John Meriweather was named the recipient of the 2017 Record-Herald Citizen of the Year award at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce’s annual luncheon Wednesday afternoon.
Meriweather, a renowned advocate for Washington C.H. Little League Baseball for more than 40 years, was nominated by Mark Richards and Jared Clark. To become Citizen of the Year, one must live in Fayette County, be dedicated to service and work to improve the lives of others in the county.
Meriweather fits these criteria perfectly, according to Katie Bottorff, Record-Herald general manager, who presented him the Citizen of the Year plaque during the luncheon at the Mahan Building. The winner was kept secret until Bottorff revealed the name at the end of her speech.
“This person started his volunteer service at the age of 23,” Bottorff said. “He joined the Rotary Club and took the mission to heart to serve others by promoting integrity and goodwill. This fine young man thought that the baseball program was a good place to volunteer his time. To say that he loved Little League is probably an understatement.”
Meriweather served as president of the Little League board for over 30 years. As a volunteer, he ran the program, maintained the facilities, managed the finances and coordinated the tournament logistics for each All-Star team.
“At times, this consumed 30-plus hours a week serving the Washington Little League organization even despite having a full-time job,” said Bottorff. “Through the years, he captured such wonderful memories of so many volunteer coaches and watched thousands of young men and ladies learn to play ball while learning the meaning of what being a part of a team means.”
For a few of those years, Meriweather had the pleasure of watching his two sons play Little League baseball. More recently, he was able to watch his grandson play.
“After 40-plus years of volunteering for the Little League, he decided to hang up his cleats recently and has turned it over to other fine volunteers to run the program now,” said Bottorff. “He has helped with the transition of new leadership and continues to be an active Rotarian, volunteering his time in many other ways.”
Meriweather, accompanied by his wife Jennie at the banquet, was taken by surprise when the announcement was made.
“Talk about being duped,” he said. “But I really do appreciate this award. My time with the Little League was a labor of love and I treasure all of it.”
Also during Wednesday’s luncheon, Lyn Brackens, owner of Trends Downtown on Court, was announced as the recipient of the Chamber’s prestigious Business Person of the Year award. Chamber President Whitney Gentry made the presentation.
“As a lifetime resident of this community, our BPOY advocates for schools, many of our local non-profits like Toys for Tots, the Humane Society, Hospice, the Fayette County Health Fair, cancer research and breast cancer awareness,” said Gentry. “(Brackens) encourages their staff of about 20 people to donate their time and support to causes as well. The entire team can be found providing support for teachers, reading to students and donating supplies for classroom needs. She was described by those who made the nomination as ‘believing in the betterment of people and pushes them to be their best in all situations.’”
For the past 13 years, Brackens has served on the hospital board with her current term running until 2022.
“She was personally one of the first people I met when I came to town….because I needed a haircut….I would echo as a person of integrity, character, professionalism and humor,” Gentry said.
Other major awards presented were: Large Business of the Year award to YUSA Corporation; Small Business of the Year award to Hartley Oil; Quality of Life Award to Community Action Commission of Fayette County; and Innovation in Business award to Pour Boys’ Brew House.
Gentry presided over the luncheon and made the award presentations. Chamber board chair for the past year, Merleen Van Dyke, passed the gavel to the new chair, Branen Weade.
Todd Henry, an author and international speaker as well as a 1991 Miami Trace graduate, was the featured speaker. Look for more on Henry’s presentation in an upcoming edition of the Record-Herald.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica