BY VELMA SOUTHERLAND
Hugh Wells' record of community service is so distinctive and well known that Paige Mengel had to take a different approach when presenting the Exchange Club's Book of Golden Deeds Award on Tuesday evening at Link Hills Country Club.
Traditionally, the recipient's name is a big secret, and the presenter reads a long list of good deeds that eventually narrows the possibilities down until the audience has an "Ah, ha!" moment.
However, the "life spent in community service" of the former police chief, banking officer and all-around community servant are so "Hugh Wells" that Mengel dispensed with the game and simply enumerated many of Wells' accomplishments.
She concluded with a quote from Chuck Whitfield, president and CEO of Laughlin Memorial Hospital: "Every organization needs a Hugh Wells."
A standing ovation greeted Wells as he made his way slowly across the room to the podium.
After accepting the plaque from Mengel, Wells made a very brief statement: "I believe all's been said that could be said. This is quite an honor, and I appreciate it."
Wells' recognition was the highlight of the evening, but was far from being the only honor bestowed.
Bill Onkst, club president, welcomed everyone to the club's annual installation and awards banquet.
Following dinner, Onkst again presided over a number of awards.
He presented "Membership Milestones" to: Jan Leffers and Richard Cardwell, 10 years; Steve Burns and Teresa Whaley, 15 years; John Duggins, 25 years; Mickey Ellis, 30 years; and James Smith, 40 years.
The New Exchangite of the Year Award is presented annually to a person of the president's choice.
Onkst selected Lee House, who joined the club in 2012. He has been a member of the board of directors since July 2012 and involved in many of the club's activities, including assisting the program chairman.
House's "brief remark" of "Wow" brought laughter from the crowd.
The president also chooses the Exchangite of the Year, an award that is based upon who has done the most for the advancement of the club.
EXCHANGITE OF YEAR
Onkst's choice here was Steve Shore, the incoming president-elect.
Shore has been a member of the Exchange Club since August 2009 and on the board of directors since 2011.
He was selected as New Exchangite of the Year 2011, and has served as club secretary 2012, and youth chairman 2011 to present.
Shore said that he was "certainly overwhelmed" and that "there are other members of the club who deserve this as much or more than I do."
He drew laughter with his "padding my obituary" remark.
Onkst presented two Hugh Felts Memorial Scholarships, the winners of which are chosen on the basis of academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community service involvement.
Two scholarship are awarded annually to graduating seniors from the five local high schools. The scholarships provide $1,000 per year for four years as long as the student remains in good academic standing.
The winners were Maddison Melchionna and Macy Parham.
Melchionna is a graduate of Chuckey-Doak High School and plans to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the daughter of Victor and Gail Melchionna.
Parham is a graduate of West Greene High School and plans to attend East Tennessee State University.
She is the daughter of Martin and Linda Parham.
YOUTH OF THE YEAR
Shore returned to the podium to present the award to the Youth of the Year.
Throughout each school term, the club recognizes an outstanding boy and girl from each of the five local high schools. Those 10 then have the opportunity to be selected as Youth of the Year.
Criteria for the choice are academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community involvement and an essay on a topic chosen by the National Exchange Club. The topic this year was "Youth Volunteerism: Working Magic in Our Communities."
The local Youth of the Year receives a plaque and $1,000 along with the opportunity to be considered for the Tennessee District Exchange Club Youth of the Year, and ultimately Youth of the Year at the national level.
Callie Feezell of Chuckey-Doak High School, daughter of Jason and Loretta Feezell, was the winner.
She will attend the University of Tennessee.
Another youth award of the Exchange Club is the A.C.E. Award or Accepting the Challenge of Excellence.
Mengel considers this the "coolest thing the Exchange Club does."
The award is presented to a graduating senior who has had to overcome a severe handicap or exceptional hardship in order to finish high school.
The A.C.E. winner receives a plaque, $1,000 and the opportunity to compete at the state and national levels.
The award was presented, along with a standing ovation, to Theresa Dupler of North Greene High School.
Dupler is a three-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed and treated for leukemia at the age of 7 months and had a stem cell transplant. In 2009, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which required a thyroidectomy. In 2011, she underwent treatment for skin cancer.
She is the daughter of David and Laura Dupler.
Dupler plans to attend Walters State Community College.
Finishing out the evening was the installation of new officers and the passing of the gavel as the Exchange Club of Greeneville starts a new year.
Recognized as members of the board of directors were Wess duBrisk, Lee House, Gary Laun, Ronnie Hopkins, Kristin Small and Shelby Sullivan.
Mengel installed as officers: President, Joyce Doughty; President-elect, Steve Shore; Secretary, Debbie Southerland; Treasurer, Bill Riley; and Immediate Past President, Bill Onkst.
In his closing remarks, Onkst thanked the preceding club president, Johnny McGuffin, for the foundation on which he had built and all the members that they had "kept on doing what they were doing" when Onkst assumed office.
He discussed his love of the Exchange Club and what it does as he promised his support for the incoming president.
Doughty expressed her thanks to the members for their faith in her.
She focused on the extra E in Greeneville that makes it special and distinctive from all other Greenvilles across the country.
"I'd like to make the letter E distinguish our club and show everyone how very special we are, too."
She noted that "E" can bring to mind excitement, energy, education, entertainment, enthusiasm and excellence.
"If we have all those things and work together, we will show Greeneville what an active, valuable service organization can do for our community."
She concluded with her desire to see the club "serve in unity with those seeking better conditions, better understandings and greater opportunities for all."
Exchange member John Duggins provided important background information and research for this article.