It was a night of food, fellowship, and fun as the Morgan County Recreation Department held its annual Sponsor-Volunteer Recognition Banquet at Camp Twin Lakes. According to Ricky Cochran, who worked for the MCRD in 1980 after graduating from college, the first Recognition Banquet of this type was held during that summer. He recalled how he became the Director of Recreation for Social Circle when the Morgan County/Madison department joined forces with our neighbors. Cochran said, “I remember it well. Bill Wood and I sent out invitations and about 35 or so people attended that first one at the Lions’ Club.” The banquet has certainly made some strides since that time with over 200 attendees at this year’s event.
Getting an invite to this gathering assures you of eating one fine steak with all the trimmings and enjoying some awesome fellowship with some of the most well-known volunteers and sponsors in the county. The volunteers attending ranged in age from their 20’s to their late 80’s with some of the more famous ones were seated front and center.
The notables in attendance included County Commissioners Donald Harris, Andy Ainslie Ron Milton, Phillip Von Hanstien, and Ben Riden, County Manager Adam Mestres, Assistant County Manager Mark Williams, City of Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, City Manager David Nunn, Madison City Council members Carrie Peters-Reid, Joe Diletto, Rick Blanton, Chris Hodges, Bobby Crawford, and Eric Joyce. The Morgan County Board of Education was represented by Superintendent James Woodard, Chairman Nelson Hale, Andrew Ainslie, Cheryl Bland, Keith Howard, and Brad Evans. MCHS Athletic Director, Doug Connelly was praised for the wonderful working relationship and continued support between the MCRD and high school.
After the meal it was paramount to thank the cooks that included Gerold Armistead, Wesley Thompson, Sheriff Markley, and others. Joey Lancaster thanked the sponsors by noting the sponsor banners hanging prominently around the lodge. The numbers of volunteers (over 400) it takes to run successful programs that include 139 youth teams and 21 adult teams is astounding.
Dan Matthews, the operator of Camp Twin Lakes came on to say, “We love helping the Morgan County Recreation Department and the teamwork we have to help the development of our youth in Morgan County.” Members of the Twin Lakes staff that were mentioned included Josh Cagliani, Paige Smith, and Chef Byron Hamm and his staff while the MCRD staff consists of Andy Dunston, Missy Mauldin, Jay Doss, Tony Hardeman, Samuel Simmons, Chris Burden, Brenda McAdams, Drew Torok and Lance Alexander.
Alexander was quick to praise the sponsors and others saying, “I want to re-emphasize the community relationships we have with our sponsors. We live in a special place where the community is overwhelmingly generous in giving to the Recreation Department. The relationships we have with all the school administrators, coaches, and teachers are also vital to our success.” He then mentioned some other things in the works, “We are excited about the future in Morgan County. As you know we have the development of a new soccer facility happening right now. We had 52 teams this year with 500 participants coming to the park three times a week along with parents and siblings that in our opinion constitutes the need for fields and giving our baseball fields some relief. Outside the realm of the four major sports we also have a full aquatics program, Kidfit, clogging for youth and adults, year-round day camps, youth cross-country, movies in the park, a fall festival with over 1000 people, Easter egg hunts, and a Valentines dance. One of the programs I’m most excited about right now is our Spirit League with kickball and softball led by JD Doss, Tony Sells, and Drew Addison with over 50 special needs participants. One of our biggest events in 2017 was the Tim Tebow Foundation Night to Shine Prom for other special needs youth and adults. We’re partnering with LoveMadison.org, Fusion Church, and Camp Twin Lakes to pull off this event that has a budget of $12,000.”
The Recreation Commission of Rusty Ewing, Joey :Lancaster (chair), (Rusty Ewing vice-chair), Cameron Woodward, Russell Carter, Glenda Ross, Randy Brown, Chris Kennedy, Daryl Malcom, and Cedric Huff then gave out the volunteer and sponsors of the year awards. The recipients for sponsors of the year were Fusion Church of Madison accepted by Pastor Matt Alexander, Breco Realty accepted by Jack and Robin Bone, and Longview Wealth accepted by Jennifer Stewart, Lauri Fortson, and Joey Lancaster. Volunteers of the year were Jason Singleton, John Moore, Danny Tillery, and Elisa Crumbley
The main event of the evening came when the MCRD and Alexander named their 2017 Hall of Fame Award winner. The award was given to Mr. Ellison Whitey Whitehead. Unfortunately, Mr. Whitehead had succumbed to complications from pneumonia and other problems a few weeks ago.
His son, Franky, and wife, Lynn, along with his grandson, Trey, and his wife, Caitlyn, were present to accept the award in his memory. Mr. Whitehead was an example of what it means to become a MCRD Hall of Famer. When asked how many people in the room had been influenced by him over the years, dozens of hands went up.
He was the definition of community, according to Alexander, and a long-time member of Beacon Heights Baptist Church.
His support of Morgan County High School athletics is legendary, especially in football, baseball, and softball while his support of the Morgan County Recreation Department has been going on for 60+ years. Mr. Whitehead was 84 years old and had been married to his wife, Jane, for 62 of those years.