The Hazard-Perry County Chamber of Commerce handed out several awards at their annual Civic Night, held Tuesday evening on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College.
Fred Stidham, a retired educator, has been a well-known figure in Hazard and Perry County now for many years. He has been a teacher, coach, principal and also served as the superintendent of Hazard Independent Schools. But it was his service outside of his professional career that led to Stidham’s being named this year’s Man of the Year in Perry County.
An active member of the Hazard Lions Club, Stidham had plays an important role in the club’s annual auction. He has also worked with several entities in the region, including the Challenger Learning Center in Hazard, the Special Olympics and People Against Drugs Committee, just to name a few. Has also volunteered as the director of the local service unit of the American Red Cross.
Stidham thanked several people as he took the podium on Tuesday to accept his award, including those volunteers with the Red Cross, and those within the Hazard Independent School District, where he worked for 37 years.
“It means so much, and it’s a great honor to be recognized by your home town,” he said
Letha Patterson is a past honoree at Civic Night, having been named Young Woman of the Year for 1982. She was honored again this week as the Woman of the Year for her work in inspiring children to learn through music.
Patterson has been a music teacher for the Hazard Independent School District now for 32 years, and has also been successful in directing the school’s choir. She has served as the 9th District Choral Chair for 12 years, has coordinated choral and all-state competitions and worked with the Music in the Mountains camp for young people. She also served as the choir director at Bowman Memorial Methodist Church as well as the pianist there, and presently conducts a music ministry for children.
Patterson’s passion has been music, and she works to ensure that Hazard’s youth have the opportunity to find their musical passions as well. She even worked so the middle school would include a piano lab, and she even teaches private piano lessons.
As she accepted her award, she took the time to note that the real honor was seeing her own students grow and themselves become successful and productive members of the community.
This year’s Young Woman of the Year is also a recognizable face in the community. Laura Feltner was the valedictorian of her senior class at Hazard High School, and is currently the State Farm Insurance agent. Her work in the community includes work with the Hazard Lions Club, the local hospice center, the Hazard-Perry County Women’s Club, and she has led an effort for herself and her employees at State Farm to help repair clients’ home when they unable to do so themselves. This same group also volunteered their time in the relief efforts in West Liberty following the devastating tornadoes in March.
Though she was raised in Hazard, Feltner received her education outside of the mountains at the University of Kentucky. But her ultimate decision brought her back home to Eastern Kentucky, and that was something on which she touched as she accepted her award Tuesday evening.
“I was so supported that it enabled me to go off and really follow my dreams, and those brought me back home,” she said. “I think there is something to be said for that, because I think the community is doing the right thing whenever people go off to get their education and decide to come home.”
Perry County’s Young Man of the Year award was presented to Chris Fugate, a graduate of Hazard Christian Academy whose career in the Kentucky State Police began on the road, but evolved into a narcotics detective. In 2010 he was transferred into Drug Enforcement Section Investigations, where he continues to work today.
But Fugate’s service to the community goes beyond his profession, as he continues to help develop Camp Promise, a program aimed at helping at-risk kids in Eastern Kentucky. He also serves as the pastor at Gospel Light Baptist Church in Hazard, a building that at one time housed the Hillbilly Palace.
Fugate spoke about Camp Promise as he addressed the crowd gathered at HCTC on Tuesday.
“Camp Promise is an unbelievable tool that we’ve been able to be part of, and being able to influence young people’s lives, and being able to introduce them to Jesus Christ as their savior, and it’s just a blessing to be able to do that,” he said.
This year’s guest speaker was Tim Farmer, host of KET’s “Kentucky Afield,” while other awards were presented to Dr. Marvin Jolly, founding president of Hazard Community College, and Sen. Brandon Smith and Rep. Fitz Steele. Youth and Teen of the Year plaques were also presented to Timothy Baker and Lindsey Caudill, respectively.
The second annual William D. Gorman Humanitarian Award was presented to business owners Marty and Teresa Johnson.