By Dave Ongie, Managing Editor
After a two-year hiatus, members of our community gathered together once again for the Johnson City and Washington County Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Prayer Breakfast last Saturday at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
By the end of the event, it was abundently clear that absence had indeed made the heart grow fonder for the fellowship offered by the event. The theme was “Making Connections to Our Beloved Community,” and honoring those who have held our community together over the years took center stage.
Herb Greenlee was surprised by State Senator Rusty Crowe, who presented him with a resolution from the State Senate honoring him for his 35 years of service to Johnson City. Greenlee is synonymous with the Carver Recreation Center and Carver Park, pouring nearly all his waking hours into providing a positive place for young people to learn, connect and grow.
Seven individuals received Community Service Awards this year, and they were all recognized for the efforts they have made to tighten the bonds of community. Carroll Murphy was nurtured and mentored by those in Johnson City as a young man, and he was honored on Saturday for paying that forward to countless others.
Among the lives Murphy has impacted are his six children, which he raised with his late wife Shirley. All six graduated from college, have found professional success and are paying it forward to the next generation in their respective communities.
Former Johnson City City Managers John Campbell, Pete Peterson and Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl were also recognized for the work they have done to provide and improve the facilities Greenlee and others have used to carry out their mission. Campbell played a key role in facilitating a renovation of the original Carver Rec Center and expanding the surrounding park.
Peterson took the torch from Campbell and helped clear the way for the construction of a new recreation center building to replace the old building, which was prone to flooding.
Meanwhile, Stahl has been a constant force behind the scenes. Among other things, Stahl made the connections and used his influence to help make the Langston Centre a reality.
Much like Stahl, Freddy Gonzalez made an enormous contribution to our community by working behind the scenes. As the owner of Chaparral car dealership for over 30 years, Gonzalez never failed to lend vehicles for use in the annual UMOJA parade. He has also helped fund field trips and has sponsored many fundraising events with little or no fanfare.
Working with her husband Fletcher Birchette at Birchette Mortuary, Sarah Birchette helped provide compassionate care to the community and also created and produced the annual Carver Park Christmas Party, which ensured children did not go without during the holidays. Her son John Birchette IV is carrying on his parents’ rich legacy and is a key member of Langston Education and Arts Development (LEAD).
Rev. Want Hardaway of Athens, TN, provided the keynote address, “Catalyst for Community Connectivity.”