For Westerville resident Tom Butler, lending a hand to the people in the neighborhood isn't something that's award-worthy -- it's just something that he does.

For Westerville resident Tom Butler, lending a hand to the people in the neighborhood isn't something that's award-worthy -- it's just something that he does.

Butler is a finalist for a Jefferson Award, which recognizes individuals who do extraordinary things in their communities without expecting a reward.

The awards were created in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Ohio Sen. Robert Taft Jr. to highlight the work these people do.

Butler, 56, has been helping out many of his neighbors in the Harvest Wind neighborhood since he and his wife, Betsy, moved there a year ago. In that short time, he has developed a reputation among his neighbors as someone who isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and shovel a driveway or two or three, and regularly checks in on elderly residents in the community.

"He moved into a condo neighborhood where the majority of the people are older, some very immobile, or just unable to get around like they used to," Butler's daughter, Megan Butler, wrote in the letter nominating her father for the award. "He will drop anything to help any one of these people out. He has changed light bulbs for those that cannot reach. He has shoveled numerous driveways, usually without the person ever really knowing it was him. On trash days, he walks around and puts the garbage cans close to the house, so these people don't have to walk out to get them."

"I just like to help where I can," Butler laughed. "This is basically normal stuff -- it's not like I'm volunteering 80 hours a week at a hospital or anything."

Butler grew up in the rural southeastern Ohio village of Barnesville, where he said helping out your neighbor wasn't anything to write home about.

"Living in that area, most people came from humble beginnings, and if you didn't have the money for something, you didn't buy it," he said. "But you helped your neighbors. We helped put up hay and plow fields, and you didn't really expect any accolades for it."

Butler's neighbors on Langton Circle say his presence has proven invaluable in their lives.

"He's certainly a good neighbor, and he takes great interest in our neighborhood," said Ray Gallaher, 80, who lives across the street from Butler. "He's a pleasant guy. One of the most outstanding things is the tremendous amount of physical energy he has -- if Tom doesn't have something regularly to do, he just makes something up."

Although he doesn't ask for it, Butler said several of his neighbors pay him for his work -- with cookies.

"Sometimes it seems like (the neighbors) didn't really expect anything, and they're really appreciative," he said. "Their gesture back usually is a nod or a phone call, and sometimes you'll get a call asking if you can come over and help with something, and there will be a dozen cookies waiting on you."

Butler is one of 20 central Ohioans being considered for five Jefferson Awards that will be presented at an April 1 ceremony at the Wigwam in Pickerington, a corporate meeting center owned byThisWeek's parent company. The event, sponsored by WBNS 10TV, ThisWeek Community Newspapers and the Nationwide On Your Side Volunteer Network, will be televised on Channel 10 at 7 p.m., April 25.

One of the five recipients then will be selected to travel to Washington, D.C., where national awards will be presented in May.

lrice@thisweeknews.com