Both of Westerville's Rotary clubs awarded their prestigious public service awards to longtime community leaders in May.

Both of Westerville's Rotary clubs awarded their prestigious public service awards to longtime community leaders in May.

The Rotary Club of Westerville named Jim Bivens its 2015 A. Monroe Courtright Community Service Award winner.

Named for the former publisher of The Public Opinion, a predecessor of ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion, the award is given to an outstanding leader, volunteer or community member each year.

Bivens has been involved in leadership at numerous Westerville-area organizations, including both Rotary clubs, the Harris-Askins House, the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce and Ohio Honor Flight.

Bivens said he's not one for public recognition, and was surprised to hear that he had won the award.

"I was amazed," he said. "That's a pretty unique class of people that have won this in the past. I've been a Rotarian for 37 years ... and the quality of people nominated for this award, in my estimation, way outshine me. So I was astounded and honored."

A Westerville resident since 1957, Bivens, a real estate agent, said he sees his community service as giving back.

"Westerville has done a whole lot for me and my family, so my idea of service to Westerville is the opportunity to just pay back a little," he said. "I get a lot of personal enjoyment out of doing things other people seem to like. That's about as far as I can express it."

And while he didn't want to speak of pride, Bivens said he's been particularly happy to be involved with Honor Flight.

"It's such an honor to say 'thank you' to the veterans that we get to take out six times a year and honor them," he said. "I was never able to serve, and it's just a great honor and pleasure for me to be able to pay them back a little bit."

The Rotary Club of Westerville Sunrise also gave its annual public service award, the Service to Community Award, in May. It was awarded to longtime Westerville public figure Kristi Robbins.

Robbins is chief of staff in the President's Office at Otterbein University, and is the former executive director of Leadership Westerville as well as past member and president of the Westerville Board of Education.

Like Bivens, she said she never anticipated the award.

"It was a complete surprise," she said. "It was almost surreal sitting there listening to the award being announced. I took a while before I realized they were talking to me. I was looking around the room at other folks who had been involved in some of the same things."

Robbins is particularly proud of her work with Leadership Westerville, where she was a crucial figure in the group's creation.

"I think (I'm proud of) my work with Leadership Westerville, being the first executive director of that program and really starting that program," she said. "Being involved in building it from ground floor and getting to meet so many people in the community to build leadership skills and find ways to serve, that's something I'll always treasure."

But her time on the school board was also very important to her, and she remembered working with longtime leaders Cindy Crowe and Curt Jackowski.

"There were some very difficult times, dealing with loss and illness of some of my colleagues," she said. "And looking back on it now, the memories of all of the graduates and graduation ceremonies always meant a lot to me."