We believe our Cleveland and Bradley County home is one such community that displays such passion for others.
So does Brenda Lawson, a highly respected businesswoman who this week was re-elected president of Cleveland 100, an organization co-founded in 1996 by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and the late Courtney McGrady, a former law enforcement professional who later turned his talents to development.
Most are well familiar with the work of Cleveland 100. This splendid organization has taken upon itself the responsibility of caring for the surviving family members of emergency services personnel in this community who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
In this week’s naming of officers, the group tabbed Joe Wilson, executive director of the Bradley County 911 Communications Center, as its vice president; and re-elected Joe Marie Earel, who has been affiliated with Cleveland 100 since its inception 16 years ago, as secretary and treasurer.
As the organization’s new vice president, Wilson succeeds the late Betty McGrady-Ballard, widow of the Cleveland 100 co-founder. In another appropriate action, the group named Angie Underwood to its board. Underwood is the daughter of Betty McGrady-Ballard and stepdaughter to Courtney McGrady.
Continuing their strong commitment to Cleveland 100 is important to Underwood, as evidenced in her reaction to being named to the board.
“Mom and Courtney always had our family sit together at the McGrady Development Corporate Table (at the Cleveland 100 annual banquets), and I know how important it was to them for our family to support this cause,” Underwood told our newspaper. “I know Mom and Courtney would have wanted me to represent them and carry on their legacy of lending support to our emergency services personnel. I know of no better way than to serve with Cleveland 100.”
Among those most recently supported by Cleveland 100 is the family — including three young sons — of former Cleveland Police Department officer Justin D. Maples who died May 20 in a crash involving his patrol car while responding to a call to assist a fellow officer with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
Almost immediately, our community opened its heart to the Maples family, the police department and to municipal leaders who lost an endearing loved one and a beloved friend.
The public response overwhelmed Lawson who told her fellow Cleveland 100 board members, “I was never prouder of my hometown and our Cleveland 100 organization than I was this past month during the tragic loss of an officer. This is something we hope never happens, but when it does, it’s good to know we have the ability to help the family in any way possible.”
Her words came during the same week as another emotional outreach. In a letter on behalf of the entire Maples family, Barry Maples — Justin’s father — offered a sincere message of thanks and genuine appreciation for the support offered by Cleveland and Bradley County residents, as well as the thousands of well-wishing emergency service progressionals in distant cities, counties, states and jurisdictions — many of whom attended the fallen officer’s funeral.
In the letter, he writes to the community, “We all believe our loved ones are special. That’s as it should be. But on Thursday, May 24, 2012, around noon, you were the real heroes. You lined the funeral procession route, stood in the hot sun, waved, held signs, blew kisses, said ‘God Bless You,’ and waved our American flag.”
The letter serves as a heartfelt thank you from a grieving Cleveland family whose loved ones have benefitted from their hometown’s open heart.
The Maples family asked that we publish their letter.
We are proud to do so.
It is printed verbatim on today’s Editorial Page.