The Reverend Julius A. Collins, Jr., pastor of Berme Road's Shiloh Baptist Church, has been named as this 2007's Citizen of the Year by Ellenville's Noonday Club. Reverend Collins is the first African-American to be given the honor in the club's 46-year history. The honor itself is reserved for members of the community who go above and beyond their regular duties and job…but you wouldn't know that speaking to Reverend Collins himself.
"I'm not worth a nickel at tooting my own horn," he says, modestly. The truth, however, is that this Texas-native, who made his way to Ellenville in 1988 to become the pastor for Shiloh, has been serving the Ellenville-area in many more ways than just the spiritual. "This is overwhelming…[the recognition's] not really desired, but we thank God for it."
Ellenville Mayor Jeff Kaplan, who served as the chairman of this year's Citizen of the Year Committee for the Noonday Club, sent out a press release detailing Collins's many services and duties to the community. Reverend Collins has been a longtime member of the Ellenville Central School Board, is President of the Town of Wawarsing Clergy Association, serves as a member of the Executive Board of Ellenville Regional Hospital, Ellenville's Local Development Corporation, the Sullivan and Ulster REAP Commission, the African American Men's Association, and the Ulster County Charter Committee. The reverend also runs a soup kitchen once a week in the church's basement, serving between 70 and 120 meals a week to those in need. Kaplan adds that Collins went before the county legislature when Ellenville Regional Hospital was in danger of losing its funding and offered an impassioned plea to keep the hospital going.
"Clearly our community is a better place to live as a result of the contributions of Reverend Julius A. Collins, Jr.," says Kaplan. "He's really a very active, civic-minded person… We really did have him in mind long before this year, too," says Kaplan of the selection.
"He is a superb selection," says Debbie Briggs, current President of the Noonday Club, and Director of Human Resources at Ellenville Regional Hospital. According to Briggs, Reverend Collins also chairs the Interfaith Pastoral Care Team, "which many people probably don't know about," she says. The Pastoral Care Team provides prayer and support to patients who request members of the clergy, and they're on call and make rounds just like doctors — only the medicine they provide is of the soul rather than of the body.
Before settling in Ellenville, Collins left Texas in 1966 to join the army. His time in the service took him all over the world, from Kansas, to New Jersey, to Germany, to Korea. After finishing his military career at West Point in 1988, he made his way to Ellenville, where he's remained ever since, bringing his good faith and community service to his adopted village.
"The army taught me, 'when you go someplace, you make it home,'" he says of his time in the service. "So that's what I did."
As part of the festivities and celebration surrounding the Citizen of the Year dinner, the recipient of the award will be able to give a speech, and in Collins's case, he says that he will ask for renewed unity, particularly in our current times of economic crisis.
"Ellenville, and all of Ulster County, should be working together for the betterment of the community, and be one people," says Collins. "It will take all of us to come together."
The Noonday Club was founded in 1923 as a civic-minded organization, where local business people would gather at noon to have lunch and discuss issues that involved the community in the village and town. President Briggs says that the club is always looking for new members, and interested parties can contact her at home at 647-3256.
The Noonday Club's Forty-Sixth Annual Citizen of the Year Dinner takes place at the Honor's Haven Resort and Spa (formerly the Fallsview Resort) on Tuesday, September 16. Cocktail hour begins at 5:30 p.m., with dinner following at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $41 per person.
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