Pastor John honored by Imagination Library

Mary Pom ClaiborneHalls, Our Town Leaders

When Pastor John Unthank took the podium, the well-heeled luncheon crowd was on their feet giving him a rousing ovation. On Thursday, September 15, the advisory board for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Knox County honored Pastor John at Cherokee Country Club for his work in childhood literacy.

It was a touching moment for the honoree and crowd alike. Following a short film, Mayor Glenn Jacobs presented him with the well-deserved Seeds of Literacy Award.

His official mission is to make teachers smile. Pastor John works with the Knoxville Dream Center to disseminate smiles, supplies, cookies and books to teachers and students in 14 Title One schools. His philosophy is that when teachers are happy, students are happy. And Pastor John goes to extraordinary lengths to bring about those smiles. From dressing up as Captain Book or the conductor on the Polar Express, Pastor John brings joy while he makes sure kids go home with a book of their own to keep. There’s little that can keep him from his mission, even the three days of dialysis he undergoes each week.

John and his wife, Sheila, live in the Cedarcrest area and share grandchildren with Tommy and Patti Bounds.

The annual Seeds of Imagination Luncheon raises funds to send a book to the home of 19,000 children every month, free of charge to the families. The book-gifting program helps children develop early literacy skills, preparing them to learn to read. Research shows that children with books in the home are far more likely to complete high school than those without books in the home.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Knox County is administered through the Knox County Public Library and supported by an advisory board. Sponsors and table hosts for the event include The Boyd Foundation, Home Federal Bank, Clayton Homes, Steve and Ann Bailey, Pilot Company, Food City, Thomas and Lindsey Boyd, Lantry Family Foundation, Joe and Katherine Fielden, Whitfield and Brittany Bailey, The Tombras Family, Pinnacle Financial Partners, Dominion Group, PYA, Covenant Health, The Trust Company of Tennessee, Glenn Jacobs, Knox County Mayor, Apex Bank, Lisa Herron MD,, Paddison Foundation, Harper Auto and WBIR.

Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library

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