Last Sunday, the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram honored 10 of the best people I've had the privilege to meet.
As our Citizens of the Year winners and finalists, these 10 folks have demonstrated what many of us believe are two of the most important characteristics of life: Compassion and the desire to make a difference.
As our guest speaker, Clarksburg Councilwoman Becky Lake, so eloquently pointed out, the amazing thing about many of our winners was the fact that they began their outstanding volunteerism while holding down jobs and raising families.
"As I read the winners and finalists articles, it was humbling to me to realize the skills and quiet, enormous talent for so many different reasons, that each of these people share," Lake said.
"More importantly, I realized that each of these individuals did not wait for retirement age to offer their time and talent -- their commitments were made in addition to working their jobs and raising families. They are not only citizens of the year -- but ambassadors of their lives committed to enriching society."
In closing, Lake urged each of us to consider finding more time to volunteer for worthwhile organizations.
"Tonight we gather to celebrate and honor people who have stepped beyond their lives to offer themselves willfully to others. Look at their faces, listen to their stories, celebrate the reward and recognition they never expected and hopefully, may you be moved enough to want to step forward tomorrow and offer your services to someone or something that makes you feel good about yourself -- contribute willfully. And I promise, you will receive much more than you give, and it will feel good."
In honoring these 10 outstanding citizens, the Clarksburg newspapers also rewarded organizations that these people have helped in the past.
Our Co-Citizen of the Year winners, Lucille Ellis and Betty Grogan, each received $1,000. Ellis donated hers to the United Hospital Center Auxiliary Scholarship Fund. Grogan split hers, giving $500 to Bi-County Nutrition Program Inc. and the medical fund for Heaven McIntire.
Our other finalists each received $100. Here's how they put the money to use:
-- Pastor David Kates donated his to the Genesis Youth Center, an emergency shelter for teen-agers.
-- "Coach" Joe Marra gave his $100 to Health Access, Inc., a local group that provides medical care to those without insurance.
-- Wes Thomas donated his money to the Clarksburg Lions Scholarship Fund.
-- Cline Stansberry gave his $100 to the Doddridge County 4-H Leaders.
-- Barbara Smith donated her money to the Mountain Hospice, Inc., an organization she helped found.
-- Mark Melko donated her reward to the Harrison County Special Olympics.
-- Elza Wilson, a two-time Citizen of the Year finalist, donated his money to the scholarship that bears his name at Alderson-Broaddus College.
-- Randy Chapman, who helped organize hunter education classes for the physically impaired, donated his $100 to the West Virginia Hunter Education Association, Inc.
I want to thank each of our 10 finalists and Becky Lake for providing an inspirational evening. But more importantly, I want to than them for giving of their time and effort to help others.
John G. Miller can be reached at 626-1473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.