Carol Ann Baker, who took a widow's grief and turned it into even greater efforts to help feed the homeless, was presented with the Northwest Civic Association's Anna Mildred Henderson Award during last week's annual meeting.
Baker, an Upper Arlington resident who heads up the Monday Night Meals Program for First Community Church in the Grandview Heights area, was nominated by Kellie Ehlers, wife of NWCA President John Ehlers.
The award is named after the woman who was instrumental in founding the civic association in 1967.
Intended to honor those who do outstanding volunteer service in the community, the Anna Mildred Henderson Award was established in 1989, a year after her death at age 76.
"It was part of her vision that volunteers can really make a difference," John Ehlers said before turning the meeting over to his wife to explain why she nominated Baker.
"This person's phenomenal," Kellie Ehlers said. "She sees a need, and she meets it. She exceeds it."
Baker grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, according to Kellie Ehlers. At age 15, she began volunteering at a hospital and became a nurse's aide three years later.
Kellie Ehlers shared a curious fact about her nominee: Dr. Sam Shepherd removed Baker's appendix just a few weeks before being accused of killing his wife in 1954. His trials were national news at the time and the subject of subsequent books and movies.
Baker, whose husband John died in 2006, put herself through nursing school at Ohio State University, graduating in 1958.
She got her master's degree from OSU in 1972, Ehlers said, and later flew back and forth to Chicago in order to earn her doctoral degree.
Baker, a mother of two and grandmother of four, began volunteering with the Friends of the Homeless Program at First Community Church with her husband.
After retiring from a 30-year teaching career at Ohio State, she became coordinator of the Monday Night Meals program, cooking dinner in her home with the help of volunteers and feeding about 130 homeless men a week at shelters around the city.
Baker hasn't missed a Monday night in more than 15 years, Ehlers said.
"I'm amazed by what you do," she told Baker. "It is the fabric of her being, her life's work to help others.
"I want to thank you."
"When you give, you receive so much," Baker said in accepting the award. "The heart is fed by what you give."