Those words were spoken Tuesday evening by Deryck Toles of Warren, one of 12 area residents who was honored during the sixth annual Community Stars banquet at Packard Music Hall and Convention Center. The event is sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and the American Red Cross Trumbull and Mercer County Chapter.
More than 70 people have been awarded the honor since the program’s inception in 2002. Ten awards were given to 12 recipients this year, who were selected from a pool of 75 candidates.
Toles, a former Warren G. Harding and Penn State football standout, founded Inspiring Minds, a youth outreach organization. He works as a motivational speaker and has established scholarships for high school seniors headed to college.
‘‘I can’t do this alone. It’s the community part of this award that I believe in most,’’ Toles said after accepting his award.
He said he learned at a young age that actions speak louder than words and it’s actions that make community stars.
‘‘You have no control over whether you will become a role model, but you have control over what kind of role model you will be,’’ Toles said.
Also honored were:
— Gussie Reed of Warren, who volunteers for the YWCA, is a member of the Warren Junior League, Trumbull Mobile Meals, the American Red Cross and Make a Difference Day. She volunteers at many activities organized by her church, Grace AME, and serves on many church committees and organizations.
‘‘God has blessed me with the ability to retire and help the community. I would like to thank my family, church members and friends for their support because without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,’’ Reed said.
— Carmen Santone of Warren, a retired electrical technology teacher for Trumbull Career and Technical Center. He travels around the area and the world building homes with Habitat for Humanity. He also volunteers at the St. Vincent DePaul dining hall, serves on the TCTC advisory committee, participates each year in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and helps friends and neighbors with electric wiring problems.
‘‘What an honor. If the nuns of Notre Dame could see me now,’’ Santone said.
He said volunteering is a family affair because he couldn’t do what he does without the love, support and patience of his family.
— Nancy and Gary Grusha of Mineral Ridge, whose son Christopher was born with medical issues that led to his death at age 12. The Grushas donated a set of handbells to his school, St. Stephen’s in Niles, and Nancy Grusha continues to lead the Christopher Grusha Memorial Handbell Choir.
Gary Grusha said that while it was an honor to receive a Community Star award, he considers it an even bigger honor to work with kids and watch them learn.
— Cindy Michael of Warren, who is the grandmother of Christian Pizzulo, 1, and Mason Cross, 5, who were killed by smoke inhalation Sept. 13, 2005, at their Girard home. Police believe, a fire was set there after their mother, Lena Cross, 22, was stabbed to death downstairs from where they slept.
Since the tragedy, Michael has raised money and purchased food and clothing for needy children and families. She joined the local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children and comforts grieving families.
‘‘I want to thank my family, friends, union brothers and sisters and the entire community for helping me bring smiles to the faces of children in memory of our children,’’ she said.
— Brian Kovach of Cortland, who was paralyzed in a car accident in 1993 on his way home from his construction job. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering and devotes his time to volunteering with his church, Prince of Peace Lutheran.
He maintains the church Web site, helps in the nursery during services and is the chairman for Christian Education. He also has volunteered at Hillside Rehabilitation and Cleveland MetroHealth hospitals.
— Charles L. Jaros of Leavittsburg, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War and longtime member of the American Legion Trumbull Honor Guard. He also maintains the Leavittsburg veterans memorial and works on several efforts to raise money for hospitalized veterans and veterans organizations.
‘‘I work for my country and my community and I enjoy every minute of it,’’ he said.
— Debbie Meeker of Vienna, who is the program chairwoman for Camelot Therapeutic Riding Center for Handicapped Children and serves on the board of trustees. She is caretaker for the eight horses in the center’s stables and helps raise money for the center’s operation and programs.
— John Taylor of Warren, whose membership in the Trumbull 100 has allowed him to be involved in many community projects, including the Warren Community Amphitheatre, the Goddess of Speed project and the ice skating rink in Warren’s Courthouse Park. He also is on the board of the Salvation Army and the Mahoning Valley College Access program.
‘‘I am truly humbled by this award and I want to thank Trumbull 100 for being a truly great organization,’’ Taylor said.
— Dennis Nickle of Howland and Fred Palmer of Warren, who were honored for their quick-thinking Dec. 2, 2007, that saved nine people and several pets from a house fire. After following a cloud of smoke on their way to work early that morning, the Toys ‘R’ Us co-workers alerted and helped to safety Robert Burns, Angela Williams, their four children and three of their friends during a fire that ruined their North Road S.E. home.
‘‘I feel honored to be in the company of these other stars,’’ Palmer said.
Warren Mayor Michael J. O’Brien said it was honor for him to be among such community giants.
‘‘The burden of being mayor is eased by community members who care so much,’’ he said.
Tribune Chronicle publisher Charles Jarvis said the newspaper was ‘‘confronted with the depth of caring in the community’’ when deciding on this year’s class of Community Stars.
‘‘There were so many worthy nominees that we will be guaranteed a good pool of nominees for next year and many years to come,’’ Jarvis said.
The awards were presented by Tribune Chronicle general manager F. Len Blose and American Red Cross Trumbull and Mercer County Chapter Chair LuAnn Koch. The stars were introduced by Guy Vogrin, an editor at the Tribune Chronicle.
Tribune Chronicle / Steve Schenck
Twelve Trumbull County residents were honored Tuesday during the sixth annual Community Stars banquet at Packard Music Hall and Convention Center. The event is sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and the American Red Cross Trumbull and Mercer County Chapter. Those honored, front row from left, Fred Palmer, Cindy Michael, Carmen Santone, Brian Kovach and Gussie Reed. Back row, from left, are Debbie Meeker, Dennis Nickle, Gary and Nancy Grusha, Deryck Toles, Charles Jaros and John Taylor.