At the State of the City Address last week, Auburn Mayor Ron Anders recognized six community members with the second-annual Mayor's Lamplighter Awards, which honor those who make a large impact in the community.
Anders began the presentation ceremony by recalling an anecdote of author Robert Louis Stevenson as the inspiration for naming the Lamplighter Awards.
"(Stevenson) was watching the lamplighter quietly go through his community and light the lamps so people could safely walk at night," Anders said. "Tonight, we will recognize six people who quietly light the lamps for our city here in Auburn."
The six recipients of this year's Lamplighter Awards are Katie Basden, Colleen Jennings, Dr. Fred Kam, Odalys Silvera, Charles Smith and Karen Turner.
Anders said Basden, a former cheerleader at Auburn University, is a "relentless servant" and highlighted her work helping found the Eagles Foundation, which raises funds to provide scholarships and support for Auburn University students.
"Every new venture needs support, and this Lamplighter has cheered for all things Auburn all of her life," said Anders.
If you have walked through downtown Auburn over the last decade, odds are you have seen Jennings, who, in 2006, took over the care of the city's hanging flower baskets, which now number 35.
"This task is every day, all year. During the summer months, she waters each basket twice a day — 35 baskets, two times a day, every day. Have you seen her dragging her water container around town, often on a ladder, sweating profusely, but always determined to take care of Auburn's baskets," said Anders. "Her attitude could be summed up in this quote, 'I do occasionally have a lizard leap out of the baskets. When one lands on me, I'll be screaming. Other than that, it's a day in the sunshine.'
"Isn't it a warm feeling to know that the caretaker of our baskets thinks that this is just a day in the sunshine?"
Anders also honored Auburn University Medical Clinic Director Dr. Fred Kam, and noted the words shared in an email sent by a student, who described Kam's "die-hard passion for academia and assuring everyone feels a part of the Auburn family no matter your social, economic status."
Anders also noted how instrumental Kam has been not only as the primary contact for thousands of students, parents, faulty and staff of the university, but also as a primary source of information during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"To me, he has been an honest sounding board as we've navigated a world which none of us have ever experienced," Anders said. "But his work only reflected his servant's heart. He takes care of our bodies as his vocation. He spends his free time assisting the hearts and minds and souls of Auburn's students."
Anders also recognized the good work of Odalys Silvera, who came to the United States in 1980 when her family sought asylum, later came to Auburn to raise a family, and in 2016 founded the Esperanza House, a Christian nonprofit that currently assists more than 75 Hispanic families with over 200 children in the Auburn community by providing services like tutoring, food distribution, health screenings and running clothing, toy and book drives.
"This is a ministry that seeks to improve the quality of life of low-income Hispanic children," said Anders. "Once arriving in a foreign country protected by political asylum, that was 40 years ago, today she is leading a ministry, a ministry that conveys trust and hope and a promising future. I imagine that that was the same trust and promise that that young girl was seeking when she arrived in our country in 1980."
Anders also honored Charles Smith, who currently serves as the president of the Auburn City Schools Board of Eduction. Anders cited his work with the Lee County Youth Development Center, the Auburn Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Planning Commission, the Greater Peace Community Development Corporation and his time in the U.S. Reserves as other ways he has impacted the community.
He also noted that Smith serves as the "white hat" head official for high school football games.
"The term 'white hat' was derived from old Western movies in which the hero, the good guy, always wore a white hat. Webster's even defined the white hat as one who is admirable, honorable, the mark of goodness. Our next Lamplighter personifies all that is described in a person wearing a white hat," said Anders. "He is one of Alabama's very best high school football officials, the head official, the man in the white hat. What he does is not easy. He works in very difficult situations where emotion is primary and common sense is sometimes secondary. But he is there, making circumstances better because he listens, because he cares and because he is brave enough to dig in. He wears the white hat for all of Auburn's children, for all of Auburn's citizens."
The final recipient of the Mayor's Lamplighter Award is Karen Turner, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. Anders noted her "gift of hospitality" and how she has impacted so many young Realtors as they begin their careers.
"At these moments, she shared her life's journey to all those who enter her home who desire to make a career in real estate," and Anders. "They learn to be tough and not to waste time and to set goals. Yes, when you learn, you teach."
Anders also praised Turner for stepping in during a difficult time to become president of the board of the Auburn Opelika Habitat for Humanity.
" During a difficult time for all nonprofits, she has driven ahead with a capital campaign to provide the services of Habitat to all those in our community," said Anders. "According to Mark Grantham, the executive director of the Auburn Opelika Habitat, 'this has been a difficult year for us. But she helps us look at ways we can still be successful. When we cannot do some of the things that we would normally do, she helps find success.' "