The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 10, 2013

Jerry & Sherry Rose honored with Spirit of Beckley award

BECKLEY — The 27th annual YMCA of Southern West Virginia Spirit of Beckley was celebrated Monday evening at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center as the grapevine of lives touched by Jerry and Sherry Rose gathered in the hundreds to honor two community leaders and their achievement more than 50 years in the making.

Attendees gathered for the event to show their gratitude and acknowledgment of the award’s recipients, Beckley Dance Theatre’s Jerry and Sherry Rose, and their dedication to sharing the art of dance with several decades of Beckley-area children.

Many echoed the sentiment that the passion and commitment to serving youth is an all-telling testament to the Roses’ character as invaluable community members.

“The Spirit of Beckley is about dedicating one’s time, resources and passion selflessly to our community,” said Jay Rist, CEO of the YMCA of Southern West Virginia. “They’ve touched so many lives in the youth community of Beckley and Raleigh County through Beckley Dance Theatre. Not only have they made (their students) good dancers, but they’re also made them very successful in life.

“They’ve instilled in their students character values, self-esteem and the confidence needed in themselves to be successful, and that also goes with what the YMCA strives to do.”

Jerry Rose admitted that he was a bit surprised to have been chosen for the award, but said he is “profoundly grateful” that he and his wife were selected as recipients.

“We both grew up here. We started our training here,” Jerry said. “It’s a tremendous thrill to know that people appreciate what we’ve done.

“We have honestly endeavored to bring our students to the same level as dance students all over the county, or the world.”

Both acclaimed dance instructors, the Roses said that although opportunities to live and spread their art in other cities came up from time to time, their deep roots and dedication to their hometown is what kept them planted in Beckley.

“Beckley has been so good to us,” said Sherry Rose. “We felt like the children here should have the same opportunity that people who live in bigger cities have.”

Sherry explained that the relationships cultivated with her students over the years are the most rewarding aspect of her profession.

“We have had students from ages 3 to 18,” Sherry said. “They become like your family, like your children. You never forget them.”

Several West Virginia politicians sent messages to be read to the Roses during the ceremony, and even President Barack Obama sent words of appreciation to the couple.

“America is driven forward by our paintings and poems, stories and songs, and dramas and dances,” the letter read. “As the arts expand our views and enrich our lives, they stir within us a desire to be our best selves. Appealing to our common humanity, great works of art celebrate our difference and bring us together.

“ ... As your share in art’s power to speak to us all, I wish you the very best. Sincerely, Barack Obama.”

Dancers from Beckley Dance Theatre performed a special excerpt from “The Nutcracker” during the ceremony, and Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh awarded Jerry and Sherry a “key to the city.”

Pugh, a past Spirit of Beckley award recipient, said the Roses’ work has contributed immensely to the culture of Beckley and also serves to increase the overall quality of life in the area.

“They, to me, represent the cultural infrastructure of the city,” Pugh said. “They provide that to Beckley to make it a very unique place.”

The Spirit of Beckley campaign is the largest annual fundraiser for the YMCA of Southern West Virginia. Proceeds collected from the dinner ceremony and pledge cards donated in the Roses’ honor will help programs such as the after-school program, the YMCA pre-school, swim lessons and youth sports.

“Every one of us has a gift, and therefore, if we use that gift, our community rises above mediocrity and we can all share in the greatness of this Spirit award,” Jerry said.

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