HandsOn Central Ohio recently recognized eight central Ohioans for their extraordinary volunteerism.
HandsOn Central Ohio is an affiliate of the HandsOn Network, one of the world's largest volunteer networks with more than 250 action centers in 16 countries. The central Ohio affiliate recognized eight area residents with its Agent of Change Award, presented as part of HandsOn Central Ohio's celebration of National Volunteer Week.
The eight were honored at an April 23 ceremony.
Whitehall resident Christine Krites was recognized for her volunteerism at Employment for Seniors, an organization that helps unemployed senior citizens navigate the job search and interview process. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1972 and based in the offices of Appraisen Financial, 4500 E. Broad St., assists people age 50 and older with finding jobs.
Krites first came into contact with Employment for Seniors while seeking its services.
"I lost my job (in 2008) and went there for help and wound up staying as a volunteer," said Krites, who remains retired and volunteers at the Ohio Historical Society and Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Whitehall.
As an employment counselor at the center, Krites not only assists clients, but she also plays an active role in the center's operations.
She trains new volunteers and wrote a training guide for volunteers and tip sheets for clients.
The center has been particularly active in recent years as seniors have lost jobs.
"Most of them had the same job for decades and really had no idea how to write resumes or interview," Krites said.
She and other volunteers help seniors write resumes and cover letters, and they discuss common job-interview questions and the purpose of job fairs.
The center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, meets with about eight people each day.
"Through no fault of their own, (they lost jobs) and now face the additional obstacle of their age," Krites said. "It's great to see the difference in their attitude and smiles on their faces when they feel better prepared (to find a new job)."
Pickerington resident Barb Rohr was one of four women who were honored collectively as founders and operators of the Women's Respite Program, a weekend retreat for low-income mothers.
Rohr, Ellen Fox, Judy Ketterer and Anne Rapp founded Women's Respite Program in 1999.
Fox lives in east Columbus. Ketterer and Rapp live in the Whitehall area.
They were friends before founding the organization. Fox had volunteered in New York at a retreat for at-risk women, and upon describing the experience, the four women were inspired to establish a similar program in central Ohio.
Saint Therese's Retreat Center, 5277 E. Broad St., hosts the four-day respite weekends once a year for about 25 qualifying mothers. For the first 12 years, Saint Stephens Community House, at Cleveland and 17th avenues, hosted the respites.
"Our guests arrived and are checked in as if arriving at a hotel," Rohr said.
The women are escorted to their room and find a gift bag with assorted toiletries and hygiene products, fresh flowers and a journal and disposable camera to document the experience.
"Many of these women have never even experienced having their own room," Rohr said.
Many restaurants donate meals, and volunteers prepare other meals on site. Mothers are treated to manicures, massages and spa treatments.
Recreational activities include yoga, a karaoke night and crafts.
"What had always touched me the most is watching the women put their heart and soul into making something personal," Rohr said.
Each year, the agency receives about 50 applications, and about half are selected to attend the respite, she said. Social workers screen the applicants, she said.
The respite concludes with an all-group birthday party -- a celebration many women at the respite have not experienced, Rohr said.
Once a month, respite reunions are held to allow women who meet at the respite each year to stay in contact.
"It's humbling to be in the same crowd (as the other recipients)," Rohr said.
Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher, HandsOn's president and CEO, said the honored individuals "take their special skills (and) use those gifts to make a difference."
Also recognized with Agent of Change awards were Al Edmondson of Columbus, Christine Broas of Blacklick and Nashawn Stevens, an Upper Arlington-area resident who also recently was recognized with a local Jefferson Award.
Edmondson was honored for leading revitalization efforts as president of the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association and the Mount Vernon Avenue Business Association.
Stevens, a student at Walnut Ridge High School and once homeless, was recognized for sharing his message of hope with other homeless youth through numerous outreach programs.
Broas founded the HOPE (Homeless Outreach Programs and Events) picnic for the homeless.