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Lightners receive Best Friend Award for volunteer work at Aiken library

July 29, 2018

Sam and Sara Lightner are the winners of the Friends of the Aiken County Public Library’s 2018 Best Friend Award.

They received the honor during the organization’s July 17 board meeting. The Lightners’ names have been engraved on the Best Friend Award plaque, which is on permanent display at the library’s first floor service desk.

The Best Friend Award, established in 1991, recognizes Friends’ members whose volunteer service makes positive, lasting changes in the library and the Aiken community.

The Lightners became Friends members in 2008, shortly after moving to Aiken from Western Pennsylvania. They came here to retire after researching a number of communities in the Southeast.

“We visited the downtown, the public library and the university (USC Aiken),” Sam said.

“We knew it was a good fit for us,” Sara said.

Education and libraries have played key roles in Lightners’ lives. Both Sam and Sara are lifelong library users, and they hold advanced degrees, including doctorates from the University of Virginia.

During his 38-year career at Westminster College, Sam was a physics professor, and he also served as the physics department’s chair. Sara had a long career teaching German language and literature.

After joining the Friends, the Lightners were quickly recruited for leadership positions within the organization, Sam as treasurer and membership coordinator and Sara as secretary.

During their 10 years with the Friends, they set up and staffed events for the organization such as the annual used book sales and the Rose Hill-based Old-Fashioned Easter Egg Hunt, supervised the Friends’ annual membership campaigns, represented the Friends at outreach events such as the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours and worked with the library’s staff to improve the resources and services of the library.

On July 24, a group of Friends officers and library staff met at Malia’s restaurant to celebrate the Lightners’ recent honor and say goodbye because Sam and Sara were scheduled to move soon to a retirement community in High Point, North Carolina.

“Working with the Friends, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the library staff better and I’ve come to appreciate what a great staff we have and the great work they do, especially their patience during the trying times of the elevator repair,” Sam said.

The Friends are not the only organization that will be feeling the Lightners’ absence. During their decade as Aikenites, they made a mark in many other educational and civic groups including the Aiken Branch of the American Association of University Women, USC Aiken’s Academy for Lifelong Learning, Aiken County Historical Museum, McGrath Computer Learning Center and the Aiken Center for the Arts.

“It’s going to take six people to replace Sara and Sam in the fabric of Aiken,” said Mary Jo Dawson, director of the Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library System. “They were a wonderful gift to all of our organizations. Our loss is definitely going to be High Point’s gain.”

The Lightners enjoyed their years in Aiken, but Sara said they were eager to begin the next chapter of their lives.

“We’re looking forward to our new home and meeting new people, and we will definitely be checking into the (City of) High Point Public Library,” Sara said.

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