The county's up-and-coming leaders between the ages of 18 and 40 were recognized during a special ceremony sponsored by London Downtown and the Sentinel-Echo on Tuesday evening. The annual Living Treasures banquet was held Tuesday evening along with Legacy honors and the Sentinel-Echo sponsored 10 Under 40. The Sentinel-Echo General Manager Mark Walker presented the awards.
The ten individuals who have made contributions to their community that were honored this year were:
Being involved in her home community has always been important to London native, Molly Barnett.
That dedication has paid off in many different aspects of her life, primarily stemming from her volunteerism in many local events.
The daughter of Jim and Judy Barnett, she has a sister and brother, nieces and nephews and four great nieces and a great nephew, being that she was born when her siblings were nearly grown.
Barnett has always enjoyed being involved in extra activities. At South Laurel High School, she was a member of the Beta Club and Teenage Republican Club. She was active in college as well, attending Berea College and graduating with a degree in political science in 2007.
She did political work after college graduation for two years, then worked for the Scoville Firm for two years.
But her political degree paid off again, and she worked for the Republican Party of Kentucky for the 2011 election cycle.
Barnett began working as the program assistant for London Downtown in 2012 and was named executive director in 2014. During that time, Chris Robinson, who was executive director as she was program assistant, they came up with Boo on Main as a joint effort.
Barnett created Arts and Eats at the Market and the downtown Christmas Open House.
Prior to that, she worked on the organization committee with Thursday Night Live - which offers free concerts in front of the Laurel County Courthouse every Thursday night from June through August.
She was invited to go to Washington DC with the KY Main Street Coordinator and the KY Heritage Council to meet with our KY legislative delegation in the winter of 2016.
In 2016, she was hired as the community education and public information officer for the Laurel County Public School system where she attends school events and gathers information about staff and students and relays that information to the community. She is a strong believer in lifelong learning and believes her role in the school system is vital to that purpose - for herself and the community as a whole.
"This is a very good environment for that," she said. "Covering the school system gives me a lot of satisfaction. Seeing the wheels turn in a child's head, when you see them get something that they've been struggling with. You see the future through a child's eyes."
"We've had a very good year this year," she continued.
Barnett remains active in her volunteerism in her hometown. She is a member of the London Rotary Club where she is winding down her term as president and she is a volunteer with CASA, which provides support for foster children as a liaison between the child and the natural and foster parents and the judicial system.
"I think it's important to be involved in the community," she said. "We learn so much when we share ideas."
She continues to do that through various programs in the area. Barnett is a graduate of the Leadership Tri-County program and received the Duane Hart Leader Among Leader award in 2008. She serves on the regional advisory board for God's Pantry and volunteers there to help with the Backpack Club. She was involved in clogging and learned to weave while working at the Sunshine House at Berea College.
She credits her love for her community to her parents and the opportunities available in the area.
"I've always been fortunate to have a lot of encouragement - from teachers, my parents, my church family, and friends," she said. "Being involved now with the school system has put me in a place where you're always encouraged to do better."
His faith is the factor that motivates North Laurel High School Choral Director Jeremy Burns and he reflects that in his everyday life.
Burns now teaches at his alma mater after earning his bachelor's degree of music in education, Masters of Education in school counseling and Rank 1 in school counseling from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg. He began his teaching career as a substitute teacher in the Laurel County School System but is now serving as choral director in the same room where he was once a student under his former teacher, Sue Ann Wright.
Burns realizes that every student who enrolls in his choral classes will not be the newest "American Idol," but he feels that every student has an opportunity to learn music and appreciate its role in life.
"Chorus teaches team building where students can encourage one another," he said. "They learn balance and how to blend in with others, learn to rely on one another and form relationships because of it. Many of the students use chorus class to build friends. It gives you a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose."
He can list no specific preference to musical styles himself, quickly stating that he finds personal satisfaction in all types of music. Burns wants to share his passion with students so they too can find their place in the school and in life.
"All I've ever wanted to do is teach music," he said, "and some of my biggest influences in life were my teachers, like Sue Wright and the staff at the University of the Cumberlands."
His choral productions are not shy of his religious beliefs, often featuring gospel and inspirational songs. He uses that opportunity to enhance the musical and historical role of music to his students. Some of that motivation is derived from his deep faith.
Burns serves as the youth pastor at First Christian Church in London, taking on his position just this year. As youth pastor, Burns and his wife Laura teach the youth group on Wednesday and Sunday evening services as well as teaching Sunday School on the Sabbath morning services. This position came after the Burns family attended and served in other churches across the community, but joining First Christian Church in the fall of 2017.
The son of Ted and Charlotte Brewer of London, Burns and his wife have two children, Melody Lane and Max Colton.
Burns also works with Brad Jones with Oasis Entertainment, where he assists with the sound for numerous events around the London area. He can be seen at Thursday Night Live, the Laurel County Homecoming and musical events for London Downtown.
"We also do the sound for proms, concerts and weddings," Burns said.
Burns is grateful for the opportunity to do the thing he loves - teach music - and hopes he inspires his students to appreciate the art of music. He holds himself to high standards before God as well as his students and peers.
"I give all the glory for every blessing to Jesus Christ, our Savior," he said. "Through Christ, all things are possible."
"I work at Hearthside Food Solutions. Most people know it as 'the cookie factory'," said LeeAnn Dearner, Hearthside's administrative assistant. "I work for the managers in the building, I do reporting, I help HR when we do events, such as our easter egg hunt and our Christmas event. I have my hand in a little bit of everything."
That includes organizing the yearly Christmas baskets for needy families in the community, an effort coordinated through the Family Resource and Youth Service centers of Laurel County and East Bernstadt schools. She also recruits volunteers to help assemble food baskets.
She has also coached T-ball leagues for several years and has been involved with fundraising activities for the March of Dimes, Susan B. Koman Breast Cancer and American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life with the Circle of Friends group.
Dearner graduated from Union College two years ago with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration. After working at HSBC for nine years, her position in HR was removed. She found work at Hearthside and has been there ever since.
"My HR position at Hearthside had been eliminated too, in 2015. That was the hardest time since my little boy was born in May when that happened. It was a hard transition. I really loved that job."
Luckily, Dearner's plant manager ensured she still had a place in the company.
"I have a great boss, that's what keeps me coming back. I also like the environment there, the people I work with. You can't beat the benefits," said Dearner.
Around three years ago, many of Hearthside's hourly employees on the production floor were out of work due to low demands. Dearner cites that helping those individuals and their families was one of the most memorable moments of her career.
"It was right around Christmas time and we all pitched in and raised money for the parents really struggling to have Christmas for their children," recalled Dearner. "We got lists of what their children wanted for Christmas. I like helping in the community, but it's good when you can help people you see every day."
Dearner said that London continues to grow. She hopes that people continue to bring new business in London and help the city continue to expand.
Dearner is married to Will Dearner and the couple have two children - Brady, who will soon be 5, and Waylon, two months.
Adam Hooker grew up in Laurel County and even when he left to attend college at Eastern Kentucky University, his plans were to utilize his degree and return to his hometown.
"I never wanted to leave Laurel County," he said.
This 2002 North Laurel High School graduate has seen that dream come true.
After college graduation, he landed a job as the financial analyst with the Knox County Board of Education, then as finance officer for the East Bernstadt Independent Schools.
But in 2011, he accepted a job with the Laurel County Board of Education as finance officer where he oversees the financial aspects of the school system.
"I sign off on all purchases, payroll, insurance, and the business side of the school system," he said. "I'm also the facilities director and work with the new projects and oversee the maintenance of the buildings in the district."
That involves working with the construction managers, engineers and architects of the various projects.
"I work with the managers to ensure the progress of the construction," he added.
While Hooker has had success in his life, he is also no stranger to heartache. His father, Cecil Darrell Hooker, was killed in an automobile accident when he was very young.
His mother, Kim Hooker (now Grant) taught at London Elementary and raised her two sons, Adam and Jon; and her daughter, Candice. But heartache came again when Jon and his wife, Scarlette Parsley Hooker, were killed in a plane crash in Lexington as they were en route on their honeymoon.
Hooker and his wife Brooklyn, whom he met during high school, honored his brother by naming their son after his brother. Jonathan Hooker, now 6, was joined by a sister, Lyla, now 4.
Hooker took comfort in his faith during the difficult times of his life, which has strengthened over his lifetime. He is now the pastor of Freedom United Baptist Church.
"That's the church my mother grew up in and where her family attended," he said.
Hooker said he receives a lot of satisfaction in his job working with the school system.
"There are a lot of students in the school system. It's my responsibility to see that they have good facilities where they can learn," he added. "We work hard to save money and spend it on them. We always want to make a difference for the children."
"We always put the needs of our customers first," said Katee Loftis, State Farm agent and owner of Katee Loftis State Farm.
After opening on Jan. 1 of 2018, the agency was named the number one new agency by State Farm for the entirety of 2018.
"No one has had that title for a whole year in the history of State Farm," said Loftis. "We qualified overall out of 19,000 agents. It means we're in the top one percent out of all State Farm agencies in the whole company!"
While her agency is just over a year old, Loftis has been with State Farm for seven years. She graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2012 with a degree in marketing, minoring in communications. That same year Loftis joined State Farm, operating as an agent aspirant five years before opening her agency.
"There was a posting that became available for the agency here and I had to go through a long process before getting selected. You have to become an approved candidate and then you have to interview for the opening. And then there's a 20-week internship program outside of Atlanta," Loftis explained.
Loftis comes from a family of State Farm agents. Her father has been with the company for 30 years and her sister is celebrating her fifth year.
"I've told people I've wanted to be an agent since I was 6 years old. I love helping people. State Farm allows me to do just that," Loftis said.
State Farm is known for providing property and casualty insurance; however, the business offers numerous financial services. The company provides life insurance, health insurance and even operates as a full-service bank.
"Last year, I sat down and delivered five checks to people who have lost someone. I advanced people money if they had a total loss like a fire. I was the first person to get them to a hotel room. So I just love helping and being there for people. My job is I go to bed every night and know I didn't help a person with a product they didn't need. Their worst day, I've been there for them," said Loftis.
She boasts that the Katee Loftis State Farm policy is to sit down with all customers, be they new or pre-existing. Making appointments with patrons allows agents to target specific needs. Anyone looking for State Farm's services is welcome to call, text, email or visit.
"We want to be everywhere in London, that is one of my objectives in 2019," said Loftis. "Personally, we've gotten involved in different organizations. I just got named a board member for the Leadership Collective. I'm an active member of the Laurel County Chamber, co-chair for the young professionals. And also we're teaming up with the Laurel London Backpack Club."
Katee Loftis State Farm will donate $10 to the Backpack Program of Laurel County for every call for a quote mentioning the organization. The business is located on 792 South Laurel Road in London. They can be reached over the phone at (606) 330-0007 and through fax at (606) 330-0006. The business is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At just 31 years old, London attorney Brittany Riley has already welded a variety of experience in the legal arena as well as community service.
The daughter of Jack Riley and Christine Riley, she is one of five children - John Riley, Heather Riley, Jessica Riley Hicks and Kaitlyn Riley - she grew up in Laurel County and wants to see her hometown grow and thrive.
She graduated from Transylvania University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in political science and art history. She then earned her law degree from the University of Kentucky in 2013 and was admitted to the Kentucky Bar that same year, being licensed to practice law in the state of Kentucky, including the United States District Court of Eastern District of Kentucky.
She began her career in law with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) in 2013 in the 27th Circuit by serving as staff attorney under Laurel/Knox Circuit Judge Greg Lay. A year later she joined the law practice of Hailey Scoville Bonham PLLC, Attorneys at Law where she practiced for four years. Last year, she became a partner with Scoville-Bonham & Riley, PLLC, Attorneys at Law.
She is dedicated to her hometown and has been involved in numerous organizations since returning to London in 2013. She has served as President of the Laurel County Bar Association, where she created "Something to Call My Own."
"That is an initiative where the Bar collected backpacks, blankets and toiletries for children who have been removed from their homes and/or placed in foster care in Laurel County," she said. "I received an award from Saint Joseph London hospital for that."
She is also a board member for London Downtown and the committee chair for the Design Committee for the board, and was appointed to the Downtown London Incentive Committee by Mayor Troy Rudder.
Riley also was appointed by the Kentucky Supreme Court as a Trustee for the Kentucky IOLTA Fund (Kentucky Interest On Lawyers' Trust Accounts), a program established in 1986 by the Kentucky Supreme Court. This organization pools client trust funds to generate interest on service fees and administrative costs. These funds are then used to offset legal aid programs for those unable to pay an attorney, for local pro bono program and other projects.
She is an alumna of Phi Mu fraternity and serves as enrichment honor specialist, or as a national/are officer for Phi Mu Fraternity. She also graduated from the 2018 class of Leadership Tri-County, an organization established to inform and educate local leaders in the needs of their communities and how teamwork can accomplish goals for improvement in specific areas.
Currently she is involved in keeping fit and teaching others to do the same.
"I am in process of being certified to teach barre fitness classes (in May) and will be teaching at Elevate Fitness in London," she added. "I'm currently co-teaching and training."
Despite her busy schedule, Riley remains dedicated to her community and her family. She and her companion, Jay Fleenor, are often seen at local events, showing their support for her hometown.
"I am passionate about being involved in the community so that I can repay Laurel County for the opportunities and support it provided me in my youth," she said. "However, I continue to be involved so that I can help shape our community into a place which young people want to return, build careers, get involved and raise a family."
The Laurel County Public Library has grown through the years, expanding not only its selection of books, movies and music, but also the services it offers. This growth wouldn't have been possible had it not been for the initiative and support from library staff. Leah Rudder is one of the individuals who has helped cultivate the library.
"Right now I do programs and promotions," she said. "I oversee all the adults, children and teen programs that happen here, as well as oversee the print material, the on-hand material, the newsletter -- anything that goes out to the public."
Rudder has worked at the library for 14 years. She said the experience has allowed her to watch the children's and adult's programs the library offers grow. These programs include book clubs, movie viewings, guest speakers and live performances.
"We work a lot with the schools. We work a lot with community organizations. We work really closely with city police -- they do a monthly program here: Storytime with the London Police Department. I'd just like to be more involved with community organizations and continue to build with what we have," said Rudder.
When it comes to expanding the library, Rudder said she wants to network with more community organizations to expand outreach. She hopes that through partnering with more groups and organizations, the Laurel County Public Library will continue to grow.
"I think we have a good base. We have a good network already with some organizations. The library provides so much that I don't think people realize that we offer. We do offer all the online databases, all of the classes that we offer. The library is more than just books."
The Laurel County Public Library is located on 120 College Park Drive in London. It's open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. The library can be called at (606) 864-5759 and found online at https://laurellibrary.org.
In a cozy office on the second floor of the Ryser Building on Main Street in London sits Sams Engineering, a structural engineering company comprising of just "four-and-a-half" employees.
"I primarily work as a consultant to architects," said Logan Sams, founder of the company. "Architects design how a building looks, how it is used, its floor-plan, layout, things like that. And then we fit the requirements of the building within those constraints."
Sams graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2005 with a degree in civil engineering. After working at a large construction firm for around three years, he employed at Gray Engineering and Design in London.
"That was right around the tail-end of the recession," recalled Sams. "Gray Engineering ended up going out of business. I had to start my own thing; it was either sink or swim."
Sams Engineering began in the basement of Sams' home on Jan. 1, 2011. After two years, he moved to his small office on South Main Street, employing two drafters, a licensed engineer and a part-timer to take care of payroll.
"I like having such a small company because I don't have to chase every piece of work that comes across my desk," explained Sams. "If I had a really large firm, I would feel like I'd have to land every job I possibly could to feed the monster, so-to-speak. I'd have an incredibly large amount of payroll to meet every single month." With his small company, Sams can choose which jobs interest him the most.
In spite of their size, Sams Engineering takes around a hundred jobs each year. A notable project includes the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, a recreation of Noah's Ark which currently is the largest timber project in the world.
"I love designing something in my head and working on plans," expressed Sams. "You've got this model in your head of what the building looks like and how it functions. And then as it actually starts to be erected, and you can physically go inside of it, and look at what you've seen in your head for so long, that's the most rewarding thing. "
With the joy of seeing ideas come to life comes the stress of managing multi-million dollar projects. Sams Engineering must ensure their projects can endure the weather and handling occupant-loads. If a dimension is wrong on a set of plans, somebody is responsible for paying upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the mistake.
"You just get accustomed to the burden. There's risk with any kind of business you make. You just gotta go with it or get out of the game," said Sams.
Sams advised any aspiring structural engineers to attend an accredited college and work in engineering-related positions during the summers. He warned to never go into an occupation blind.
"Do something you love, try to find something you love," said Sams, "this is our eighth year of business. For eight years, I've never looked at the clock to wait for five o'clock. Do something you love and never work a day in your life."
From college football player to franchise owner, Neil Warren strives to live up to his word in everything he does.
"I own and operate the restaurant Bojangles. I do everything from fulfilling a catering order to payroll to paying the bills to hiring and firing," Warren explained.
He graduated from Georgetown College with a degree in finance in 2004. He minored in communications because, to Warren, people-skills are some of the most important traits one can have.
"Multiple different locations with multiple people creates lots of different moving parts. I try to make sure each and every individual understands their value to our business. That takes time, energy and effort to make sure you have a relationship with those people," said Warren.
In college, Warren played on the Georgetown Tigers football team. Throughout his life, he's played baseball and basketball as well.
"I probably learned all the disciplines I learned today in sports," Warren explained. "I don't devalue education at all, but lots of times education can come in a lot of different platforms. For me, it was sports that taught me how to grind, taught me the importance of a good work ethic."
Warren came to be a Bojangles owner because of friends and mentors he's known in the restaurant business. Bojangles was also a brand that's been with him since his childhood.
"We'd stop at a Bonjangles along the way to the Carolinas. There, Bojangles is king. There are more Bojangles in North Carolina than there are McDonald's. That's why there was the biggest opportunity for growth for Bojangles in the state of Kentucky, because there was zero here until I started up here in London."
Since opening Bonjangles in London in 2014, Warren opened two more in Corbin and Somerset. He hopes to be able to grow Bojangles in Kentucky to the status it has in the Carolinas.
"Be precise, be organized, be committed," advised Warren, "be who you say you're gonna be and be committed to your plan."
Lane Young has seen many changes in this community since his childhood - positive changes that he hopes will continue over the next years.
This former athletic star at South Laurel High School saw many needs in his hometown, which inspired him to return here and start a business that he felt was direly needed.
Young played football, basketball and baseball during his high school years and went to Morehead State University to continue his football career after graduation before transferring to Eastern Kentucky University.
His own athletic abilities turned into a concern for fitness and he returned to London and established Powerhouse Gym in 2007.
"I have a passion for sports and with athletics, that bloomed into fitness programs," he said. "That paid off 12 years ago as introducing fitness to the community and inspiring people to get healthy."
Powerhouse Gym offers various programs and the success rates vary just as much as the programs, he said.
"We have group fitness, personal training and 24-hour options," he explained. "I've seen some people come in and shed a few pounds and others who lost 40 or 50 pounds. Fitness is not a standard for me, it's whatever makes you feel good."
The son of Don and Jonnie Jean Young, Lane is one of three children - a brother, Justin, and sister, Holly Young Bundy. He and his wife Megan have one child, 2-year-old Mia.
He wants to have more options for London, Laurel County and the surrounding communities and is proud of the progress made by the current leaders and volunteers who continue to increase activities for the residents in the area.
"All my family lives here and I enjoyed being raised here," he said. "This community is definitely growing and it's a good path to keep. People move here and talk about how they feel safe, not like the big cities or some other places."
He hopes the progress will continue with more businesses locating here and more activities to keep people coming to the area.
"I like London. Even though we're a progressive town, we still have that small town atmosphere that people like," he said. "We have the big city things with the small town attitude where people are friendly and helpful."
Offering something new was the motivation that he and friend Neil Warren researched when they launched Bojangles restaurant to the area.
"We felt like London needed something more and Neil researched and brought a growing business to London," he said. "Neil primarily runs Bojangles and we hope it will be something to help the growth of the community."
His family attends The Creek Church although his family time and interests in two businesses restrict him from a lot of participation in the church activities beyond regular services. But he sees the future of his hometown in a positive way and remembers how his own dream came true with bringing a full service fitness center to the area.
"There are options (at Powerhouse) for everyone," Young said. "Everything is in moderation."
But he is a firm believer in sharing kindness - a quality that he feels is a badly needed characteristic in today's society, whether it is applied in church, in business or in daily life.
"Being kind is a contagious thing - if you treat people good, they will treat others good," he said.
Not present for the awards ceremony were: Katie Loftis, LeeAnn Dearner and Neil Warren.