Pandemic-delayed, the Civic Association Doubles Honors


by Kevin Cummings, Special to the Messenger

The Independence Day celebration in Sewanee marked a much-anticipated community reunion after the pre-vaccine isolation of the past year. The Sewanee Civic Association utilized the re-emergence to pass out 2020 quarantine-delayed awards along with current honors for community service.

“…A Zoom meeting is really not the place to present an award in the proper fashion,” said Brandon Barry, immediate past president of the Association. “Since Sewanee has such a great Fourth of July and a great gathering of people, we thought, as the Civic Association, it would be a great time to present these awards while everybody is in town.”

Beneath a white canopy in Angel Park, amidst tables replete with watermelon slices, champagne, cookies and cheese, ornamented with flowers like bee balm and bachelor’s buttons, the Association honored people who spread community good.

The Mountain Mask Initiative earned the 37th annual Community Service Award for the hundreds of hand-sewn masks created for businesses, individuals, and essential workers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when masks could be scarce.

“We know without a doubt that this group made a positive impact to the health and safety of the greater Sewanee area,” Barry said. “Their efforts of service in a time of dire need well warrants this award.”

Two of the organizers and seamstresses of the Mask Initiative, Rachel Lynch and Sally Hubbard, accepted the honor.

Another community leader who stepped up amidst the pandemic, Kerstin “Kiki” Beavers, garnered the 38th annual Community Service Award for spearheading two projects to raise money for pandemic-strapped Sewanee businesses and organizations. Beavers, current co-president of the Sewanee Civic Association and publisher/owner of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, stated she was “humbled and honored,” noting that many people worked in the effort. The projects raised more than $101,000.

The Association also recognized the past work of Bonnie and John McCardell with the 2020 Summa Cum Laude Award for community service. John served as vice chancellor of the University of the South from 2010 to 2020, and Bonnie was past chair of the South Cumberland Community Fund, among numerous other philanthropic endeavors.

“We love all of you and it’s great to be back…,” John told the dozens of people gathered in Angel Park

In the most emotional presentation of the afternoon, Janet Graham, community volunteer and former publisher of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, accepted the 2021 Summa Cum Laude Award from good friend and former co-publisher Laura Willis.

“This one is for Tim,” Graham said, dedicating the honor to her husband, an active Sewanee community volunteer who died in April 2020.

The Sewanee Civic Association traces its roots back to Sewanee men’s and women’s community service groups in the early 1900s, before officially becoming the Civic Association in 1942, according to the organization’s website. The group’s primary philanthropic effort is the Sewanee Community Chest, which has provided financial support of more than $1 million to area organizations in the last decade.

For more information, visit <sewaneecivic.org>.