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Citizens honored for work




Commerce has honored five men and one woman for their continuing work as community volunteers.

The awards were presented at a reception held last week at Pine Mountain Grill in Whitesburg. The recipients were selected from nominations submitted by the public after Chamber of Commerce officials announced the establishment of the awards.

The Chamber also honored 11 family-owned businesses in Letcher County that were founded more than 50 years ago and are still in operation today.

Volunteers honored were:

+ Carter Bevins, chief of Neon Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service.

Bevins was presented with a plaque by his lifelong friend, Dr. Sam Quillen Jr. Quillen, a Neon dentist and member of the Letcher County Board of Education, told a crowd of about 85 people who attended the reception that Bevins was just 16 years old when he volunteered for the fire department in the early 1960’s, and has turned the department into a 22-employee business that now serves much of Letcher County.

Quillen, who is also a member of the department, said Bevins was the first person in Letcher County to receive training as an emergency medical technician (EMT), and is responsible for the Neon Rescue Squad being able to obtain the county’s first “Jaws of Life” device – a hydraulic tool used to pry open vehicles involved in accidents when a passenger is trapped inside.

Quillen said Bevins most recently orchestrated Neon Volunteer Fire and Rescue’s purchase of the old Harlow Motor Company building in downtown Neon, which will be converted into a new home for the department as well as a regional training center for Kentucky firefighters.

+ Rev. Elwood Cornett, chairman of the Letcher County Planning Committee.

For nearly three years, Cornett, a retired school teacher and administrator from Blackey, has been at the front of the planning commission’s effort to bring a medium-security federal prison – and up to 400 new jobs – to Letcher County.

Fellow committee member Amy McDougal told the audience that Cornett has worked tirelessly to convince the federal Bureau of Prisons that its newest facility should be located somewhere in Letcher County. She said she has seen Cornett go from “cutting weeds during the day” so that officials could have better access to possible prison sites to lobbying “congressmen over dinner at night.”

“I have seen Mr. Cornett give relentlessly of his time, energy and talent,” McDougal said. “He stepped up to the plate. He rolled up his sleeves.”

“It’s my great pleasure to be a part of something I think is going to make a great difference for Letcher County,” Cornett told the audience after receiving the plaque.

+ Roy Crawford, president of R.R. Crawford Engineering of Whitesburg.

Crawford, whose firm was founded by his grandfather in 1925, has sponsored three cultural events held here since the opening of Letcher County Central High School’s auditorium and gymnasium, including a performance earlier this year by the Shanghai Circus of China. He has also sponsored youth chess teams and events for young rock climbers, and is very active in the exchange student program.

Eugene Meade, director of Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College’s Whitesburg center, said Crawford goes out of his way “to make sure the youth of this county have opportunities they normally wouldn’t have.” Meade said Crawford’s “contribution to the arts in the county have been outstanding,” and called him “the definition of volunteerism.”

Crawford told the audience he hopes “to keep building up” the arts here until Letcher County is on a par with neighboring Wise County, Virginia, which he said “for years (has) been bringing in operas, plays and other cultural events.”

Crawford called on other business leaders attending the reception to dig into their pockets to help finance the effort to give local youth exposure to the arts.

“They shouldn’t have to be an adult before they find out what a cello is or hear Mozart’s Sonata like I did,” Crawford said.

+ Wesley Doughman, retired state probation and parole officer.

Doughman, a past president of the Letcher County Chamber of Commerce, was nominated for his efforts to establish Lions Club organizations in Partridge, on the campus of Alice Lloyd College in Knott County, and in Pikeville.

“Wesley is the kind of person who does a lot of things and no one really knows much about it,” said Charles Whitaker, owner of Superior Printing Company at Cromona.

Doughman, a native of Perry County, also helped establish he Cumberland River Volunteer Fire Department. He told the audience he is thankful that Letcher County residents seem to have “adopted” him as one their own.

+ Mabel Johnson, chairperson of the Hemphill Community Center Committee.

Mrs. Johnson, of Jackhorn, is credited with spearheading the effort to turn the old Hemphill Elementary School into a community center that serves people of all ages. She was also instrumental in establishing the Letcher County Coal Miners’ Memorial, which is located on the grounds of the center.

“She’s turned that into a great thing for the community up there,” Mrs. Johnson’s nephew, Frank Fleming, said before awarding a plaque to her.

Fleming said that in addition to working with the community center, Mrs. Johnson, who he said “came from a large family of 13,” nearly always seems to be the first person reaching out to help members of the community who are in need.

“She’s always there to place the needs of others above her own,” Fleming said while reading from a tribute to Mrs. Johnson written by Lily Bentley of Neon.

+ Kedrick Sanders, author and member of the Cumberland Mountain Arts and Crafts Committee and Old Jenkins High School Committee.

“When I think of volunteerism I think of Ked,” Jenkins Mayor Charles Dixon said before presenting a plaque to Sanders.

Dixon told the audience that in addition to helping restore the old high school building in downtown Jenkins and working to establish the Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come Theater in Jenkins, Sanders has been a member of the Jenkins Jaycees, served as president of the Jenkins Kiwanis Club, and directed the Jenkins Field Commission.

Dixon said that when new fields were being built in Jenkins for softball and Little League teams, Sanders took the extra step of putting red clay on the infields “so we could have a unique facility there.”

Sanders is a former member of the Jenkins Days Committee, and is now active in helping establish the new Jenkins Heritage Festival, which will be held for the first time in August.

Sanders noted that he and Dixon have been working together on community projects in the Jenkins area for 35 years. He said working with Dixon on projects that involve the spending of public money has been easy because “I know every cent will be accounted for.”

“Whether I’m in a leadership role or following, I try to do the best job I can,” Sanders told the audience.

Awards were also presented to the following businesses, all of which were established more than 50 years ago:

+ The John B. Adams Store, Isom. Accepting the award was Dana Richardson, who said her parents opened the store more than 60 years ago.

“There’s never been a day we haven’t been there,” Mrs. Richardson said.

+ Blair Insurance Agency, Whitesburg. Current proprietor Roger Blair said the agency was started by his father, Estill Blair, in 1949. Roger Blair said Estill Blair called him in 1970 and asked which family business he wanted to start running – the insurance agency or a funeral home in Whitesburg.

“I’ve been there for 37 years and seen good times and bad times in the insurance business,” Roger Blair said.

+ Cavalier Cafe, Jenkins. No one was present to receive the award.

+ Superior Printing Company, Cromona. The company publishes the Letcher County Community News-Press and was established in 1955 by Charles and Bobbie Whitaker, who were present to accept the award.

+ Dawahare’s Inc. Representing the family at last week’s reception was Harding Dawahare Jr. of Lexington. Dawahare noted that his grandfather, S.F. Dawahare, came to America from Syria around 1900 and opened a general store in East Jenkins in 1907.

Today, Dawahare’s operates 30 stores in Kentucky, including the downtown Whitesburg store which is one of the chain’s oldest. Dawahare said he has “four uncles and two aunts” who are children of S.F. Dawahare and are “still coming to work every day.”

+ Halcomb’s Custard Stand, Isom. No one was present to receive the award.

+ The Mountain Eagle, Whitesburg. Founded in 1907, the newspaper operated by the Gish family is the oldest continuing business in Letcher County.

+ Quillen’s Dentistry, Neon. Dr. Sam W. Quillen Jr. said the dental business he now operates was established by his father in 1943.

Praising the businesses and volunteers who were honored last week, Quillen said, “Everybody in this room made a choice to live here.”

+ Royal Crown Cola Bottling Company, Ermine. Ron Bentley said the business he and his father, Brad Bentley, operate began its 60th year of operation earlier this year.

Bentley said he recently asked his father, who is in his nineties, how much longer he thought the bottling company would be in business.

“He said, ‘If we quit this what are we going to get into?’ the younger Bentley joked.

+ Western Auto, Whitesburg. The store was founded in 1947 by the late Owen W. and Myrtle Wright. It is operated today in its same location on Main Street by Owen W. Wright Jr., who was on hand to accept the award.

+ Maggard’s Grocery, Eolia. The small grocery store and gas station was opened by J.D. Maggard, who died in 1994 at the age of 99-1/2. The store, which still uses the shelving and other equipment that has been in place since it opened, was featured in the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and is now operated by Maggard’s grandson, Ellis O. Maggard. The award was presented to June Maggard, daughter of J.D. and mother of Ellis.


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