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It’s all about community

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Chamber member of the year just wants to help out

By Brandon Mattingly

This story is part of an on-going series recognizing the Springfield-Washington County Chamber of Commerce award winners.

For John Graves, being part of a community is a lot like being part of a family. Giving back has come naturally to him because its simply what he feels he’s supposed to do. As for being named the 2013 Chamber Member of the Year, that’s just icing on the cake.

“I was honored. You volunteer in the community and you never do it for an award, but it’s always nice to be recognized,” Graves said.

“Like I said (the night of the Awards Gala), this is what my parents taught me to do. You’re involved in the community you live in and you give back and you help when asked to support the efforts of the local community.”

Graves has always been there to help when asked. From the Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival to various other chamber-sponsored events, Graves is quick to give his support in any way he can.

“I just kind of support wherever they need it. (Chamber President) John Weis and I are good friends and any time anything’s going on, I’ll call him up and say, ‘John, what do you need?’” Graves said.

“He’s donated a lot of time for us this year and bailed us out in a couple of situations where we needed help and he came out and volunteered his time to help us,” Weis said of Graves. “He was out here all day long for the festival, manning the stage and doing the microphone work and all that. It’s a lot of time away from his family to help us.”

Graves pointed out that he does like to get the family involved whenever he can, however. He’s now looking to pass down his belief in the importance of community involvement to his own children, Gracie, 13, Jaxon, 9 and Ann Preslee, 3.

“It’s part of being an active member of the community. I want to set an example for my kids, because there are certain things I expect them to do,” Graves said. “I expect them to volunteer for different activities and a lot of times I’ll take them with me. Something we instill in them is giving back to their community.”

Graves, the administrative coordinator for district 7 of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, is involved throughout the Washington County community that he’s called home for all but a handful of years. Just a few of the areas where he devotes his time include the Knights of Columbus, the theater board, the St. Catharine College building and grounds committee and working with the Washington County football boosters. He’s been working SCC basketball games for the last seven years and has helped out with WCHS football and basketball games in the past, as well as coached youth teams. He also spends time as a DJ for Atmosphere Entertainment, which has come in handy for lending his time and equipment to the chamber of commerce during times of need over the years. Graves doesn’t see his contributions as being particularly ground-breaking, as he said he just wants to help a group that he knows has the right intentions in mind for Washington County.

“It’s just showing support. Sometimes, when you’re trying to put this stuff together, it’s nice to know that other people are going to try to help out,” he said. “This group of chamber members is trying to look at new ideas and you have to step up and help people when they’re really trying.

“I think any organization that is trying to better the community that it’s part of, you’ve got to help those any time you can,” Graves added. “Whether it’s the chamber, economic development or the New Pioneers (for a Sustainable Future) or any organization that’s trying to make a better future for your community, you go out and try to work with them.”

Even with all of the work he’s put in, Graves said he never expected to be named Chamber Member of the Year. In fact, he showed up to the Awards Gala at St. Catharine College on Jan. 24 ready to help out any way he could, as usual.

“I had no clue whatsoever,” he said. “They called and said, ‘John, we need somebody to do music at the chamber banquet. Can you be there?’ They said they’d cover my tickets, so I said OK, because that’s pretty standard for me. You cover my tickets and I’ll bring my laptop in and play you some music. But, yeah, I had absolutely no clue.”