Program Report: Community Service Award – Charles Lyons

President Brady Surles introduced our Durham Police Chief, C. J. Davis, elegantly attired in “civies” for the occasion, to introduce this year’s overwhelming choice for the Community Service Award: Mr. Charles Lyons.  Mr. Lyons is Resident Safety Coordinator for the Durham Housing authority, where he has worked for some 29 years. He has for decades made extraordinary contributions to the life of at-risk young people in Durham, through programs such as Partners Against Crime, night-time basketball, Men of Vision and others.

Mr. Lyons began by giving honor to God and thanks for to Chief Davis for her nomination and to Durham Rotary for our selection — and to Selma, his lovely wife of 47 years.

“I am a firm believer, it’s not about you, it’s about those you serve” he began.  Mr. Lyons expressed his belief that at-risk kids should be involved as early as possible in activities, and in environments, that will help them to become productive citizens: “From Proverbs 27:17: ‘As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another’…Coaching, mentoring, the importance of building relationships, friendships, teamwork, life skills, sociability, caring, love, bring families together, showing commitment — all can stop gang wars, turf squabbles,…Save the children!”

Mr. Lyons went on to describe he own history in Chapel Hill and Durham. He values his own pre-school and would like to see universal pre-school for all kids now. His first idol is Ms. Lucille Caldwell, at the Hargraves Community Center, which he went to after school at Northside Elementary. Ms. Caldwell helped to raise thousands of kids.

Mr. Lyons went on to list a number of jobs while he was at school: shoe-shine, cut wood for a local church, shoveled coal to heat the community center. There was no money for college, so, after a spell at the Breckenridge Job Corps Center in Morganfield Kentucky, Mr. Lyons returned to NC and joined the USAF, where he served with distinction and retired as a Senior NCO after 20 years.

In 1988 Mr. L worked as fulltime teacher assistant, coached basketball recommended by Coach Willie Bradshaw, a Durham legend.  He then because Program Director for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in 1989 and later became Executive Director.

Joshua Dorsette, who succeeded Mr. Lyons as Executive Director, also gave testimony to his contributions to the youth of the Durham community.

“If everyone in this room could spend some time with one troubled youth, be serious, give them a hug, show them you care…Reach one, Teach one!!” Mr. L has lived as he speaks, successfully coaching “untouchable” kids on tough communities: “I have lost 38-9 kids over the years, gone too soon. Saw a father put a Crip scarf in the coffin of one. Made him take it out. The kid being buried was one of my all-time favorites, who went the wrong way, but had a heart of gold…”

Mr. L went on to list several people saved by one of the programs with which he has been associated, including Brian Johnson, onetime president of Tuskegee University, and Razor Shines of the Montreal Expos.

In introducing the program, Chair of the Selection Committee, Dieter Mauch covered the selection process and mentioned several previous winners.

Mr. L reminisced about some of these previous winners of the Community Service Award with whom he has worked: Ray Frederick (Bouncing Bulldogs), Dr. Walker, NCCU coach, Dr. Joe Moylan, Mr. McDonald (TROSA).  Mr. L currently serves on several boards: men of Vision, Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, Thomas Mentoring Leadership Academy, Durham Nativity School, Union Baptist Church Samaritan Men. These groups have taken Durham’s young people on trips to many destinations, from Quantico to plantations in N & S. Carolina.

“…help a child, hug a child, love a child, stop the pipelines to our prisons! Much love to you all…”

Mr. Lyons ended his talk to a standing ovation.


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