Dynamic duo: Dinner honors Smithfield co-Citizens of the Year Rick and Cheryl Rowlands

Published 5:06 pm Friday, March 8, 2024

Smithfield’s Ruritan and Rotary clubs hosted a dinner at The Smithfield Center on March 6 to honor husband and wife Christian Outreach volunteers Rick and Cheryl Rowlands, whom the two clubs named the town’s co-Citizens of the Year for 2023.

The two clubs have given the award annually for 53 years to an outstanding area resident. Past recipients include Mill Swamp Indian Horses founder Steve Edwards, former Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams, Smithfield Times Publisher Emeritus John B. Edwards and the late Segar “Sig” Cofer Dashiell, author of “Smithfield: A Pictorial History.”

The award, in the words of Rotary Club President Joe Johnson, isn’t just about recognizing individuals.

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“It’s truly about the lives they have touched and the change they have made,” Johnson said.

“They have left their mark on Smithfield and built Smithfield to what it is today,” said Larry Saint, chairman of the Rotary and Rutitan clubs’ joint Citizen of the Year Committee and himself a past recipient of the award.

Red Point Taphouse, a craft brewery and restaurant on South Church Street, catered the dinner, which included choices of salmon, braised beef and chicken marsala.

In attendance at the event was Brenda Roberts of U.S. Rep. Jen Kiggans, R-Va.’s Virginia Beach office, who read a letter on behalf of Kiggans. Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman read two proclamations, one on behalf of state Sen. Emily Jordan, R-Isle of Wight, that had passed in the Senate on Jan. 25, and the other, a March 6 Town Council resolution, each praising the Rowlands for their service.

Cheryl Rowlands called the recognition “one of the most humbling experiences” and gave credit to her fellow Christian Outreach volunteers and the nonprofit’s donors.

“We don’t even know some of these people; they just drop off a check,” Cheryl Rowlands said of COP’s anonymous benefactors.

Isle of Wight’s Christian Outreach Program began in 1991 when a group of church members and businesses set themselves the task of raising money to help families in need with winter heating costs. Its inaugural homemade soup fundraiser, “Souper Saturday,” continues to this day every October. Since 2014, the nonprofit has been headquartered on Grace Street in the former Isle of Wight County Health Department office, where it collects and distributes free food, furniture, diapers, children’s books and other forms of emergency assistance.

The Rowlands joined COP in 2020 as volunteers. Since 2021, Rick has served as the nonprofit’s executive director, while Cheryl has become a co-leader of the organization’s food distribution and “Food For Thought” children’s book distribution programs.