The 2023 recipient of the MLK Acts of Service Award, Elaine Wilson, right, with her son, David.
The director of cultural diversity for Somerset Community College has been instrumental in leading MLK Day events in the community
SOMERSET, KENTUCKY (January 17, 2023) — Somerset Community College (SCC) Director of Cultural Diversity Elaine Wilson has received the City of Somerset’s Martin Luther King Jr. Acts of Service Award for serving on the front line to help those in society who have the greatest need.
Lovingly called “Dr. Mom” by her son David Wilson as he presented the award Monday during the city’s MLK Unity Walk celebration, Elaine Wilson has been instrumental in organizing a weekend of events in Somerset to honor the late Dr. King’s life and legacy. Each year, Wilson helps plan SCC’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast and Community Celebration, bringing renowned speakers to share inspiration and insight with the public on the weekend of King’s birthday.
The MLK Acts of Service Award, which celebrates Somerset residents who are making a difference, was created on MLK Day in 2022 in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. Observed on the third Monday in January each year, MLK Day is also known as National Acts of Service Day and is the only federal holiday designated to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. Quest Counseling CEO Nate Fisher was the inaugural recipient.
David Wilson shared his mother’s story, one of education — she holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree from Case Western Reserve and will graduate in May with her doctorate in social work — and professional and community service.
Professionally, Elaine Wilson has dedicated her career to helping individuals with substance abuse, adults with intellectual disabilities, and students who dream to achieve a higher education.
Personally, she has dedicated her time to volunteering for numerous organizations, including Hospice, the United Way, Beacon House, the American Heart Association, the International Rotary Club, the Kentucky League of Cities, the National School Board Association, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the Pritchard Committee for Academic Excellence, her church, the Somerset Independent Board of Education, the UK Alumni Association (having been selected as the first African American president of that organization), and the UK Board of Trustees, “just to name a few,” David Wilson said.
“There is no void she is unwilling to fill, no cause she is unwilling to take in order to make this world a better place for all of us to live peacefully together,” he said. “And her work of service to this society is not nearly complete. She will graduate in May 2023 with her doctorate in social work, fulfilling a lifelong goal and proving that it’s never too late to finish what you’ve started and make a positive impression on those around you.”
Somerset Mayor Alan Keck told the crowd gathered for the Unity Walk that Elaine Wilson has led with courage for a long time. He quoted a verse from the Bible’s book of Philippians to describe Wilson, Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
“I have watched since the time I was a young person, watched our recipient live out that scripture in so many ways,” Keck said. “Someone who cares not just about people of color, but cares about her entire community, her church, her college and the kids, her family, her local school system. Somebody who is always looking to find a way to make the place she loves better.”
Elaine Wilson pointed to the people before her who had the courage to take a stand and fight for what was right as her inspiration to serve her community in the ways she has.
“We are always trying to figure out ways to bring people together so that they can have something that they may not have had had it not been for our action,” Wilson said. “… People can now do things that were started because of people like Dr. King, and that has meant so much to me and to people I know, and to people I don’t know. We all now have an opportunity to do things just because somebody ahead of us had the courage to step up and do what was right and to make sure it was good for everybody.”
Wilson lives in Somerset has three adult sons, David, Jonathon and Nic.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Acts of Service Award is given annually. For more information, contact Townsend by e-mail at [email protected].