A refrain of recognition reverberated through Packard Music Hall as the 10 Trumbull County Community Stars took center stage Tuesday evening.
For more than a decade, the annual program has celebrated ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This year’s award winners stood out from about 60 nominees for their altruistic actions.
About 430 family members and supporters gathered to recognize the community-changers at the awards dinner, sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100.
Lisa Chapman, who nominated Lisa Booze, attended the dinner with her brother, Max Decker. Booze held a fundraising benefit to help pay for the treatment of Decker’s pancreatic cancer.
“If it wasn’t for the support – I don’t know,” Decker said, with tears filling his eyes, “I have a lot to fight for.”
Chapman said Booze has always had a caring mindset.
“She once told me, ‘If people would just help each other, we wouldn’t need organizations to even hold benefits,'” Chapman said.
Booze’s idea of helping “just because” is exemplified in the lives of all the community stars, including longtime grocer and philanthropist Barney Macali, local history preserver Kay Fisher, community gardener Mary Ann Franklin, ox roast founder the Rev. Frank Glenn, U.S Army veteran champion Gary Gutelius, and historical figure reenactor E. Carol Maxwell. Joining their ranks were Miss Ohio and Howland native Heather Wells, volunteer fire hydrant painter Pierson Butcher Jr., and big-hearted 9-year-old Selena Rockenfelder.
Each star was given a plaque and commendations from Gov. John Kasich, Congressman Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, and the Trumbull County commissioners. They enjoyed a meal prepared by Saratoga Restaurant while surrounded by family and friends.
“I’m so excited to be here, so very honored that my granddaughter is being recognized,” said Doris Watkins, grandmother of Wells. “I’m glad she grew up and learned to give back and love the community.”
Giving back doesn’t stop with the end of the ceremony. During her acceptance speech, Wells encouraged everyone in attendance to keep making a difference. She didn’t have to tell the community stars twice though.
Having won for her selfless Christmas request to supply those in need with blankets, 9-year-old Rockenfelder is already planning her future around taking care of others. She said that when she grows up, she wants to be a nurse or doctor, “because I want to deliver babies.”
Community Star Butcher was recognized for his service of painting fire hydrants throughout the city and cleaning up sidewalks and street corners from criminal activity. He already has his sights set on the fire hydrants along the U.S. Route 422 corridor.
He attended the 2004 Community Star banquet in support of a friend and said he never imagined he would one day be recognized for his work.
“It had never crossed my mind. I just thought painting these fire hydrants looked nice,” he said.
The evening opened with a message from Gov. John Kasich, recorded when he was in town on Monday.
“We need to take our communities back. You know they honor the people that are here tonight because they give of themselves selflessly.
”They’re not in this because they expect this award, probably didn’t even expect this honor. But I think we all know in our country, in our state, in our communities that we all need to step up and do something to make this place better,” he said.
His words were echoed by Tribune Chronicle Publisher Charles Jarvis, who has seen the local program expand from 150 attendees the first year to 430 this, the 13th year.
“They have become real leaders, real givers of their selves, givers of their time, without any expectation of return of any kind. So when we honor them at a community stars banquet, it’s a heartfelt honor we bestow upon them,” he said.
“We want them to feel as though they are important to this community because they are and they will be. Its just the way they are made,” he said.
With more stars in the making, Jarvis said the Tribune looks forward to honoring them in the future and encouraged nominations for next year’s honorees.