Semper fidelis – Semper Fi – is Latin and means “always faithful” or “always loyal.” Semper is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps. In the case of Sgt. Glennwood White, you can add the words “always loving” and “always caring.” Faithful. Loyal. Loving. Caring.
He’s all four of those to his volunteers and those they serve.
White is a sergeant at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and a Marine for life. “Semper Fi” and “Oorah” he says. He is the coordinator of SCAN, the Sheriff’s Office’s KCSO’s Senior Citizen Awareness Network. SCAN is one program in the department’s Special Services Unit, commanded by Capt. Michael Evans. When asked about White, Evans did not hesitate.
“He’s one of the most dedicated men I have ever met in my life, anywhere. He literally loves what he does. I have never seen anything like it … his passion, his love. He eats, sleeps and breathes this place,” Evans said.
At work they call him “Sarge” and when Sarge heard what Evans said he laughed and said: “You know how Marines are. I put my heart and soul into everything I do. Everything. I’ll always give it my best.” He’s also known as “Officer Smiley.”
The SCAN’s 64 volunteers visit seniors who mostly live alone. They listen and talk with them. They may discover needs these seniors have – food, medical attention or maintenance problems at their homes or apartments. The volunteers work six days a week, helping support 118 senior citizens.
“These folks want and need companionship. They need listening ears. When my volunteers visit it sometimes is the only human face-to-face interaction the seniors have,” White, 60, says. “Some are married but most live alone. We check their heating and cooling systems, put up ramps for their wheelchairs or walkers, go grocery shopping for them and help with daily meals if need be.” If they need help with transportation, White calls the CAC Office on Aging for help.
White has been the SCAN coordinator for the past seven years and at the Sheriff’s Office for 27. He’s a Brooklyn, New York, native who finished high school in Marion, South Carolina, in 1978. He joined the Marines right after high school. After 12 years, the Marines sent him to Knoxville in 1990 as a recruiter. He retired two years later and joined the KCSO in 1994. He first worked two years in the Roger D. Wilson Detention Center and spent a year working patrol.
Then he found his home in Special Services and spent 19 years in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, speaking to fifth grade classes throughout Knox County about the issues created by drug abuse. He is still involved in the DARE program and is the trainer for the KCSO Honor Guard unit.
Pam Fox, the longtime secretary in the Special Services Unit, introduced him to Audrey Matthews, a clerk in Knox County Probate Court. They married in 2001 and have a son, Glennwood White II, who is called GJ. He’s a cornerback on the Central High School football team. He also has a daughter, Kel, a Webb School graduate who lives in Charlotte, N.C.
On November 30, 2021, KCSO graduated its 29th SCAN class and White now has eight additional volunteers. One of the eight graduates is Linda Spangler, wife of Sheriff Tom Spangler. Every volunteer goes through a two-week training program.
“He cares so much for the volunteers he works with and for those we assist,” Evans said. “We had a woman we help who just turned 100 and Sarge organized a party for her and went to the party, too. He loves every one of these people and they all know it.”
Officer Smiley speaks at churches, civic organizations and even sets up a table and recruits volunteers at West Town Mall. He’s always marketing this program. White even lobbied and received approval for the KCSO motorcycle unit to provide free escorts for the funerals of volunteers.
White works with other programs, but SCAN is his baby. “It’s the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart,” he says. “This program creates long-term friendships and the families always tell us how grateful they are.”
He’s a KCSO hero focused on one thing – improving the lives of those he supports. Oorah!
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at [email protected] or call him at 865-659-3562.