LAURINBURG — Though only in third grade at the time, Rachel W. Hughes remembers how greatly the deaths of Josh Dormagen and Chris McLean affected the Laurinburg community.
Seven years later, the high-schooler was surprised and honored to be named a recipient of an award created in honor of the teens: The Dormagen/McLean Award, given annually by the Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce to a student or recent graduate who “exemplifies the spirit of service, leadership and positive growth among their peers.”
Hughes was a member of Scotland High School’s Anchor Club. Her youth group at First Methodist Church was heavily involved with Habitat for Humanity and also delivered meals to the sick and shut-in. She also helped set up the luminary ceremony at the county’s Relay for Life.
Now a graduate student and resident of Chicago, Hughes said everything about growing up in Laurinburg helped shaped who she is today.
“Laurinburg is a small town but it’s a really great community,” she said. “It’s something I didn’t know I would miss. The people care about each other and they care about their community a lot. Compared to Chapel Hill, where I went to undergrad, and now Chicago, you don’t get that kind of community feel.”
Paul Harrell, a recipient of the award in 2006, echoed Hughes’ thoughts.
“Laurinburg is such a small town that when you’re doing community service, most of the time you work with people who you know and you can see the value that your service has,” he said.
The Campbell University graduate now works as the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.
“You don’t do community service for the recognition but it was nice to be recognized,” he said, adding that he knew both the McLean and Dormagen families and was impacted by the car accident that took the teens’ lives. “It meant a lot to me to be part of the group of people who have received the award.”
Hughes and Harrell are two of 13 recipients of the award, set to be given again at this year’s Diamond Jubilee at the Highlands on Jan. 23, beginning at 7 p.m. with a reception an hour prior.
Nominees must be residents of Scotland County, be between the ages of 15 and 21 as of Dec. 31, and have completed more than 60 hours of verifiable community or church service over the year. They also must not have any criminal record violations. While academic achievement will be considered secondary to community service, nominees must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be eligible for the award.
Also given will be the Dunbar/McCoy Quality of Life award, established in 1988 in the memory of Wade Dunbar and Mary McCoy. The award is given annually to civic-minded Scotland County resident who gives of his or her time and energy without expecting anything in return.
Both awards are handled by the Laurinburg/Scotland County Chamber of Commerce, but recipients are decided by nominations from the community. The chamber will be accepting nominations until Jan. 10.
Martha Fulton, McCoy’s daughter, says the annual presentation only “enhances the memory” of the church musician and mother of five who was a “real steward of the gifts she had been given.”
“She had a real ability to meet people where they were,” she said. “She had the ability to pick up on what people needed and was able to provide that for them.”
Fulton said she hopes the award will continue to encourage a community feel as her mother and Wade Dunbar did in their time.
They were friends, and helped to make it a very nice place to live,” she said.
Recipients of the Dunbar/McCoy award include Francis Bullard, in 1989; Keiko Fore, 1990; Martha Lytch Gibson, 1991; Mildred DePugh, 1992; Cynthia Ficklin, 1993; Mary Peden, 1994; Alan David Stewart, 1995; David A. Williams, 1996; Fran Asher, 1997; Sam Snowdon Jr., 1998; James Mason III, 1999; Andrew Williamson, 2000; Eugene Smith, 2001; Martha McNair Tornow, 2002; Hewitt Fulton, 2003; Fred Fox, 2004; James L. Morgan, 2005; Clara and Julian Butler, 2006; Hazel Frances McLean, 2007; Sylvia and Kemp Stewart, 2008; Mary Lou Dunsford, 2010; John Phillip Hayes, Jr., 2011; Charles L. Hicks, Jr., 2012; William R. Purcell, 2013.
Recipients of the Dormagen/McLean award have included Wade G. Logan in 2001; Evelyn Kitch Shytle, 2002; Patricia Massey, 2003; Jennifer Dyches, 2004; Clayton Brooks III, 2005; Duncan McMillan, 2008; Victoria Morrow, 2009; Robert W. Hughes, 2010; Gladys McLean, 2011; Joshua Emory Altman, 2012; Ryan Leak, 2013.