Area seniors and advocates honored

YOUNGSTOWN — For the past 18 years, Warren resident Roger Gardner, 89, of American Legion Post 540 Honor Guard, has coordinated and spent nearly 30 hours each week conducting more than 3,400 military funerals for area veterans, making sure they receive proper recognition.

His effort, along with the efforts of other Mahoning Valley residents, were recognized Wednesday at the 14th annual 2018 Valley Legacy Awards banquet held at the Maronite Center.

The event honors civic-minded senior citizens and senior advocates for their contributions to the Mahoning Valley.

More than 20 individuals from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties were nominated for either Outstanding Senior or Outstanding Senior Advocate.

The eight individuals selected for awards are:

• Roger Gardner of Warren; Harlene Huffstetler of Niles; Marilyn Stanton of Niles; and Marjorie Dangaran of Warren — Outstanding Senior Award for Community Achievement

• Shirley Lisk of Niles and Rich Morgan of Boardman — Outstanding Senior Award for Professional Excellence

• Judge Robert Rusu of Youngstown and James Sutman — Outstanding Senior Advocates

• Donald Patton, formerly of North Jackson — Cliff and Lillie Johnson Memorial Award for Time Service to the Community.

Gardner, who has volunteered at area nursing homes and outpatient clinics, said he has received a lot of support from his family and the other Honor Guard 540 members in making the veterans’ military funerals possible.

“There has been more than 3,400 veterans’ funerals held in the past year who deserve the recognition. I am very honored for our group,” he said.

Dangaran has done work for the Trumbull Mahoning Domestic Violence Collaborative and Violence Task Force working to create awareness of domestic violence and solutions for survivors,

“Being able to positively affect other people’s lives is something I enjoy doing. The many volunteers I work with help to make people’s lives a whole lot better,” she said.

Stanton, a retired Howland teacher who was nominated by the Trumbull Retired Teachers Association, said, “The members of the Trumbull Retired Teachers Association have helped in so many ways through their service efforts.”

Lisk, who helps those who come to St. Joe’s at the Mall senior program, which she helped make possible, said, “If you could see the smiles that I see every day who come to our site, those are the things that make this so worthwhile.

“This has been so humbling and rewarding to be recognized for what you do to help others,” she said.

Morgan, WKBN’s weatherman, said as an emcee he is used to handing out awards but not receiving them.

It was noted that Morgan is the only award winner to have a Handel’s ice cream flavor named for him.

Rusu, a Mahoning County probate judge since 2014, said all of the recipients through their volunteerism have made their communities better.

Huffstetler, at age 83, along with others make pillowcase dresses to send overseas.

“I thank Shepherd of the Valley for encouraging me in my endeavors and ministry. My father always said ‘The only thing we have when we die is what we gave away while we lived,'” she said.

Sutman, who works with disabled adults who all call him “dad” despite most of them being older than him, said, “I am the only person who receives Father’s Day cards from people who are 40 and 50 years older than me. I am everybody’s dad.”