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Jerry Helton honored for dedication
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McMinnville Breakfast Rotary Club’s annual Officers Installation Banquet was held Tuesday at First United Methodist Church.
The Let Service Light the Way Award recipient for 2010-11 was named and the club’s new officers were set.
Jerry Helton was presented the prestigious award from Judith Roney, a past president and past assistant district governor for region 6780. Roney is also Helton’s longtime friend, neighbor and fellow Rotarian.
“We’ve never given this award to one of our own, but this year we are honoring our charter president, Jerry W. Helton, for all he has meant to this club and this community,” said Roney.
In 1985, Helton was tapped to provide leadership in forming McMinnville’s Breakfast Rotary Club and the club was chartered June 30, 1985. He was responsible for contacting a list of prospective members. Enough of those agreed to be members and the club began. 
His first day as a Rotarian was as president of the club. Rotary International’s Polio Eradication campaign started close to the time Breakfast Rotary was chartered and the club was significantly involved with fundraising for that campaign – and still is. 
Helton has been very active with the club’s annual charity golf tournament in conjunction with the Noon Rotary Club for 23 years. Approximately $250,000 has been raised to benefit the charities and scholarships of the clubs. Breakfast Rotary has funded an endowment for a full Motlow scholarship annually, in addition to scholarships to Tennessee Tech University and Tennessee Technology Center. 
The good the Breakfast Rotary Club has done, the service rendered, and the financial assistance to local and international charitable projects for 26 years cannot be measured, Roney said of Helton’s service.
“Thank you, Jerry, so much for all you’ve done to make this possible, and for moving to this community as a young man and making it a better place,” Roney added.
Helton was born in Murfreesboro and graduated from Central High School. He was a forward on Central’s state championship basketball team. Attending Martin Junior College in Pulaski on a basketball scholarship, he finished his college degree at MTSU.
After graduation in 1969, he was hired to coach the high school basketball team in Centertown. Upon arrival, he found Centertown’s high school had been disbanded in the consolidation of the county and city school systems. For three years, he coached the middle school basketball team and was assistant coach for the high school team, in addition to teaching.
In 1972, he went into the insurance business with Burroughs and Keithley. In 1986, he formed Southern Insurance and continues today as its president.
On the board of the Chamber of Commerce for four years, Helton became president in 1982, and he served an additional year as past president. He has served on the board of directors for Insurers of Tennessee, was awarded the Free Enterprise Award by the Chamber of Commerce in 1997, and the First National Bank Citizenship Award in 1999.
Helton has served in numerous roles in churches where he has been a member including finance committee, ministry leader, small group leader, Bible class teacher, deacon, and currently is a shepherd of Christ Family Church, many of these in partnership with his wife, Freeda. The couple has been active for 15 years in the spiritual formation weekend called “Walk to Emmaus.”
Helton was first diagnosed with cancer in 1987, and he has quietly gone about ministering to numerous other people coping with cancer.
The Let Service Light the Way Award was founded by McMinnville Breakfast Rotary as a way to annually honor a citizen who embodies Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.”
Selection of the recipient is made by past presidents of the club, who then donate $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation to make the recipient a Paul Harris Fellow. The recipient then becomes an honorary member of the club.
A change in Breakfast Rotary Club officers and directors was also made at the meeting:
• Incoming officers 2011-2012: president Janie Robbins; past president David Snowden; president elect Leann Cordell; secretary Leann Cordell; treasurer, Pieter van Vuuren; and sergeant at arms Jeff McKinley. Vice president is unnamed at this time.
• Incoming directors 2011-2012: club administration Leann Cordell; public relations Teddy Jones; membership Randy Garrison; service projects David Lescarini; and Rotary foundation Steve West.
For more information on McMinnville Breakfast Rotary, or to learn how to become a member, contact Janie Robbins at 931-267-1777.