By David Rogers. June 24, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — After spending a little more than 10 years helping start and then nurturing the growth of southern Watauga County’s most successful food bank — and more — Linda Laughter has handed off operations of Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. to the growing agency’s board of directors and Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church. Her vision, persistence in getting the job done, and hard work were recognized Monday night as Laughter was named “2019 Blowing Rock Citizen of the Year” by The Rotary Club of Blowing Rock.
COVER IMAGE: In front of a standing ovation with 2018-19 club president Ken Wehrmann (right) looking on, 2019 Blowing Rock Citizen of the Year Linda Laughter thanked the club for the recognition, but heaped high praise on the many people through the years who have given and given generously to the organization. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Joe Dyer, who for the last four years has captained the local Rotary club’s Vocational “Avenue of Service”, received “2019 Rotarian of the Year” recognition from outgoing club president Ken Wehrmann. Both Laughter and Dyer’s award presentations were highlights of the club’s annual banquet, during which a new president and leadership team assume the mantle of responsibility for the club affairs beginning July 1st.
Some ten years ago, Linda Laughter, school secretary Trish Kohlasch, and 7th grade science teacher Liz Tincher got together at Blowing Rock School to form Blowing Rock CARES to help augment the nutritional needs of needful students. While still based at the school, they expanded the services provided to help families with their utility bills and also served as a clearinghouse for recycling gently used and new clothing.
Even after Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. outgrew the school and expanded to helping other needful families in the area, Laughter stayed on to nurture and direct the efforts. Much of the organization’s growth in service to the community is directly tied to her efforts, as well as indirectly tied because of the leadership team she helped attract to the mission.
The best thing about Rotary is that we are all volunteers. The worst thing about Rotary is that we are all volunteers!
Dyer’s contributions as Vocational Service chair have been extensive, covering a wide variety of programs sponsored by the local Rotary club each year, including
- “Career Day” — which was started by Blowing Rock Rotary in the mid-2000s at Blowing Rock School, then expanded to include all schools in Watauga County. Originally for 8th graders, the event now includes participation by all 7th graders in Watauga County as they are exposed to many different future occupational opportunities, many of which represent good paying jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree.
- “Dictionary Project” — The Rotary Club of Blowing Rock spearheaded this project in 2005, an effort that now also includes the participation of Avery County Rotary and Boone Kiwanis. At various times over the years, dictionaries and atlases have been given to all third graders, fifth graders, eighth graders, while electronic resource tools have been given to high school students in Watauga County.
- “Student of the Month” program at Blowing Rock School
- $2,500 in college scholarships are awarded each year to deserving students from Blowing Rock
Other featured activities of the evening included the passing of the gavel from 2018-19 club president Ken Wehrmann to 2019-20 club president Ed Tausche. Wehrmann used the opportunity to thank his club leadership team from the past year for their service in making it a terrific club year, one filled with many club accomplishments, from fundraisers to service projects.
Tausche introduced his new leadership team, some of which are holdovers from the previous year and others who ascended into higher executive positions within the board of directors.
Colonel Bill Parker (Retired, U.S. Marine Corps), Blowing Rock club member, past club president, and past District Governor of Rotary International District 7670 (western North Carolina), noted just before overseeing the installation of Tausche as the incoming club president, “The best thing about Rotary is that we are all volunteers. The worst thing about Rotary is that we are all volunteers,” alluding to the challenges of putting together an effective operating organization at every level with no paychecks or signed employment contracts.
“Everyone works for Rotary and its projects,” Parker said, “because they love to serve others where and when those needs are recognized.”
Parker also marveled aloud to the group of nearly 100 Rotarians and their spouses, “Think about the challenge here. Every July 1st, there is a complete leadership transition in every one of 34,000 Rotary clubs worldwide.”