Claudia Minge is no attention -seeker.
She shies away from the spotlight, even as she enjoys seeing her home community thrive in it. She gets uncomfortable — almost anxious — about things like taking photos of herself or receiving awards and accolades for the tireless service she’s given to Covington and Newton County over the years.
But when it comes time to talk about her passion and love for the community she was born and raised in, Minge becomes another person — one uninhibited by nerves or skiddishness. One who will take any and every opportunity to boast about the community she loves.
Take, for instance, when Minge, an administrative assistant at First Covington United Methodist Church, was given the Martin Luther King Jr. Dreamer award recently.
It was for her work specifically with the area’s annual Day of Service — an 9-year old event originally designed as a simple way for her church to give back that turned into a yearly gathering of over close to 4,000 area residents who share in giving resources and love to those who need it most.
Minge recalled her shock when she realized she was doing more than just showing up to the award ceremony as one of many regular participants.
“I just thought I was attending the event,” Minge said. “No one gave me any heads-up about me receiving the award. I was just sitting there think how it was a lovely, very powerful service. The mayor, the county commissioner, the board of education chair, the sheriff. They all got up and spoke and I’m sitting here thinking how this just speaks volumes of our community.”
And then someone got up and to talk about the Dreamer award. And they began talking about the Day of Service, and Change the World Day — another event powered behind the scenes by Minge and others who work with her.
“At first I’m thinking, ‘Oh this sounds nice,’” she said. “And then my senior pastor at my church was on one side and my daughter was on the other side and they were looking at each other and I said, ‘Oh my.’ I was absolutely floored.”
Minge received the award grudgingly — not because she wasn’t honored, but because it just isn’t in her to look for such accolades.
“I don’t look for recognition, and I don’t expect it,” Minge said. “I’m a fly-under-the-radar girl. There are so many other people who do so much that make these things I’m involved in happen. This award is not my award. This is the community’s award. That’s how I feel about it.”
But when she stood in front of the audience gathered for the award ceremony, Minge had absolutely no problem talking about one of her greatest loves — the place she calls home.
“I was born and raised in this community,” she said. “So I have a deep love for this community. When I look around and see all the unhappy things going on in our world, it’s special when we get to do things like a Day of Service or Change the World Day to to see that there’s so much good too.”
Change the World Day is also an annual event where people from across different faith backgrounds and various walks of life gather on the square to pray for the city of Covington, Newton County and all who make it go. Like the First Covington UMC Day of Service, Minge is the administrative energy behind it all, helping things to run smoothly and without a hitch — behind the scenes, of course.
“You see people loving each other and caring for each other and praying for each other,” she said. “You learn that we are not separate. We all have different churches and other differences, but we’re all God’s people. We may be different groups and businesses, but we should always have that sense of community. I can talk about those things all day.”
Even before Minge started working at Covington First UMC and for various service-based events across the area, she was heavily invested into the Covington and Newton County community as the owner of Claudia’s Flowers on the square.
She was one of Covington’s foremost florists for over 20 years before issues with allergies forced her to step away from the business. But even then, she took pride in using her gifts to help make her fellow neighbors smile.
She says the way that she seamlessly transitioned from florist to church administrator was nothing short of “God making things fall into place” for her to continue loving on the community as she always had — just in a different capacity.
That passion was instilled in her from the beginning stages of life.
“It’s the way my momma raised me,” she said. “She raised me with a great sense of family and friends and community. She taught me to love people, but to always give back. I was raised in Newton County, educated here. I had a business that provided me a living, but it also was a ministry to me. For 20 years as a florist, we went through life, births, wedding and deaths, celebrations and holidays, so it’s all been very personal for me.”
And that’s why she admittedly gets choked up when she begins to talk about it — whether it’s in front of a large crowd at an awards ceremony, or speaking to a smaller group at a Rotary Club lunch, or even talking to someone on a one-on-one basis. She sheds those tears because she counts it a privilege to lead the ministries and service opportunities she leads.
And she says that even with the difficulties that inevitable negativity that sometimes invades her home community, Newton County has nothing to be ashamed of.
“You can go to any community across this country, and there’s always some negative thing happening, or some crime or people who are making bad choices,” Minge said. “But I think if you really are looking beyond that, you will always find the good. There are so many good people in this community. So many good, Christian people in this community.”
Which is why she has a very simple policy for anyone who wants to make it a habit to bring negativity and bad vibes her way — don’t.
“With education, recreation, arts, health, this county and community has so much to offer,” she said. “But you have to go to that place. You have to gravitate to all those positives. And so when people get bogged down in the negative and petty, I can’t go there. There’s too much to feel blessed about. Let’s focus more on people and let’s focus more on the good.
“That’s why I do what I do.”
Congratulations to Claudia Minge, 2018 Unsung hero award winner.