Former athlete, college administrator, volunteer Ernie Smith 2018 Lemoore Citizen of the Year

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore's newest Citizen of the Year is Ernie Smith, shown here with Lemoore Recreation Director Jason Glick and Police Chief Darrel Smith at a Volunteer Dinner.
Lemoore's newest Citizen of the Year is Ernie Smith, shown here with Lemoore Recreation Director Jason Glick and Police Chief Darrel Smith at a Volunteer Dinner.

There is something very noble when a community’s residents give up their free time to volunteer at a soup kitchen or lead a pack of hearty senior citizens on a brisk walk. Volunteers don’t serve for pay, they just want to help, and they don’t expect anything in return, only the scant knowledge that they may have done a little something to make their community a bit better.

One of Lemoore’s top volunteers is Dr. Ernie Smith, a well-known Lemoore native, and educator from Lemoore. Smith, a two-time Recreation Department Volunteer of the Year, who created a program called “Witness for Fitness,” a walking program that enhances the exercise habits of local seniors, just added to his reputation by being picked as this year’s Lemoore Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.

The annual Citizen of the Year and Installation Banquet will be held Jan. 19 at the Tachi Hotel and Casino. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Lemoore Chamber at 559-924-6401.

Joining Smith at this year’s Installation Banquet as honorees are Community Organization of the Year, God’s Breadbasket and Business of the Year, Kings Dental Group.

Twice a week Smith leads a happy band of 50-70 seniors, between the ages of 55 and 95, on a brisk half-hour walk in the recreation complex, followed by hand weights, chair exercises, and resistance bands.

Earlier this year Smith was presented with his second “Volunteer of the Year Award.” Over the course of his five-year tenure as the program’s leader, he has accumulated roughly 1,560 hours, translating into 65 days of walking.

Smith, who served a distinguished career as an educator and college administrator, currently serves on the Lemoore Parks and Recreation Commission. The 70-year old has a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in educational leadership and community college administration.

“When I got on the (Recreation) commission … I didn’t see anything that was being done for seniors,” said Smith, a 1965 Lemoore High School graduate. “I said we need to get our seniors out that were 55 to 90.

“Walking is very simple. I wanted to start a walking group. We started out with four people,” he remembered. “As we grew I started adding more activities, like building strength… and endurance. It’s a program for seniors who want to increase their quality of life. It became a real winner for a lot of people.”

The former Lemoore High School student-athlete attended Oregon State University where he was a star athlete. He told The Leader he was surprised when Lemoore Chamber officials called him about the honor. “I was surprised, pleasantly, and I was elated. I was humbled and just totally elated that this was bestowed upon me,” he said.

“At first, I was kind of quiet, and then I just gave out a big yell. It was kind of personal, I’ve been in this area all my life. My parents were sharecroppers. I thought of the statement: you’ve come a long way baby. I was just honored.”

Smith also serves on the Kings County Commission on Aging and still works with the State of California Recreation Society. He is married to wife Deborah, and together they have five children and seven grandchildren.

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