Leadership Wilson held its annual Alumni Luncheon on Wednesday at Baird Chapel on the Cumberland University campus.
Class members from the past 20-plus years gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the current groups and hear about their projects.
The biggest honor of the day was the bestowing of the Commitment to Leadership award. This is the 18th time the award was given to an individual who “is pioneering the way and setting new standards of excellence in the area of community leadership,” according to Dorie Mitchell, Leadership Wilson’s executive director.
Cumberland University president Paul Stumb was given the task of introducing the 2016 winner.
“There were three extremely capable finalists for the Commitment to Leadership Award this year,” he said. “All of these three finalists are just exceptional people.”
The nominees were Jo Smith, Rob Porter and Dr. Robert Carver Bone. After a close vote, according to Stumb, the award was given to Smith. Smith recently retired from her role as sales and promotions coordinator for WANT 98.9 FM, a position she held for the past 20 years. She was also a member of the Leadership Wilson class of 2000.
Following the award presentation, representatives of Youth Leadership Wilson explained their project for 2016. Hungry for Heroes involves characters of all types, from superheroes to Disney characters.
The group will hold two Hungry for Heroes canned food drives for Wilson County students April 2 at Mt. Juliet Christian School and April 9 at Castle Heights Elementary School. Both events will be from 9-11 a.m.
Youth Leadership members will dress as Disney characters and children will have the opportunity to meet their favorite characters and learn what makes them unique heroes.
Admission is one canned food item per person.
Austin White with the National Junior High Association Rodeo was the guest speaker.
The 2016 group projects presented Wednesday include:
• Internship Wilson County. The group created a website and new avenue for county college students to find internships in Wilson County. Local businesses submit internship information through the website and find matches. Group members include Jay Hoover, Melanie Minter, Jason Morris, Anita Spicer and Gaye Lynn Wilson.
• Bocce Ball Court at Don Fox Community Park. This group is responsible for helping raise funds, awareness and create a Bocce ball court at Don Fox Community Park. Special Olympics participants and the general public will use the court. Group members include Audria Frattini, Dave Gould Mike Moscardelli, Debbie Moss and Martha Underhill.
• Jere’s Ride. This group is responsible for continuing the Leadership class of 2014’s project of conducting the annual bike ride in memory of Jere McCulloch, which benefits Empower Me Day Camp. Group members include Glen Black, Tim Bryant, John Hawkins, Jack Swanson and John Sergent.
• Path to Freedom. This group will help Empower Me Day Camp to build its new campus by recruiting small sponsorships to help with playgrounds and outdoor activity areas suitable for children with special needs. Group members include Ronni McPeak, Sean Owens, Beverly Walker, JaRob Coggins and Krista Douglas.
• Empower Me Day Camp grand opening. This group will help promote and plan the Empower Me Camp Day of Dreams event June 4. The group will primarily focus on Gabby’s Walk for Change in conjunction with Jere’s Ride. Group members include Neika Adsmond, Xavier Smith, Bill Porth, Nick Hays and Beth Schulze.
• National Junior High Association Rodeo Finals volunteer recruitment. This group is responsible for helping with the upcoming National High School Rodeo Association Junior High Division Rodeo Finals to be held June 19-27. The group’s primary mission is to secure more than 150 volunteers for the event. Group members include Todd Beaird, Robert Bryan, Jennifer Folsom, Jessica Gore, C.J. Hutsenpiller, Terry Merryman and Cindy Overton.
Democrat staff writer Xavier Smith contributed to this report.