When Pastor John Unthank took the podium, the luncheon crowd was on their feet giving him a rousing ovation. On Thursday, September 15, the Advisory Board for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library of Knox County honored Pastor John at Cherokee Country Club for his work in children's literacy. It was a touching moment for the honoree and crowd alike. Following a short film, Mayor Glenn Jacobs presented him with the well-deserved Seeds of Literacy Award.
His official mission is to make teachers smile. Pastor John works with the Knoxville Dream Center to disseminate smiles, supplies, cookies, and books to teachers and students in fourteen Title One schools. His philosophy is that when teachers are happy, students are happy. And Pastor John goes to extraordinary lengths to bring about those smiles. From dressing up as Captain Book or the conductor on the Polar Express, Pastor John brings joy while he makes sure kids go home with a book of their own to keep. There's little that can keep him from his mission, even the three days of dialysis he undergoes each week.
There was a lot to celebrate. More than 230 people came out to bid on dozens of silent auction items ranging from Dolly-themed original art to an 8-person catered dinner from Real Good Kitchen and wine from the Boyd Family Vineyard in Argentina.
It wouldn't be an Imagination Library event without a storytime. Emmy Award-winning TV host and musician Erick Baker was joined on stage by the talented Erin Archer to present an interactive musical reading of Baker's children's book, Willie the Weed. All participants got to take home their own copy of Willie the Weed.
The annual Seeds of Imagination Luncheon raises funds to send a book each month to the homes of 19,000 children, at no cost to the families. The book-gifting program helps children develop early literacy skills, preparing them to learn to read. Research shows that children with books in the home are far more likely to complete high school than those without books in the home.
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library of Knox County is administered through Knox County Public Library and supported by an advisory board. Sponsors and table hosts for the event include The Boyd Foundation, Home Federal Bank, Clayton Homes, Steve and Ann Bailey, Pilot Company, Food City, Thomas and Lindsey Boyd, Lantry Family Foundation, Joe and Katherine Fielden, Whitfield and Brittany Bailey, The Tombras Family, Pinnacle Financial Partners, Dominion Group, PYA, Covenant Health, The Trust Company of Tennessee, Glenn Jacobs, Knox County Mayor, Apex Bank, Lisa Herron MD, PigeonForge.com, Paddison Foundation, Harper Auto, and WBIR.
Many thanks go out to the Special Events Committee, led by co-chairs Abby Ham and Jessica Doppelt.