NEWBERRY — The Rotary Club of Newberry celebrated its kickoff to Thanksgiving with the 34th annual Prayer Breakfast held Tuesday at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.
As is custom with every prayer breakfast, the group announces the Layperson of the Year at the end and this year’s recognition went to the youngest couple, Eddie and Cindy Long.
The Longs are the co-area directors of the Newberry YoungLife and have been since 2006.
“This is a complete surprise,” Cindy Long said.
Her husband, Eddie Long, echoed Cindy’s praise to God by saying, “It’s not about us but it’s all about Jesus. It’s a privilege.”
The couple was awarded their plaque by Barbara Ellis, who nominated the couple for their selfless service. The Layperson of the Year award goes to a non-Rotarian for their service to the Newberry.
“They are not ordained ministers but they minister to students. They give their love of Christ locally and globally. They seek no recognition for what they do but I think they deserve this,” said Ellis.
YoungLife serves all over Newberry County and they meet every Monday night. Each week, around 100 youth attend the location on Main Street, Ellis said. Also, leaders meet before the club.
YoungLife consists of Bible studies, prayer, music and worship and plenty of connections. In fact, after every home football game, high school students gather at the YoungLife building for time together known as the “fifth quarter.”
“YoungLife is all about forming relationships with the students,” said Ellis. “YoungLife leaders listen because they generally care.”
The leaders are recruited and trained by the Longs. Ellis said that the group is based on donations and that the couple lives modestly. In addition to the weekly meetings, there are four camps each year and there are plenty of camps across the country as well.
In addition to YoungLife, the Longs started WyldLife for middle school students which reaches around 100 on average attendance.
The couple met through the Newberry Community Players and married in 2006, said Ellis.
In addition to the announcement of the Laypersons of the Year, Rotarians and non-Rotarians were inspired by Stephen Graves, vice president of store operations for Krispy Kreme. Graves did not leave Columbia empty handed as he brought plenty of doughnuts along.
“There are two points I want to share with you: God puts you where He needs you to be is the first message and the second one is my mother-in-law told me a long time ago during a struggle that He only gives you what you can handle and you have to fight through that,” said Graves.
Graves relayed his own testimonies of moving from North Carolina to Charleston as well as the fact that one of his sons was born hearing impaired. He also spoke about the mission statement at Krispy Kreme and how it’s developed.
“Over the last few years at Krispy Kreme, I found a new statement. Our mission statement at Krispy Kreme is to touch and enhance lives every day. Our goal is not to sell doughnuts. One of the things most important is our outreach. When looking at where to build factories, we look at the influences in the community,” said Graves.
Graves also explained that there is a camp called Victory Junction Gang Camp in North Carolina that serves chronically ill children as well as children with special needs. However, there was a waiting period to getting the camp to be the company’s main charity.
“I woke up one day and decided to go to Victory Junction. I introduced myself,” said Graves. “I went back and met with corporate. They told me if I wanted to try something, to try it on a smaller scale.”
Graves’ first fund-raising attempt raised $800 in 45 days and he was wondering what went wrong. However, a year later, his boss came in and said the company wanted the charity of choice to be children based. Since then, for over five years, the company has raised more than $2 million for the camp.
Graves encouraged anyone looking to help a charity or even start one to just believe in it and continue.
Graves also spoke about his son who was in the fifth grade when he had his first cochlear implant.
“I knew we were in the right place (for the surgery) when the doctor prayed for us. He said I’m going to take are of Travis,” said Graves.
In ninth grade, Graves’ son had the second surgery on his second ear and he is currently studying at Midlands Technical College. Graves said his son’s goal is to attend USC and he’s working toward that goal.
Graves also relayed stories about how he and his wife moved to Charleston, separately when they were younger. They both attended rival high schools but it was while Graves was working as a stockboy that he met his wife under the blue light at K-Mart.
It was also because of his wife that he went to work for Krispy Kreme after his former company was going through a transitioning period.
“Krispy Kreme has been a blessing because of what we believe,” said Graves.