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Desmond Spalding was honored earlier this year by the Women of Color as their 2009 Citizen of the Year. The award was a surprise to Spalding.
"I was wondering why my wife kept asking me if I was going to dress up," he said.
The award was presented to Spalding during the organization's annual Black History Celebration in February.
Spalding, Jerry Evans and Jackie Furmon were named to the board of directors of the Marion County Youth Center, which was incorporated as a non-profit organization last summer by Mary Cowherd and Camille English.
Furmon and Cowherd have previous experience working with local youth, both informally and through organizations such as Generation Youth.
"We're just working to make things better for the kids," Furmon said.
And that effort to help the next generation is why Spalding was selected to receive the award, according to Rose Graves, the history chairwoman for the Women of Color.
"We just like that he's giving back to the young children," she said.
Spalding moved to Marion County in the 1980s, when he was in the eighth grade. He admitted that he didn't always do the things that he should do growing up, but he eventually went to Sue Bennett College, where he completed a degree in business administration in 1995.
Now he's a little older, a father and a husband, and soon will become a deacon at Lebanon First Baptist Church.
"As I get older, I'm getting more mature," he said. "I just see life different as far as helping people and helping the community."
Spalding added that his wife, Dawn, has encouraged him in his efforts.
About a month before the award presentation, Dawn said she learned her husband would be getting the award. To make sure he would be in attendance, Dawn told him that he should attend the celebration to represent his church. As the biography of the citizen of the year was read, Spalding did figure out his name was going to be announced.
"He was pretty nervous," Dawn said.
Spalding said he was surprised that people have noticed what he has been doing. At the same time, he said the award has inspired him to get even more involved. As an example of this, he said he intends to enroll in Leadership Lebanon, a program to educate residents about the community and to encourage community involvement.
The Marion County Youth Center is still looking for a permanent home, unfortunately.
Originally, the center's board intended to renovate the top floor of Dawn Spalding's law office. More recently, they have been looking in finding a different location for the center, Furmon said.
In the meantime, the center will continue to organize events, such as the dance it hosted Saturday, for local youth.
Graves said that Spalding has been a good person and a good example for local children.
"He's just an awesome guy," she said.
- Anyone interested in helping the Marion County Youth Center can contact Jackie Furmon at (270) 692-7797 or Desmond Spalding at (270) 402-4113.