With a standing ovation, Josie Shumake took to the podium at Lion Hills Center with a slight, shy smile after graciously accepting a plaque recognizing her as the 2021 Exchange Club of Columbus Book of Golden Deeds recipient.
“Well this definitely took me by surprise,” Shumake said. “This is sort of embarrassing, but I am stunned by the honor.”
Each year since 1972, Exchange Club has honored someone in the community “who gives selflessly and quietly to the community, to their city, their state, and the nation,” according to Book of Golden Deeds committee member Ralph Null.
When the time rolls around for the annual recognition, the identity of the awardee is kept secret, and only the selection committee knows who will receive the honor. The recipient does not find out until the meeting.
On behalf of the Book of Golden Deeds selection committee, Null spoke of the ways Shumake has shown her commitment to the community and its needs.
“(She is) conspicuously quiet, unassuming, part of the crowd, almost shy in demeanor, but she is also a dynamo of integrity, stamina and service and always there to help, whatever that help might be,” Null said. people like to lead from the front, looking for recognition, honor and status, while others lead from within as does today’s honoree. … It’s always intriguing to find the small things that tell so much about someone whether that is supporting the Lee Home by purchasing several cakes – and not for herself – but taking them to the fire stations around town to let (firefighters) know how appreciated they are. ”
The Columbus native spent her time in the Golden Triangle all the way through graduation at Mississippi State University. Her work took her around the world before she moved back to Columbus in 2009.
For some people, coming back to their hometown after seeing the world may be a letdown. For Shumake it was part of the plan. She was excited to come back home after so many years away and give back to the community that raised her.
Shumake served with the United States Diplomatic Corps, and once she moved back she found herself serving her hometown in various roles. Shumake is the secretary for the Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees, was on the executive board for Community Recovery for Lowndes County after the EF-3 tornado hit in 2019 and is a Friend of the Library.
She serves on a handful of other organizations such as the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services, the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, the Lowndes County Foundation, and the Columbus Municipal Election Committee. She is a champion for literacy and said she would like to speak with Exchange Club about it in the future.
“To me, this is just what my parents taught me to do,” Shumake said. If I see something that needs to be done, I’m just programmed to do it. … I have really enjoyed coming home. It was like being a kid in a candy store because there was so much I wanted to do that I had not done while I was in high school, grade school or college to give back to the community. There’s that (line) from Thomas Wolfe, ‘You can not go home again.’ Well, I have a theory about that: You can not go home again because you never left. That’s how I feel about Columbus. ”
Shumake joins other community-minded individuals as the 49th recipient of the club’s award, and Null was elated to announce her honor to the room.
“We, as citizens of Columbus and Lowndes (County), are so fortunate that this amazing person, who chose to serve her country with honor and dignity, has returned to us in her hometown and continues that tradition of service here – being at so many places, doing so much good, supporting and encouraging so many and sharing her resources for worthy causes, ”Null said.