North Carolina honors Wilhelm for years of volunteer service

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Scott Jenkins

Salisbury Post

Dwight Wilhelm stood near the back of a crowd of clients, employees and visitors Tuesday on the work floor at Rowan Vocational Opportunities.

And, even though they were there for him, the unassuming Wilhelm might have stayed there if Executive Director Carl Repsher hadn’t called him forward.

Wilhelm, Repsher said, would “never want public recognition, but … you deserve it.”

He received recognition bestowed on just a few of the state’s citizens each year.

Repsher presented Wilhelm with a framed copy of the N.C. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, given across the state annually by Gov. Mike Easley’s office to people who give much of themselves.

Wilhelm was nominated in Rowan County — and is the only recipient in the county this year — largely because of his dedication to Rowan Vocational Opportunities, where his son Russell is a client.

Repsher said Wilhelm not only served on the agency’s board of directors for more than 20 years, he did “hands-on hard work,” helping to build new offices and renovating a break area, among other things.

“But Dwight does a lot for a lot of people and goes well beyond Rowan Vocational Opportunities,” said Repsher, who called Wilhelm a “wonderfully valuable asset” to the entire community.

Among those assembled Tuesday to honor Wilhelm were representatives of Habitat for Humanity of Rowan County and First United Methodist Church, two beneficiaries of his time and talent.

Habitat Executive Director Coleman Emerson said that in working with Wilhelm, who has served as a project supervisor, he’s seen “a humble man serve humbly.”

Coleman described in Wilhelm a volunteer who came to the job site early, stayed late and “almost built the house single-handedly.”

That dedication extends well beyond Rowan County. With a group from his church, Wilhelm has traveled to Pascagoula, Miss. twice this year to help people devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Rob Watts, disaster relief coordinator for First United Methodist, called Wilhelm “a phenomenal man.”

No one mentioned Tuesday, but it surely was on some minds, that Wilhelm has continued to give so much of himself after he and his family suffered the tragic loss last year of his son, David Wilhelm. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, David Wilhelm was one of four people authorities say was shot and killed by Brian Nichols after he escaped from the federal courthouse in Atlanta in March 2005.

Standing with his wife Betty, Wilhelm told those who had come to honor him that he appreciated their kindness “and I hope that I can continue to do things for the workshop and the community. …

“… I think that’s what we’re all here for on this earth, to provide help for people who need it and encourage others to live a more Christian life,” he said. “I’m sure there are others more deserving, but I appreciate it.”

Contact Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248 or