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Thomas awarded college’s MLK service award

Chuck Thomas has a gift for inspiring students. He is the fitness, recreation and special events coordinator at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center. He is also the unofficial cheerleader for anyone who comes through the doors.

Thomas grew up learning the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his mom. “She did her best raising me and my seven sisters on her own,” Thomas said. “Mom didn’t have much money, but she taught us important lessons that have carried me further than anything else ever could have.”

Thomas is TCC’s 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award honoree. The college marks the anniversary of the birth of Dr. King by presenting this award to a staff or faculty member who best exemplifies King’s teachings and example. Thomas will be recognized during a ceremony on Jan. 17 at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center.

“Growing up in Georgia, mom would have us listen to Dr. King and then give a report on what we learned. The things I heard were non-violence, peace, love, respect, dignity and equality,” Thomas said. “As I got older, I realized what those words meant and that’s how I treat anyone walking through our doors – with dignity, respect, customer service and getting them what they need.”

Thomas joined TCC in 2014. Prior to coming to the college, Thomas was with the recreation department for the City of Virginia Beach for 25 years. He is also a proud Navy veteran.

The reason he gives back to the community is that he remembers when he was on the receiving end of people’s kindness. “My teachers and mentors were my guides because I didn’t have a father,” Thomas said. “Now I’m paying it forward and inspiring students to do their best in school and to be active with their physical fitness because that’s a key to reducing stress.”

Thomas is affectionately called “coach” by the many students he mentors and all those who seek him out for life advice.

Thomas with MLK scholar Hakeem Akinleye

He was instrumental in helping to launch the Community Feed at TCC on the Portsmouth Campus. Thomas worked from the ground up preparing the space. “Launching the Community Feed was the proudest moment in my career,” he said. “There is such a need for food and TCC is on the front lines meeting urgent needs.”

Thomas also developed “Fit to Feed,” a program that combines fitness with the benefits of the Community Feed. He also participated at “Champions for Change,” a program for young men that provides resources, connections to jobs, and a lot of conversations about dignity and respect.

When he is not mentoring students, Thomas helps senior citizens with their fitness. He started a chair exercise program in his neighborhood and even helped one resident recover from a knee replacement.

“What my mom instilled in me all those years ago has paid off in my adult life. I’m humbled and honored by this award,” he said.

He added, “We are at a time when there is a lot of separation with people. Dr. King made sure we worked through differences and brought people back together. This message is more important now than ever. His work is paying off generations later.”

Thomas sends a shout-out to his mom, Mary Lue, and his wife, Keri Anne, for their part in his success. “When everything is good at home, you feel like you can conquer the world and I’m grateful for all they have done for me.”

English professor awarded college’s MLK service award

Annette Mewborn is passionate about bringing people together and serving the community. She is the recipient of TCC’s 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award, which will be presented during a virtual ceremony on Feb. 25.

“I’m overwhelmed by this award and know that my service to the community stems from a passion my mother had to serve those in need. She inspired me and my sister to get involved in the community and we’ve been helping ever since.”

The English professor, who began working at the Virginia Beach Campus admissions office, joined the college in 1989.

For close to a decade, Mewborn organized Black History Month events on the Virginia Beach Campus to celebrate African American history and culture. The events included programs like “From the Root of It,” a look at hairstyles through the ages, as well as a historical review of “Motown Music.”

Annette Mewborn is TCC's MLK service award winner.

Her long list of accomplishments includes starting a tutoring center for children at Rehoboth Baptist Church. She set up the center and recruited volunteers to teach English, writing, music and Spanish.

Mewborn was the advisor and mentor for the Student African American Brotherhood. She also produced an African American newsletter, Changes, to encourage students to publish their poetry, essays and articles.

Pre-pandemic, Mewborn presented 12 holiday concerts at TCC with Echoes of Excellence, a group of students with a love for music. Together they packed the Pungo Auditorium year after year. She also established High Class, an educational band that writes and performs songs for youth at community events.

Most recently, Mewborn organized a toy drive and holiday concert for abused children through her work with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). The outdoor event was held in Mewborn’s own backyard.

And during the pandemic, she started The Novel Kids, a reading program for children to keep them engaged and learning in the summer months.

Mewborn is the recipient of a Teaching in Excellence award for 2021.

She encourages her TCC students to focus on the positive with the “good news” section in her online classes. And while she never planned to teach, she found her calling while a student at the college. She now holds a master’s degree in English and loves to see those light bulb moments, when students grasp the concepts she is teaching.

“I believe in peace and unity, and the tenets Dr. King held dear,” Mewborn said. “If you look at some of his most influential quotes, you see one word that mirrors the Bible and that is love. That’s how I strive to live my life. By loving my neighbor, wherever I am.”

Mewborn is married to Larry Mewborn, Sr., and has two children, Larry Mewborn, Jr. and Katisa Mewborn-Smith. The couple has four grandchildren.