With this year's A. Monroe Courtright Volunteer Service Award, the Rotary Club of Westerville is hoping to remind the community of the importance of behind-the-scenes volunteering.
The club announced in early June that Carolyn Cordray, president of the Huber Ridge Area Association, was the 2017 award winner and cited her dedication to the neighborhood as a major influence in the selection committee's unanimous choice.
Cordray is the 41st recipient of the award, named for the former publisher of The Public Opinion, a predecessor of ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion.
The award recognizes outstanding community service by a leader or volunteer that is both "significant and sustained."
Cordray has experience in volunteering for a variety of neighborhood causes in addition to her work with the association, including maintaining flower beds, organizing block watches, coordinating parties and working on neighborhood newsletters.
Her Huber Ridge neighbor, Pam Clegg, who serves as the association's treasurer, had nominated Cordray for the award in 2016 but barely missed the submission deadline. The Rotary Club kept her information for a year instead of having Clegg resubmit.
That meant Cordray hadn't thought about the nomination for a year, meaning she was even more stunned when she got the call.
"I was pretty surprised, actually," Cordray said with a laugh.
"(Clegg) told me last year and I thought, 'That's nice,' and didn't really think about it again. And then I got a call from the Rotary Club and I was honored," she said.
Like many who volunteer frequently, Cordray said, major recognition sometimes is uncomfortable because she prefers to keep her accomplishments private. But she said she tried to look at the positives of the extra attention for her community.
"It's a little embarrassing because I don't volunteer for the recognition; that's not my purpose," she said. "But what I do feel is that it could highlight some of the groups that I'm involved with. So that's what I'm most excited about."
Rotary member John Oleyar, who was one of the four members of the Rotary Club to make the unanimous decision, said Cordray fits what the Courtright Award should represent.
"We look for people who do a great amount of work for the community and aren't known for it," Oleyar said.
"There are people out there who seek publicity for it, and those people we're not all that interested in. For someone who quietly does work day-in and day-out for a long period of time, those are the people we want to call to the public's attention," he said.
Oleyar said he and his fellow Rotary members can empathize with declining memberships of organizations such as the Huber Ridge Association, and people like Cordray who are forging their own path are important in the community.
"If you look around Westerville over the last several years, it's very difficult to find active neighborhood organizations," he said.
"She apparently bucked the trend and was able to substantially grow one and make one very active through her leadership and effort," he said. "Being able to do that at a time when organizations like that are trending downward was quite an accomplishment."
Even someone as accomplished as Cordray said she sometimes has "doubts" about the effects of her work, and the award helps to reinforce what she's doing.
But she emphasized that she's no one-woman team and said the volunteers she's had around her have been the reasons for her success.
"This obviously doesn't happen from one person," she said. "Maybe there's one person who inspires or is able to keep going more than others, but there is a legion of volunteers who have stepped up over the years, and it's inspiring to me when things come together and you're able to get the help that you need to make things happen."