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Friends of Covington, citing declining membership, announces intent to dissolve after 34 years


By Greg Paeth
Special to NKyTribune

An organization created to emphasize all that’s positive about living, working and relaxing in Covington has decided to dissolve after 34 years of honoring some of Northern Kentucky’s most prominent people as well as hundreds of others who were recognized for demonstrating pride in their homes and businesses.

The Friends of Covington, which was founded in December of 1987, voted recently to dissolve the organization after a couple of years of declining membership that can be blamed, in part, on the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the organization’s ability to meet in person on a regular basis, hold its annual Covington Award dinner and fundraiser, and stage its annual Friends of Covington Beautification Awards ceremony at the Behringer-Crawford Museum.

The Beautification Awards, as well as the relatively new Holiday Decorations Awards, will continue in the future under the auspices of the Old Seminary Square Neighborhood Association, which agreed to continue these programs, beginning next year.

The annual Friends of Covington Beautification Awards was a signature project of the organization. (Photo from FOC)

“We thought that it was probably time to pass the baton on programs that have proven to be popular throughout the city for decades. Our membership has declined in recent years for a variety of reasons, including the fact that newer organizations which have similar objectives have been created,” said John Niland, president of the Friends of Covington. “Keep Covington Beautiful, Renaissance Covington and the Center for Great Neighborhoods all have played vitally important roles in turning things around in a city that may have been at low ebb when the Friends of Covington was created.”

“A lot of good things are happening in Covington right now and maybe there isn’t the same sort of need for an organization like ours today,” Niland said.

“I believe the Old Seminary Square Neighborhood Association will be able to devote the time and energy that’s necessary to do a great job with the beautification and holiday decoration events. The only thing we want people to remember is that the Friends of Covington created the awards programs that encouraged people to take care of their property and show some pride in a city whose history goes back more than 200 years,” Niland said.

In the last year or so, membership on the board has been dominated by people who live in Old Seminary Square, a neighborhood that radiates out from the intersection of Robbins and Russell streets.

Don Mays, who chairs the neighborhood group, is on the FOC board along with his wife Tahli. Connie Carr, Maureen Thelen and Greg Paeth are board members as well as Linda Carter, who had been a long-time resident of the neighborhood until she and her husband Dan moved to another Covington neighborhood several years ago.

“We really thought that the awards programs should be preserved for the future,” said Don Mays. “Although it might seem like a simple thing to do, it really takes a lot of time to solicit nominations for the awards, tour neighborhoods to get a first-hand look at properties that were nominated, take photographs, gather information, interview property owners, and then compile that information into a “script” for the presentation ceremony,” Mays said.

“And once all of that is done, you have to plan and stage an event that would accommodate all of the winners, their family members, friends and public officials who attend,” Mays said. The mayor of Covington usually presents the awards certificates to the winners.

Mays said Old Seminary Square will seek help from other neighborhoods in an effort to get more people involved in a process that was designed to recognize at least one homeowner in each of the city’s 18 neighborhoods.

“We want this to be a city-wide project. We want people involved from all over Covington. It’s not just an Old Seminary Square event. We inherited this from Friends of Covington, which always tried to attract members from all over the city and recognize people who had gone above and beyond in all of the neighborhoods,” Mays said.

The Friends of Covington held its first organizational meeting at a luncheon aboard the Mike Fink riverboat restaurant on Dec. 2, 1987. Some 35 people attended that first meeting and one of the objectives of the organization was to shake off that “hillbilly image” that seemed to exist at the time for Covington and some other cities on the south side of the Ohio River.

Over the years, the Friends presented an annual Covington Award at a fund-raising dinner that was held each May. Some of the most prominent people in the city and in the region received the award.

Recipients included Covington banker and business leader Ralph V. Haile Jr.; Corporex developer William P. Butler; newspaper editor Judith G. Clabes; banker Merwin Grayson Jr.; Bishop William A. Hughes; city and county commissioner Mike Mangeot; Covington mayor, city commissioner and county commissioner Bernard Moorman; philanthropists Eva and Oakley Farris; builder Ralph Drees; downtown business leaders Jim and Donna Salyers; city commissioner Charles B. Eilerman; Center for Great Neighborhoods executive director Tom DiBello, and Jeanne Schroer, president and CEO of the Catalytic Development Fund Corporation of Northern Kentucky.

The Covington Award was last presented in 2019 to Lisa and Normand Desmarais for their business investments in the city, Lisa’s work in government, and their leadership roles in planning and implementing the Covington bicentennial celebration in 2015.

Friends of Covington


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One Comment

  1. Roger J Auge says:

    Too bad about dissolution of Friends of Covington and its awards program. But in many way, and this is not sarcastic, do what. Other groups can pick up the idea. Hope are that with Covington growing and being well run, another civic group can jump in, said Roger Auge, a long-time Covington advocate.

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