Rev. Dennis Knight of Pakachoag Church has been named the 2016 John E. & Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award recipient. The award will be presented at the annual Thanksgiving Ecumenical Service on Wednesday, November 23 at 7:30pm at Faith Baptist Church.

The John E. & Ethel E. Riley Outstanding Citizenship Award was created in 1976 to honor the Riley’s for their contribution to serving and making life for Auburn Citizens better. John served as the Town Clerk from 1922 to 1975 and Ethel served as an Assistant for many years. There was money donated that is now held by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The interest earned is given to the recipient chosen each year.

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Rev. Knight is a Providence, RI native. After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, he completed his theological training at The Chicago Theological Seminary. He came to the Worcester area in 1973, serving Chestnut Street Church for a several years. In 1980, Knight came to Pakachoag Church in Auburn, where he served as a supply minister for several months before becoming the settled minister. At the time, Pakachoag Church was housed at 191 Pakachoag Street,

Under Rev. Knight’s leadership, Pakachoag Church moved to the forefront of social issues, arts, and humanities in the greater Auburn area. In 1982, in response to cutbacks in funding for public school music programs, Rev. Knight spearheaded the founding of Pakachoag Music School as an outreach of Pakachoag Church. Also in the early 1980s, as the AIDS crisis was coming to the forefront, Pakachoag Church was instrumental in the foundation of AIDS Project Worcester.

In the late 1990s, after receiving a significant bequeath from congregation member Lillian Knowles Eldred, Pakachoag embarked on a significant expansion, resulting in the facility that now sits at 203 Pakachoag St. The Church then arranged financing to allow the Auburn Visiting Nurses to acquire the former church building at 191 Pakachoag.

Rev. Knight was very involved during the construction of the Dr. Arthur and Dr. Martha Pappas Recreation Complex, which sits on 19 acres adjacent to Pakachoag Church. He has also served as an Auburn Town Meeting member, and has performed countless weddings, funerals and invocations in the community.

When asked about the award, however, Rev. Knight says he is actually receiving the award on behalf of the church.

“Really this [Riley Award] is awarded to the people of Pakachoag Church, past and present, living and deceased” said Rev. Knight. “The award is really given to the story of Pakachoag Church.”

The Riley Award committee consists of the Town Clerk, Chair of the Selectmen, a Town Meeting Member chosen by the Moderator, an educator named by the School Committee, High School Senior class officers, the President of the Auburn Ecumenical Cluster, a News media person covering news in Auburn and a Citizen of Auburn named by the Selectmen, Master of the Masonic Lodge, Grand Knight of the Auburn K of C, Auburn/Webster Lodge of Elks and Commander of Chester P. Tuttle Post American Legion.

Previous winners of the Riley Award:

1977 Hugo Ullman
1978 Janet Macmillan
1979 Hubert K. Barry & Mary Adamsky
1980 John J. Boudreau
1981 Alfreda Warren
1982 Not Given
1983 Lorraine Nordgren & Paul Noack
1984 Not Given
1985 Anna & Dick Fleming
1986 Not Given
1987 Albert & Ronald Prouty
1988 Frank & Joan Cassidy
1989 Edmund Lemansky
1990 Kevin & Nancy Beach
1991 Bob Lund & Bill Bylund
1992 Suzanne Billings & Lil Green
1993 Doris Hill
1994 George S. Jewell & Ellie Oleson
1995 Lorraine Scheffler & Henry Utter
1996 Matt & Adele Smith
1997 Ray Twarowski & Paul Sturgis
1998 Anne & Jack Nugent
1999 Dan Young
2000 Lynn & Tim Cummins
2001 Mary W. Robinson
2002 Phyllis D. Gallant
2003 Robert & Carole Murray
2004 Francis M. Provost
2005 George J. Fournier
2006 Elizabeth & William Gribbons
2007 Hilda Healy
2008 Patricia Bukoski
2009 Richard Ringgard
2010 Victoria & David Mclaughlin
2011 Rev. Robert F. & Leona F. Fenby
2012 Rev. John Gee
2013 Robert R. Breault
2014 Kenneth Ethier
2015 Roger Belhumeur