Dean Blevins discusses humanitarian efforts to help those less fortunate

By Julie Fann
star staff

  A Carter County native who once served his country in the military now devotes his time to helping those who are less fortunate. Because of his local efforts, Dean Blevins, a realtor with Shell and Associates in Elizabethton, recently won the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors Humanitarian Award for 2004.
  Blevins' work consists of helping disadvantaged youth who suffer from mental and physical handicaps through his commitment to the local Civitan Club. A member of the club since 1981, Blevins has focused his attention on raising funds to assist local children in need.
  "The things I do are really small things, but they go along with the idea of lighting a candle instead of doing nothing," Blevins said during an interview Tuesday. "We concentrate our work toward disadvantaged children who are not as blessed as the rest of us."
  In the early 1990s, Blevins and other members of the Civitan Club spent nearly $10,000 building a park located just south of the Carter County Jail for children who have special needs. The club purchased all of the playground equipment at the park and, once a year, hosts a picnic for those citizens. Approximately 350 people attend the picnic annually.
  The bulk of Blevins' work, however, would not have occurred if he had not struggled to keep the local Civitan Club alive. Though the club once had a strong membership in the early 1990s, over time, numbers have dwindled. "At the time the park was built, we had an incredible club of 20 to 30 people on the roster. We've got only 10 or 15 people now, but they are not, in fact, there. Clubs have to have new people all the time because people die and people quit, and the club has not added more people."
  Blevins said that sometime in the 1990s there was an effort to get rid of the old flag truck, an historic Civitan effort that involved placing flags at local businesses during federal holidays in return for funds used to fuel assistance for those in need. "There was no plan to replace it, so I just said, 'Well, I'll put the flags out'."
  In the 1980s, Blevins assisted the club by placing flags only in the west end of Carter County, approximately 40 or 50, and the rest of the membership participated in doing the remaining work. "Finally, due to a lack of interest, I just said, 'Well, I'll put all the flags out', and I started doing that around 1996."
  "The rest of the people in the club said, 'Well, that's fine; you can put the flags out', and it left them with nothing to do and they lost interest and quit," Blevins said. "You have to have money because that picnic costs $1,000."
  Prior to the picnic, which is always held in May, Blevins writes a letter to the county and city school systems informing them of the date and asking them to let him know if a change needs to be made. "The school systems provide the transportation. The school teachers use it as sort of an incentive for behavior, so some don't get to come. We also invite the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center."
  Blevins said about 100 local merchants contribute to the effort by purchasing flags for their business.
  Another project Blevins began is one that identifies one or two high school seniors in each high school who have given to the community in some manner and awards those students with an engraved plaque from the Civitan Club.
  "It's no big deal, but it's something. It costs about $200 ... If somebody (businesses) will call me on the phone and say, 'Yes, we want a flag', generally once or twice a year I'll take a stack of fliers and tape one to the doorknob of every single business in town. If they are a subscriber, they know they've got one because they have one on their door. They get a bill in the mail for $20, then pay $20 annually."
  The Civitan Club also participates annually in the Appalachian District Civitan Scholarship Program. The regional Civitan district extends from Roanoke, Va. to Chattanooga and includes approximately 50 clubs. "There's enough money there because we contribute heavily enough to give two $1,000 scholarships to a child, a senior, who has some sort of mental or physical problem, and, in the past three years, four Carter County students have won," Blevins said.
  Blevins and his wife have three children, two boys they adopted in Germany, and a daughter. The couple also has four grandchildren. Blevins is an Elizabethton native who graduated from Elizabethton High School. He is also a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam war.
  The Civitan Club motto is "building citizenship", which means giving to the community.