Monday evening, The Walton Tribune paid honor to several people who have made Walton County a more blessed place at its annual Visions award reception.
In conjunction with its annual Visions magazine, inside today’s paper, Patrick Graham, owner and publisher of the paper, presented awards to several people identified as those who contributed to making Walton County a better place, as evidenced by the magazine’s theme this year, #WaltonBlessed.
Graham said he and the staff struggled to come up with a theme for the magazine until the idea came to him as he was attending Mass for Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of the Easter season.
“That divine inspiration has given us the ability to share stories about why we are all so #WaltonBlessed to be in this community, as well as the people, places and things that serve as blessings to our tremendous community,” Graham said.
Graham started by announcing the Employer of the Year, John’s Supermarket, and its owner, Greg Thompson.
“Greg makes sure everyone who works at the grocery store understands they become family when they are hired,” Graham said. “He makes sure customers are treated like family, called by their name when they come in and thanked for their business when they leave. Maybe most importantly, Greg makes sure to give back to the community the store has been blessed to serve as a family, just like his dad taught him.”
Next, Graham recognized the Youth of the Year, Social Circle High School senior J.D. Duval.
“The resume for our 2023 Youth of the Year has it all: academic excellence, athletic prowess and community service,” Graham said. “And honestly just a really good dude.”
Graham especially emphasized Duval’s work with students with special needs through adaptive PE classes and Special Olympics, despite Duval’s claim anyone can do it.
“Sure, anyone can do this, but not everyone does,” Graham said. “And that really is the point.”
Next, Graham honored the Unsung Heroes, three members of the community honored for giving back and blessing Walton County behind the scenes.
First up was Bill Clegg, of Social Circle, who has been involved with volunteer work through groups like Faith In Serving Humanity for decades.
“Our Unsung Hero has been a part of the Social Circle community for well over half a century,” Graham said.
“(He’s served) as a high school math teacher for seven year, a local businessman for 31 years, long-time volunteer at FISH and, perhaps most appropriately given his strong faith background, he is one of the founders of the Social Circle Christian Learning Center.”
Graham next honored Sally Mansour as an Unsung Hero for her work in advocating for local pets, particularly in the long-running battle to ban tethering in Walton County.
“Dogs and cats can make such a difference in the lives of people,” Graham said. “But many dogs and cats themselves don’t have a hero in their lives. Walton County pets, however, have found they do indeed have a hero.”
The last Unsung Hero of the night was Chasity Stewart, chosen for her work with non-profit organization Hands of Hope and its outreach to students with special needs.
“(She) founded Hands of Hope, (which) encourages them to integrate into and be involved with the community,” Graham said. “Our Unsung Hero wants to level the play field, literally, for kids if you will.”
Finally, Graham paid honor to its top honoree of the night, the Rev. Hugo Bryan-Porter, who received the newspaper’s Community Spirit Award for what the executive pastor of Lighthouse World Outreach Center himself calls “quiet service.”
“That service is what sets our Community Spirit Award winner, and maybe even Walton County itself, apart: the desire to serve, the desire to be a blessing to the community, based on God’s instruction,” Graham said. “(He) has been filling up the Walton County community ever since through his faith-filled works.”
Bryan-Porter said he was honored to receive the award but said it was about more than him.
“This award represents a commitment I made many years ago to follow Jesus Christ and live my life serving Him,” he said. “As personal as this is for me, this blessing is for all of you. I pray for the prosperity of this community and the Lord God’s blessings indeed.”
Look for more about our winners and others stories about Walton’s blessed status in the paper's Vision magazine available Wednesday, April 26.
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