Rhodus named 2022 Unsung Hero of the Year

Aug. 6—For a second year, The Richmond Register honored 15 finalists in seven categories who were nominated by their peers as Unsung Heroes.

The event took place once again at Eastern Kentucky University's Perkins Building and featured a breakfast and award ceremony.

"The Richmond Register was excited to host this event honoring local unsung heroes. Madison County is blessed to have so many people who care about others," Gary Tyler, publisher of The Register, said. "We were honored to have so many people attend to help us celebrate our 2022 Unsung Heroes and were delighted to host the event for a second year."

The Unsung Hero of the Year was awarded to Walter Rhodus of Living Hope Ministries for his efforts to help those in the community recover from substance use. His ministry provides service to the elderly, disabled, and homeless through a weekly soup kitchen, clothing, and housing programs. Rhodus also serves as a chaplin at the Madison County Detention Center where he works with men and women each week overcome their substance use issues.

According to Rhodus, he ministry works with other churches and feeds approximately 100 people each Thursday night. The chaplin said his ministry tries to have some kind of program each day of the week so that those struggling with recovery can have a safe and welcoming place in which to relax and receive support.

Rhodus said he was very surprised to be nominated as an Unsung Hero and even more surprised to be named the Unsung Hero of the Year.

Never one to seek recognition for his work, Rhodus thanked others for their work to make the community better in his remarks on Thursday.

"I'm just kind of blown away, here" the chaplin said after receiving his award.

"First of all, I just want to thank God for all he does for us as a community. Madison County, it's a special place, because there is a lot of people who want to see people do better. There is a lot of people from the jail staff, to the police department, to the fire department that work tirelessly to make this a better community for all of us. It's not just me. It's the ministries we do and the support that the county and city offers (to help us) and I just want to thank them for that," Rhodus said.

Rhodus received his award from his daughter, Brittany Robertson, on Thursday.

In her nomination for her father, Robertson wrote: "He has changed more lives through his work that I could even count, including mine. I was an addicts at one time and never thought that I could amount to anything. But he never gave up on me... He worked with me for four and half year to help me get on the right track."

Rhodus said in an interview with the Register, that witnessing his daughter's struggle with substance use compelled him to dedicate much of his life to helping others in the community.

Robertson held back tears on Thursday when she spoke to the room of about 100 attendees about her father's work and dedication to helping others in the community.

"Without him I could have never gotten here," she told the crowd.

Robertson also highlighted Rhodus' effort in keeping track of those he helps in the jails from falling back into old habits.

"After they leave the jail he makes sure they have a home and a place to stay so they don't have to go back to the same environment they came from. Because if we help them in the jail and them send them back to where they used to be; it's a revolving door and a pattern that never ends. He goes above and beyond to make sure every member of our community — that everyone cast off sometimes as a nobody— he is a voice for them, and let's them know they don't have to be nobody forever and they can be somebody," Robertson said.

The final 2022 Unsung Heroes were Ainsley White, Open Concern, Jennifer Kermeen, Michelle Dunaway, James White, David Eastham and Ella Thomason.

More than 100 individuals attended including Madison County Judge Reagan Taylor, Richmond Commissioner Mike Brewer, Richmond Police Chief Rodney Richardson, Assistant Chief BJ O'Donnell, Richmond Fire Chief Sam Kirby, Baptist Health President Greg Gerard and Berea College and EKU officials.

Out of the 15 finalists, seven were chosen as the Unsung Heroes of Madison County for 2022, and one Unsung Hero of the Year for a total of seven awards. Award winners were given a plaque and an individualized gift basket donated by Newby Country Store.

The 2022 finalists included:


Betty Plowman

Ainsley White


Jordan Barnard

James White


Jennifer Kermeen

Dan Kirstein


Open Concern

Sherman DeShields

Walter Rhodus


David Eastham

Paula Felty


Michelle Dunaway

Trish Jackson


Zaydon Flannelly

Ella Thomason