proud. They treat people with kindness and respect. They both have a great sense of humor and anyone who knows Danny will know his trademark giggle. If you’re fortunate enough to know these guys, consider yourself lucky. They are good men and positive role models in this day and age.

2. Jennifer Crews Davis. There are people around us who exude a positivity that is infectious. Jennifer is one of those people. We’ve got plenty of folks around who are willing to be negative and throw a shadow over everyone. But Jennifer is a light in an often dark world. She always has a smile and a kind word for friends and strangers alike. She shows a genuine concern for those around her. She may not be the loudest in a room but her kindness is, in its own way, a big presence. That’s a rare and wonderful trait.

3. Chaplain David Thornton. I got to know who Chaplain Thornton was while covering his work with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office. He’s instrumental in the RomeGaCares program, which mobilizes efforts to collect and send donations to victims of natural disasters all over the region. But long before that, he was the preacher at Emmanuel Baptist Church, where my friends the Kirbys used to attend when they were boys. They have the greatest amount of respect for David Thornton and said he used to conduct their pregame prayer for their high school games. Chaplain Thornton is loved and respected by many members of our law enforcement. In all my dealings with him he has exhibited kindness and compassion for others. He is truly a gift to our community.

4. Jeff Culbreth. Jeff is one of the founders and former owners of Culbreth Carr Watson Animal Clinic. Not only has he cared for the community’s animals for decades, but he has also been a mentor and source of wisdom for many in the local veterinary community. Jeff has always displayed a gentleness and a loving nature that draws people to him. He has managed to offer a smile and encouraging words to anyone who needs it. Jeff is one of those people who, despite the curveballs life throws at you, puts things into perspective and makes your heart a little lighter after you’ve talked to him. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word.

5. Melissa Phillips. Some might know Melissa as a volunteer coach for the Berry equestrian team. She’s a lover of horses. But she’s also president of the board for Harbor House Child Advocacy Center and she works tirelessly to make sure the board and its activities support the organization’s work to help abused children. Melissa gives so much of her time and resources working toward a cause that may go unnoticed to many simply because of the nature of Harbor House’s mission. But it’s an important one.

6. Devon Smyth. Devon is the executive director for the William S. Davies Homeless Shelter. Before that, she was the youth minister at First United Methodist Church. I suppose she was meant to be in those positions since in all the time I’ve known her, Devon has exhibited a spirit of inclusion and kindness without judgement. She gives you a feeling of being able to be your complete self around her. And that’s a gift. It’s one thing to open your arms and your heart to friends and people you love, but to do that with strangers isn’t a common thing. Devon’s is a warm and open heart to those who need it most.

If you know any of these folks, consider yourself fortunate. They are treasures in our little corner of the world. And if you don’t know them and you have the chance to meet them, you should introduce yourself. They may just bring a little brightness into your life.

Severo Avila is Features Editor

for the Rome News-Tribune.


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