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Young Men United honored by NAACP
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The Cookeville/Putnam branch of the NAACP has named Young Men United its recipient of the prestigious John Lewis Future Leadership Award for 2020. Pictured front row, from left, are NAACP branch president Tom Savage, YMU president Donald Crisp and NAACP branch treasurer Geeta McMillan. Back row, Rita Ramsey, Nelson Ramsey, Alicia Strode, Robert Wood, Casey McAfee, Barry Johnson and Paul Ramsey. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Warren County’s Young Men United organization has been described as a hidden gem – extremely outstanding and not many people may know about it.

That idiom was used by Tom Savage, president of the Cookeville/Putman branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in describing the group and presenting it with the John Lewis Future Leadership Award for 2020. 

“We didn’t know this great organization existed,” said Savage. “It’s a hidden gem. You caught our eye. We wanted to recognize you for all the group’s leadership and outstanding contributions in their community by bestowing you with the John Lewis Future Leadership Award for 2020.”

The award is given to recognize those who display outstanding leadership abilities through the betterment of their community for all citizens and setting an example of good citizenship for others to follow. 

Young Men United has been in existence for 20 years and originated as an idea when Nelson Ramsey and his fellow Junior Pro football coaches recognized a need among the boys they were coaching – many of the boys could not afford their uniforms and shoes required to play football. A small group formed to raise money and fill that need.

From that call to action to today, YMU has expanded its civic engagement to address other needs and issues of public concern within the community, such as alleviating food insecurity by providing meals to those who are struggling financially.

Group members have added to their vision for the future by embarking on a restoration effort to preserve the remnants of the former black high school, Bernard School. 

McMinnville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a 20-year lease with Young Men United earlier this year. Members of the organization then embarked on a major renovation of the school’s gym into a facility that serves the community.

“As Young Men United continues in its mission to impact their community through their work with the youth of the community, they set an example to the entire region that a small group of people can make a difference,” said Savage.

Currently, YMU has 18 members: president Donald Crisp, vice president Ella Richmond, second vice president Michael Hill, Rita Ramsey, Nelson Ramsey, Alicia Strode, Robert Wood, Casey McAfee, Barry Johnson, Paul Ramsey, Heath Crisp, Henrietta Lusk, Charlie Boyd, Martin Bracey, Marsha Ramsey, Howard Henny, Trevor Martin and William Martin.

“This is a very prestigious award,” said Donald Crisp. “We are grateful to receive it. It’s a pleasure to accept it on behalf of myself and our organization’s members. This recognition will help us in the community, as far as status, and in our efforts to obtain grants.”  

NAACP’s Cookeville/Putnam branch oversees Warren, White, Putnam, Overton and Clay counties.