Each spring, for 18 years now, the members of Cleveland 100 have honored the courage, dedication and commitment of our first responders during the Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon.
Cleveland 100 was founded by the late Courtney McGrady, retired ATF agent, and me, in 1996. Our goal was to help meet the immediate financial needs of the families of emergency personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty.
That need has been met three times since Cleveland 100 was founded. Those tragedies include the deaths of Sgt. Scott M. Berry, a Bradley County volunteer fireman, in 1997; Lt. Kenneth Simpson, Cleveland Police Department, in 2008; and officer Justin Maples of the Cleveland Police Department in 2012.
Cleveland 100 presents annual awards during the luncheons to first responders nominated by their departments. It recognizes courageous actions that have taken place in the past fiscal year, that have gone "above and beyond" to aid others during emergencies. Awards are given in two major categories, Dedicated Professionals and Community Services. A special honor, named the Courtney & Betty McGrady Award, is the highest given and is in memory of Courtney (who died in 2003) and his wife, Betty, who died in 2012.
This award is not given every year, but instead is held to be given out when "extraordinary circumstances occur" during the past year that are not only "above and beyond the line of duty," but also require some "self-sacrifice" and "exemplary actions" on the part of the recipient.
There is a third component to Cleveland 100 — a special scholarship. In 2004, after the death of Courtney McGrady, Cleveland 100 President Brenda Lawson established a scholarship at Cleveland State Community College in his memory. Courtney was a big proponent of education. He encouraged our first responders to pursue higher learning in their field, whenever possible.
Since it was created in 2004, the Cleveland 100 endowment has helped 10 people receive financial assistance from the Courtney McGrady Scholarship to support their studies. Winners have included first responders working toward further accreditation, people desiring to enter a career in emergency services and/or children or spouses of first responders.
The scholarship can benefit current first responders, children of fallen first responders who may be pursuing a first responder career or high school graduates with similar goals. Cleveland State has done a great job through the years helping select these recipients. And there are other scholarships, including one in memory of the late Ralph Buckner Sr., that are available at the community college.
Who comprises Cleveland 100? Its membership includes individual men and women of the community as well as businesses. Membership is maintained by individuals paying $100 a year and corporations paying $1,000 a year. The money is invested and stands ready to meet emergency needs should an emergency arise — just like the first responders.
Cleveland 100 is a nonprofit charitable organization incorporated under Tennessee state law.
This year's Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon will be held May 22 at The Mountain View Inn. Tickets are distributed through the emergency service agencies, paid for through sponsorship of corporate tables.
Our community is indeed proud of all the men and women who come to our aid during frightening and dangerous times. As it is often said, these are the people who run toward danger to protect their community.
We salute these emergency services "heroes" as well the families who lend support to them each and every day; these are the people who cope with a little uncertainty and concern for their loved ones each day.
I personally want to say a heartfelt "thank you" to Brenda Lawson, Cleveland 100 president, and the entire board and advisory group of Cleveland 100. This is a dedicated group of private citizens who help provide that important reassurance to our emergency professionals and to their families. Working hand in hand with the board and advisory group through the years, I know each of them has a passion for the Cleveland 100 mission. They realize it is the least we can do for the people who protect us and our families day in and day out.
A salute to our board of directors officers and members: Brenda Lawson, president; Joe Wilson, vice president; Zandra Welch, secretary; Kelvin Bishop, treasurer; and members Stephen Crass, Jeff Cunningham, David Gilbert, John Holden, Janey Patten, Drew Robinson, Scott Taylor and Angie Underwood.
Our advisory board consists of heads of the various agencies in Cleveland, Charleston and Bradley County.
Our Cleveland 100 organization is a model for other cities seeking ways to properly honor their public servants. It has been an honor to help "coach" other communities as they work toward formation of similar support organizations.
Cleveland 100 is just another example of the giving "spirit" that exists in Cleveland, Tennessee ... “The City With Spirit!”