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The Center for Energy Education Thursday honored five members of the community during a program which also remembered the legacy of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The center’s community service awards were announced following a program in which selected speakers gave their perspectives on community service.

Receiving the center’s Community Service Award this year were Barbara Simmons, Ray Spain, Moira Underwood, Gussie Silver and Kathy Harris.

C4EE board Vice Chairman James Pierce said the five chosen are living and demonstrating the life of King. 

Simmons, the former mayor of Enfield, said, “I’m just delighted that you thought enough of me and felt that I have done something that’s inspiring to the county.”

Simmons, who is also a retired educator, serves the community through summer programs and her church.

Enfield town board member Bobby Whitaker said Simmons is a dedicated member of St. Paul’s Baptist Church and has served as its financial secretary for more than 40 years. She was a two-term mayor in the town.

Spain is a retired educator who served as superintendent of Warren County Schools. “He’s an educator and leader who supports community participation and partnerships to improve the lives of students by preparing them for lives and careers in a global society,” Pierce said. 

Spain said, “This is quite an honor and I really appreciate the recognition.”

Spain said he also appreciated the work that C4EE is doing. “I’ve been involved as a volunteer with some of the efforts to reach out to the local school districts. That is work I enjoy. I’m very happy to be recognized and I’m very pleased to be of some service and to contribute to the work of this center.”

Pierce said Underwood has been described as a mover and shaker as well as a talented performer. She is the Christmas parade organizer in Littleton and has been heavily involved in the Lake Gaston Association.

Underwood goes to the J3:16 Center weekly to teach guitar and piano.

Her friend Heidi Hogan said, “It’s not necessarily the one that’s standing out front and got it going but the one that’s going to keep it running and to me that is what Moria represents.”

Hogan said Underwood, who is also involved in Lakeland as a performer, was also behind the scenes sewing costumes for the performers. “There’s no recognition for that; there’s no medals, there’s no awards for someone that sits at a table and tries to make this costume fit this person.”

Silver, at 85, is a first-class caterer, Pierce said. “For more than 40 years Ms. Gussie Silver has pleased our palates. She is always pleasing to her customers.”

Silver has always loved to help people, her friend Deborah Boyd told the audience. “She has shared her God-given gift with so many people and in doing so has made so many friends. These gifts include, but are not limited to, dressing attire, decorating, wedding directing, successful business strategies, cooking and I believe her favorite — floral design.”

She has also been active in fundraising to help build the Littleton senior citizen building, start-up of the Downtown Turnaround in Littleton and serving as president of the merchant’s association. “Through her catering business, along with her husband, they employ young people from various youth groups to give them work experience and training.”

Harris is the Haliwa-Saponi outreach organizer, Pierce said, adding she plans the distribution of congregate meals and is a volunteer manager and employee trainer.

“I’m honored to be here today,” Harris said.

During COVID there was at least a million pounds of food that was distributed to people in need in the community. “I enjoy doing those things.”

She has recently been appointed as the interim tribal administrator and is a paralegal who works with Legal Aid part-time. “I enjoy helping people to help themselves. That’s what I’m all about and it gives me pleasure.”

Harris’s daughter, Vonda Wilson, said her mother “loves helping people. That’s what she’s all about. It’s her gift.”

Mozine Lowe, executive director of C4EE, said, “We wanted to do something especially to recognize the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We feel the center is very much aligned with his work and messages. We do believe in community service. This place is a space for the community. We do a lot of work around energy. We do a lot of work helping everyone understand that clean energy is a good thing for all of us — that we all want to have clean air, we all want to have clean water and those are the basics.”

Said Lowe: “Dr. King’s message was about justice for all. We believe the message today is very much aligned with the work that we do here at the center.”