HAZARD — Civic Night is an annual tradition in Hazard that has lasted throughout 64 years. When Civic Night first happened, the Mother Goose in Wabaco was still a child, not even in her teens. The Hazard-Perry County Chamber of Commerce is responsible for organizing the event, which these days is held in the First Federal Center of Hazard Community and Technical College. Scores of local citizens from many different walks of life filed into the auditorium on Tuesday evening to enjoy the ceremony and honor the winners of the event’s prestigious awards.
The H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Every day) Award went to Tony Melton. Bruce Stephens received the Community Citizens Award. Economic Development Awards were distributed to Joe Grossman, Greg Pauley and Brad Hall. Jeff Whitehead of EKCEP took home the Influential Workforce Award. Janice King and Dan Stone were given Community Partnership Awards in recognition for their outstanding contributions to local causes.
Rev. Ellen Peach, Tracy Counts and Pamela Farrel accepted the William D. Gorman Humanitarian Award on behalf of First Presbyterian Church of Hazard. In September, the church reached out to provide help for the families who lost homes in the Grand Hotel fire. Dr. Gene Smith was honored with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Award. “The Bird Man” Mitch Whitaker from the Letcher County Extension Office also attended the ceremony and gave a demonstration involving a beautiful owl from his habitat. After accepting the HCTC Outstanding Educational Service Award, Bobby Osborne treated the crowd to some music. Morgan Dobson received Youth of the Year in Perry County, with Stacie Fugate winning Teen of the Year honors.
The most coveted awards of the evening were presented next. Lena Fugate Bakun won Young Woman of the Year.
“I don’t think I’ve done anything spectacular,” Bakun said, during her acceptance speech, “I think I’ve done what I was raised and taught to do. I’ve loved you. I’ve tried to love you like Jesus loves me, but I can’t do that. I’m blessed that he chose my family and I am blessed that he gave me the opportunity to serve.”
Luke Glaser is unique because he came to Hazard from outside of the area and fell in love with this community. Thus, he decided to stay and make a difference. Luke Glaser is also unique because his determination to make a difference in his hometown has earned him the 2016 Young Man of the Year Award.
“I need to thank my colleagues at Hazard High School for making me the teacher that I am,” said Glaser, “I’d like to thank my students for keeping me humble. Thank you, Hazard, for giving me purpose. It has been an honor to be here and it will continue to be an honor to be here.”
Finding someone in Hazard, who does not know the man and the woman of the year would be a difficult task. Meriweather Hall is Woman of the Year for 2016 in Hazard, Kentucky.
“Thank you very much,” Hall said in her address, “Thank you to my staff. Thank you to my mother, who always told me I could do anything I wanted to, and I believed her. Thank you to my son, who is an inspiration to me.”
The Man of the Year in Hazard is John Stacy. He received a thunderous ovation from the crowd.
“In the Book of Luke it says, To him much is given; much is required,” said Stacy, “I’ve been given an abundance, so with what little I do, I do hope I am paying some debt. I would encourage everyone, give back and do a little part for what you’ve been given.”
The keynote speaker for the evening is quite an inspirational figure, not only here in Southeastern Kentucky, but in Hollywood, as well. Dr. Travis Freeman played football in Corbin as a kid, when he developed an infection that rendered him blind. He continued to compete regardless of the overwhelming obstacles before him. The movie “23 Blast” is based on Freeman’s story of courage and will power.
The 2016 edition of Civic Night turned out to be a fantastic show, complete with music, dinner, a wildlife showcase and a hero, who inspired a silver screen story. The biggest stars of the evening, however, were the humble citizens, who gracefully accepted the well-deserved awards granted to them by the Chamber of Commerce in appreciation for all of the heart they have placed into our home-sweet-home.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.