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Residents honored during 37th annual Newton MLK Celebration
Newton County MLK Celebration Choir
During the 37th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in Newton County broadcast via Facebook on Sunday, the Newton County MLK Celebration Choir performed various songs. - photo by Special to The News

COVINGTON, Ga. — Area residents were honored Sunday for their contributions to the “peace and unity” of Newton County ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Longtime resident Freda Reed was recipient of the “I Have a Dream” Award during the 37th Annual Commemorative Celebration of the Life and Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which was live streamed via Facebook.

To be nominated for the “I Have a Dream” Award, nominees must have given at least two years of service to the Newton County community; must be a registered voter; is affiliated with a church/synagogue/worship center; made contributions to the community that are not for profit and visible to the community; made nondiscriminatory contributions; models a spirit of peace and unity; is one who will initiate and support change; must be endowed with a humble spirit; must be steadfast in his/her convictions; and must be one who fosters and supports education on all levels.

Reed, who has been called a “fearless crusader and advocate” for the youth and elderly across the county, is director of Newton County Senior Services Inc., where she has worked for more than 20 years. In this role, Reed has worked to help make the lives of the elderly participants remain independent and active. 

After realizing many seniors in the community were the sole caregivers in their household and even raising their grandchildren, Reed was inspired to write a grant application seeking funding to organize the Great and Grand Program, which offers one week of camp for area youth, and helps get school supplies, clothes and counseling to students.

Reed is a member of Saint Paul AME Church. She is married to Rickey Reed, Sr., the mother of two adult children and two grandchildren.

Weston Brown received the Trailblazer Award.

To be nominated for the Trailblazer Award, nominees must be a longtime resident of Newton County; must be a registered voter; must be a creator of change in the community and follow through to implementation; change facilitated by the nominee must be a benefit to the community; must be resourceful and committed to all aspects of the county; and the nominee must foster a cohesive spirit of “peace, unity, diversity and love.”

Brown, originally from Blakely, Georgia, has been described as a “gentle giant” within the Newton County community. Brown was the first African American teacher to integrate Newton County Comprehensive High School in 1967; he taught construction. 

Brown was named Newton High’s Teacher of the Year in 1974 and 1982. He was also named the state’s construction teacher of the year. 

In 2000, Brown retired from teaching after spending a total of 33 years in the classroom. However, today, at the age of 80, former students, community leaders and business owners regularly reach out to consult Brown about not only business, but life.

Brown is an entrepreneur. He partnered with his brother, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown to form Brown’s Construction and has continued to teach construction to those willing to learn.

Brown is a deacon and member of the Trustee Board at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Area students Zion Driskell and Leah Lang were named Young Dreamers.

To be nominated for the Young Dreamer Award, nominees must be a resident of Newton County, enrolled in one of the public schools of Newton County in grades K-12; must have demonstrated interest in fostering peace, unity, diversity ad love among his or her peers; and must have made a difference in the lives of others who may have otherwise been overlooked, ignored or disadvantaged.

Driskell was said to be the “epitome of rendering service in the community.” The Newton High School senior serves as a community explorer under the Covington Police Department and regularly volunteers in the operation of community events. He has worked as the Rams’ football and basketball manager. Driskell has also worked at Lester Lackey Funeral Home. He hopes to one day become a funeral home director.

Lang is a ninth-grader at Journey Academy in Covington. She is said to have “a heart the size of Georgia” and “demonstrates focused academic drive, school leadership, local church involvement and Girl Scout community involvement.”

Lang is a member of New Hope Baptist Church where she sings and leads in the youth and mass choir. She is also a member of the MLK Community Choir and school chorus.

Since 7 years old, Lang has been a Girl Scout, earning medals on four different occasions for sales in Troop No. 25525.

Recently, Lang sought out permission to visit residents of Westbury Rehab & Nursing Home of Conyers that had no family or visitors and she would give those residents inspirational cards, provide gifts during the holidays and pray for them.

During the celebration, “The Glorify God Dancers” of Good Hope Baptist Church in Covington, and the Newton County MLK Celebration Choir performed.