By Kim Walter
MIDDLETOWN -- To the crowd gathered at Lord Fairfax Community College on Monday afternoon, it was no surprise that Winchester resident Jean Lee won the 2013 "Walking King's Talk" award.
Area residents and leaders, as well as students of the community college, applauded Lee for her extensive community service. First and second place winners of the 2013 student essay were also announced.
Dr. Kate Simpson, LFCC English professor and secretary of Literacy Volunteers - Winchester area, introduced Lee and described her life's work.
"Jean has made educating those with fewer options her passion for over a decade," Simpson said. "She exemplifies the qualities that Dr. Martin Luther King exhibited, which is why she is well-deserving of this award."
Since 1983, Lee has been committed to civic work in the area, through her presence on the Board of the Adult Care Center, the Community Services Council, the Clarke County League of Women Voters, Aids Response Effort and as Executive Director of Concern Hotline, Inc.
Lee also won the Woman of the Year Award in 2003.
In her main role, Lee serves as the director of Literacy Volunteers -- the only organization in the surrounding area to support adults who need to build a foundation of basic skills in order to move out of the cycle of poverty. Through literacy, the small nonprofit business, helps adults reach their goals.
"Consider the role that reading plays in your college education," Simpson said to the audience. "Where would you be if you couldn't read?"
While Lee constantly applies for grants to keep the organization open, she also works with clients and the volunteer clients. Simpson said Lee encourages anyone, whether a United States citizen or immigrant, to use the low or no cost services.
"With better reading or computer skills, clients may get a job, receive a promotion, improve current employment, earn a GED, gain citizenship, or enter the larger educational scene," Simpson said. "Jean acts as a role model and leader for staff, volunteers and board members."
Lee accepted the award with her husband, daughter and two grandchildren present.
"Dr. King once said, 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,'" she said. "Today we are honoring a man who stepped out and decided to make a difference in his world, and that has been my inspiration as I try to make a difference in whatever small or large community that I live in."
"There are so many issues in this community and world to get involved in," Lee continued. "Don't let anyone try to tell you it doesn't make a difference when you decide to speak out. Ghandi said, 'Be the change you want to see,' so I challenge you with that."
Phoebe Kilby and Dr. Betty Kilby Baldwin spoke as well, and led two workshops for students, entitled "Creating the Beloved Community."
Several years ago Kilby decided to look up her genealogy, and discovered that her ancestors were slaveholders in the area. Consequently, she found Baldwin, a descendent of slaves held by the Kilbys.
Since the discovery, Kilby and Baldwin have become leaders in Coming to the Table, a movement which brings together families of slaveholders and slaves who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States' history of slavery.
Baldwin, speaking to the crowd, was interrupted by applause when she mentioned the major event of the day -- the presidential inauguration.
"We've come a long way," she said, smiling. "From slavery to holding the highest ranking office in America ... it's amazing."
Baldwin said that the day was also a special time as it surrounds the 50th anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech. She said she feels that she and Kilby are currently "living the dream."
The 1963 graduate of Warren County High School recounted the terror she suffered as a student in Front Royal. She and other students who were a part of the desegregation movement were witnesses of the "violent year."
"We weren't even allowed to go to our own prom," she said.
Even though all the things King worked toward were put into law, Baldwin reminded the audience that the job is not done.
"Laws only legislate," she said. "It takes relationships to create the beloved community."
She urged community members to not let the feeling of brotherhood become like Christmas decorations.
"We feel them and love them at a certain time of year, but when it's over, we take them down, put them in a box on a high shelf, and wait until the next year to even think about them again," she said. "We are inevitably our brother's keeper, and we must remember that every single day."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org