CHATSWORTH — At first, Tim Howard declined to show up to the Murray County Family Connection’s annual luncheon to recognize a “Community Champion.”
The Bagley Middle School language and social studies teacher said he would have felt bad ducking out on his students for such a function. Then organizers explained to him that he was the event’s “surprise” honoree. They laugh at it now because they said Howard’s dedication and drive — the very thing that almost made him miss the reception in his honor — is what got him the recognition in the first place.
Each year the Family Connection, a group of leaders from several government agencies and community organizations, honors someone who has made a difference in the community. This year’s nominees besides Howard were Anthony (Tony) Causby, Susanne Crow, Mandy Ledford, Sharon Lichey, Beth Mallett and Merinda Silvers.
“It was very hard to try and choose,” said Tammy West, organization chairwoman and an officer with the Murray County Sheriff’s Office. “All of these people do a tremendous job.”
Yet she added she could “stand here for three days telling you about all the things (Howard) has done for our community and our children.”
Each year, she said, Howard organizes a trip for students to visit Washington, D.C., and he works to ensure not only children from families of means but also those with little money are able to go. A history buff who goes out of his way to share his expertise and passion with others, Howard organizes the weeklong Murray on My Mind class every year in which members of the community get to learn about where they live.
Howard works with the American Red Cross, Friends of the Chief Vann House and Spring Place Festival to name a few other activities.
A Berry College graduate, he “gladly helps any student” interested in applying to Berry or wanting more information about college, he said.
“He never receives any money for these things,” West said.
He didn’t receive money for his work from the Community Champion award either, but he accepted a heartfelt thanks and a specially designed plaque with a Murray County motif featuring historic buildings and a 3D emblem of the shape of the county. He said the recognition was “an honor.”
Howard said he takes pride in Murray County and encourages his students to do the same.
“I remind my students it’s good to go away and get your education and experience other things, but please come back here. We need you,” he said.
He also has a to-the-point take on something his students sometimes tell them they hear a lot: the idea that Murray County isn’t as good as others around it, that its government officials are more corrupt, or that its people don’t measure up.
“Other communities got just as much trash as we do,” he said. “We just don’t try to hide ours.”
The audience laughed.