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The Center for Rural Development—created in 1996 through the vision of U.S Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) and other leaders—will celebrate 15 years of changing people’s lives through innovative programs, cutting-edge technology, and essential business services on Sept. 30 at an anniversary celebration, awards program, and luncheon.

The event, to be held at The Center’s state-of-the-art facility in Somerset, will begin at 11 a.m. (EST) with an awards ceremony in The Center’s theatre, and will conclude with a free luncheon featuring musical entertainment by award-winning Kentucky bluegrass artist Dale Ann Bradley.

Highlights of the program include scheduled remarks by Congressman Rogers and Center President and CEO Lonnie Lawson, and the debut of a new promotional video chronicling the organization’s history, its successes, and people whose lives were changed by its programs.

The Center will also present six regional leadership and service awards to individuals who exemplify the organization’s mission to provide leadership that stimulates innovative and sustainable economic development solutions and a better way of life for the citizens it serves.

Additionally, Lexington’s WKYT 27 NewsFirst will host its noon news broadcast live from The Center that day in commemoration of the anniversary event.

“We deliver a vast array of programs at and through The Center, but the focus behind them all is simple—we change people’s lives,” said Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center. “We hope the public will come out and help us celebrate 15 years of successful service to the citizens of our great region, commonwealth, and nation.”

For more information or to register to attend the 15th anniversary celebration and luncheon program, contact Amy Ellis at The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000 or register online at by Sept. 16. The Center is located at 2292 South U.S. 27 (at Traffic Light 15) in Somerset.

There is no cost to attend the anniversary celebration or luncheon.

At the event, The Center will recognize individuals whose own work reflects the mission of The Center in each of its Four Focus areas and through key partnerships that support its regional and national programs.

Award recipients will include:


  • Public Safety Award:
    Don Alwes of Wilmore, lead instructor for the National Tactical Officers Association in the areas of school and workplace violence and active shooter response. He is a part-time police officer for Wilmore Police Department in Jessamine County and a 30-year law enforcement veteran.
  • Arts & Culture Award:
    Peggy Sherry of Somerset, an artist dedicated to supporting the arts and her community. Sherry will feature 24 original paintings in a new exhibit, “Aquascapes and More,” that will be on display exclusively for The Center’s 15th anniversary event.
  • Community Service/Leadership Award:
    2009 Rogers Scholars graduates Blake Adams and Victoria Rose, both of Monticello
    . For their Rogers Scholars’ community service project, Adams and Rose planned, coordinated, and promoted a “Movie Night” fundraising event at the newly remodeled Wayne County Theatre. They raised $1,400 through ticket sales and concessions and donated proceeds to HOPE Pregnancy Center and Wayne County Quarterback Club. Adams is a freshman at Western Kentucky University studying civil engineering. Rose is a first-year student at Somerset Community College in the physical therapy assistant program.
  • Technology Award:
    Brent Graden of Prestonsburg, KY
    . Through work in his former position as economic director of the City of Prestonsburg, Graden coordinated work in 2008 that brought free wireless internet service to a two-mile corridor running through downtown Prestonsburg, a project that was the first of its kind among Eastern Kentucky cities.
  • Strategic Partner Award:
    Eastern Kentucky University (EKU),
    a regional comprehensive university based in Richmond. EKU is one of six academic institutions that develop U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA-certified national training programs for the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium (RDPC), of which The Center is a strategic partner. EKU supports The Center’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (ELI) summer youth leadership program by providing Presidential Scholarship offers to members of the first-place team in the program’s Business Concept Competition. Additionally, EKU is also one of three host sites for The Center’s Rogers Explorers summer youth leadership program. With The Center and Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, EKU is a sponsoring partner in the annual Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards (EIEA) program, which recognizes the region’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs.
  • Public Service Award:
    Dr. Lee Todd Jr. of Lexington
    , former president of the University of Kentucky (UK). In his role as UK president, Todd was instrumental in helping strengthen the ongoing partnership between UK and The Center by working to ensure exclusive scholarship opportunities for graduates of The Center’s Rogers Scholars program. He stepped down in June after serving 10 years at the helm of the university. During his tenure, Todd focused on helping the university achieve greater national prominence and gain status as a Top 20 public research university.