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VISIONS 2024: Local community leaders honored for bringing community together
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The 2024 Community Spirit Award winners, the Covington Fire Department. - photo by Garrett Pitts

COVINGTON, Ga. – For the seventh consecutive year, The Covington News honored some of the top community leaders during the 2024 VISIONS Banquet on Tuesday.

This year, the theme for VISIONS is “Better Together.” 

Leading the ceremony was managing editor Phillip B. Hubbard, who said that each of the recipients exemplified that theme.

“The 2024 Visions magazine theme is, ‘Better Together,’ Hubbard said. “And, we as The Covington News staff, firmly believe that the following award winners are reflective that Newton County is better together,” Hubbard said.

Community Spirit Award

This year, history was made as the Covington Fire Department (CFD) became the first group to win the Community Spirit Award. Normally, only individuals have received this honor.

While the CFD has remained a constant within the community, they were most notably recognized for leading the charge in fighting the August 25, 2023 fire that ravaged a portion of the Covington Square.

Accepting the award on behalf of the CFD was fire chief Joe Doss.

“It means the world for us to be recognized for this,” Doss said. “What we don’t like is having to be recognized for a big fire that impacted our Square, but we are available for you anytime.”

Doss said that while he was appreciative of the award, that the duty to protect and serve is what the CFD is all about.

“Please, know that we appreciate that, but also always remember, it’s what we prepare for,” Doss said. “It’s our job, and we’re more than happy to do that job.” 

Youth of the Year

History was also made with the Youth of the Year Award, as for the first time, a group was honored with this distinction.

Four students with the Newton College and Career Academy created the award-winning Quick Save CPR Mat, a device designed to administer CPR to those in need.

Members of the team include Nevaeh Craven, Layla Crayon, Hulet Neely and Shania Stewart.

Two members — Craven and Stewart — accepted the award on behalf of the group.

“We actually did not expect this to go this far,” Craven said. “This just started as a project and then eventually we were entered into competitions and received a lot of placements,  and yeah it’s been a great success.”

Stewart wants this invention to be beneficial and save lives.

“We’re glad to see our hard work recognized,” Stewart said. “We just hope that our inventions or any further inventions can be of great help to our community.”

Employer of The Year

Receiving Employer of the Year was longtime local veterinarian service Animal Medical of Covington.

Accepting the award on behalf of the pet clinic was Dr. Kristian Shriver, who said the staff is what makes the clinic so special.

“We’re only as good as the staff that we have. I personally think we have the greatest staff in the world,” Shriver said. “I am always in awe of their tireless and sometimes thankless devotion for their work and their continued education.”

Unsung Heroes

This year’s unsung heroes were Fred Johnson, Johnny Edwards and Lindsay Dycus.

Johnson is a deacon at Good Hope Baptist Church and is known for his initiatives in cleaning up neglected cemeteries and restoring them. At 85 years old, Johnson said he will continue to serve the community the best he can.

“I enjoy doing what I do, cause if I don’t do it, then hey, who’s gonna do it,” Johnson said.

Edwards is the chorus director for Newton High School and has won several district awards for his work in the classroom.

Edwards was not present at Tuesday’s ceremony, but accepting the award on his behalf was Newton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Duke Bradley III.

 “I’ve been to all of our schools and visited dozens of classrooms, but to visit Mr. Edwards' classroom really is a treat,” Bradley said. “It’s very difficult to summarize that passion that he has, the impact that he has on young people, the enthusiasm that he exudes, the joy that he has for teaching young people, but it really is evident.”

Dycus is the executive director of Alcovy CASA, a nonprofit designed to help improve the lives of children in foster care in both Newton and Walton counties.

While Dycus was the recipient of the award, she stressed that the honor goes to all CASA volunteers. 

“I’m thankful tonight to accept this for our CASA volunteers,” Dycus said, “who do the work everyday.” 

Toward the end of Tuesday’s banquet, Hubbard announced the VISIONS magazine will be released in the Saturday-Sunday April 20-21 print edition of The Covington News.