Can you believe it is already Valentine’s Day 2021? Happy Valentine’s Day. Please remember so many people who you love and who love you are still staying safe at home. Give them a call and tell them you are thinking about them, not just today on Valentine’s Day, but always.

Speaking of hearts, Paul Lessard, founding president of the High Point Community Foundation, is recovering nicely from his recent seven-hour open-heart surgery to replace a heart valve. He told me how much he has appreciated all of the kind thoughts, prayers, notes, etc., he has received. More than anything he can hardly wait to get back in action. It won’t be long now. Lessard is under excellent care with his friend and mine, Dr. Zan Tyson. Welcome back to High Point, Dr. Tyson!

Lessard was named the 2020 Man of the Year by the Akela District of the Old North State Council of the Boy Scouts of America. This like others was a virtual event. I am looking forward to the day when we can duly congratulate award recipients in person and show our appreciation of their achievements with smiles, handshakes and even hugs! Oh, to see smiles that now are hidden behind masks!

The ceremony was emceed by Joe Blosser (miss seeing you, Joe), HPU’s Robert G. Culp Jr. director of service learning, who has worked closely with Lessard on many projects and committees. He began, “We are so very honored tonight to honor someone who is no stranger to anyone, a true visionary, an author, a community, leader, a Carnegie Hero medal winner, a proud son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, a follower of Jesus Christ and a true friend to everyone in the High Point community.”

Lessard’s son, Jordan, who has really become involved in our community, was the first to speak. He said of his father, “While many kids are growing up imitating Michael Jordan or David Beckham or any celebrity, I had the privilege of growing up with my idol. I admired the importance Dad placed on family. I have been imitating my dad for as long as I can remember. … My dad has always been Man of the Year for the Lessard family. I’m incredibly proud and honored to call you my father.”

Greg Commander, who went from prison to pride to role model, said of Lessard, “He started making me think about God just holding a conversation with him. … I am from the street. Nobody believed in me. But Paul, somewhere in his heart, he believed in me. He believed in me enough to make me believe in him. He changed my life. He truly is a friend. I love him. I love his family. I even love his dog! I thank God for introducing me to a great man, Mr. Paul Lessard.” Wow!

The accolades would not be complete without Mr. “About Town” Jim Morgan, who was a boy Scout himself. He still has his old Scout book, and it says Jimmy Morgan, with his phone number of 7019. It has been a long time since it took just four numbers to call someone on a telephone!

Morgan was the founding chairman of the High Point Community Foundation. He recalled that after Lessard’s interview, Jim Millis put a note on his desk that read, “Paul Lessard is our man subject to the board’s approval,” and says that one of the best things he (and the board) every did was to hire Paul Lessard. Morgan noted that on Lessard’s stationary is the saying that they both deeply believe in, “What a man does for himself dies with him. What he does for others, lives forever.” Morgan added, “Sometimes it’s not the big things but the small things, telling people we love them and that we are there to help. You deserve this award, Paul. Congratulations.”

Jorge Lagueruela and Paul Lessard are such good friends, they call each other brothers. They met in 1975 at practice for HPU soccer practice. Laguaruela and his wife, Debi, even donated a major gift to HPU to name the men’s soccer locker room in Lessard’s honor. Lagueruela said of his friend, “Paul is the only person I have ever known who makes you feel better after you have spent time with them that you could ever imagine.”

In accepting Lessard said:

“I want to say how grateful I am for this recognition from an organization I have such high respect and regard. The Boy Scouts are a national treasure, and they’ve played an invaluable role molding many of our country’s greatest leaders.

“I’m a blessed man, God gave me parents who loved supported and inspired me. They were and still are my heroes. In fact, my 92 year-old mother, who’s been isolating in our family home in New Hampshire for over seven months, is watching tonight. I love you very much and I’m so proud to be your son.

“The last 23 years I’ve had the privilege of working at the High Point Community Foundation, an endeavor I believe positively impacts and honors the people of our community every single day. … Scouting is one of the last venues in which young people can be taught how to live lives of honor, faith, morality and servant leadership.

“At the end of the day true servant leaders really only have two goals: serving others and making our world a better place. Boy Scouts do this every day. I could not be more grateful and more humbled by this wonderful recognition. May God bless the Boy Scouts of America. May God always bless this amazing United States of America. This is one of the most touching moments in my life. God bless you and thank you!”

A short reminder to please vote (a.k.a. donate) to the Communities in Schools Dancing with the High Point Stars fundraiser. OK, yes, I am one of the dancers, and I have been practicing the tango with my partner, Gregory. The event is on Feb. 27 and will be live-streamed. Go to cisofhp.org.

Have a heart! Happy Valentine’s Day!