A project founded on a kitchen table in 2006 to provide care packages to soldiers serving abroad received a $5,000 boost last week.

A project founded on a kitchen table in 2006 to provide care packages to soldiers serving abroad received a $5,000 boost last week.

Jim Caronis, a Clintonville resident and founder and president of Operation Buckeye, was named Columbus Volunteer Citizen of the Year in a program jointly sponsored by Direct Energy and ThisWeek Community News.

Fortunately, the winner did not have to be present to receive the award.

Caronis was running a bit late for the announcement ceremony at HandsOn Central Ohio, so another official with the nonprofit organization stepped in to accept the trophy and check for $5,000.

Two other finalists for the second annual Volunteer Citizen of the Year honor -- longtime Johnstown-Northridge Community Food Pantry volunteer Ruth Krumm and Maren Roth, founder of the Columbus Jewish Foundation-Jack Roth Fund in honor of her late father -- were on hand and each received $500 for their respective causes.

"I look at these finalists and I'm so humbled by what you do with your lives," Cindy Lazarus said prior to the announcement of the winner.

Lazarus, a Clintonville resident, former CEO of Flying Horse Farms and a longtime community volunteer, was invited to participate in the judging this year to select the finalists for the award.

"It's hard to believe we've got to pick one person," Direct Energy Business Manager Tom Prisk said, adding all three finalists are "great role models."

In accepting the award, Dale Dailey said the effort launched seven years ago in his Worthington home by high-school buddy Caronis soon will surpass 27,000 packages of personal-care items to members of the military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's rewarding," Dailey said. "We get some letters back."

"It was quite an honor," Caronis said. "It was tough competition.

"I was very pleased and just happy it worked out that way for our organization. It's going to give us a chance to send another 500 boxes to the troops for Christmas."

Caronis noted donations for his favorite cause can be made to Operation Buckeye headquarters, 4284 N. High St., Columbus 43214.

"Jim, a U.S. Army veteran himself, is all too familiar with the challenges that deployed troops face," a press release announcing the three finalists stated.

The release said Caronis gathered his friends and family to begin Operation Buckeye, a nonprofit that sends care packages to troops overseas.

Under Caronis' guidance, Operation Buckeye has grown steadily. To date, more than $500,000 has been raised to support its mission.

Krumm, 91, has been volunteering for the Johnstown-Northridge Community Food Pantry for more than 40 years.

Krumm, a Johnstown resident, can be found at the pantry most weekdays and sometimes on weekends collecting and organizing canned goods to fill boxes for local families in need, all without government support, the announcement stated.

"Ruth serves approximately 175 needy families, and when a person is unable to come to the pantry to pick up their food, Ruth is the first to volunteer to deliver the food to them," the announcement said.

Krumm has "lived a great example," Lazarus said during her remarks.

Roth, a Bexley resident, is owner of Rowe Boutique, launched the Jack Roth Fund more than a decade ago after her father died of lung cancer. Since that time, the 34-year-old has raised more than $600,000 for the charity.

Funds raised go to the Arthur G. James Cancer and Richard J. Solove Research Institute at the Ohio State University to support research and treatment vital to combating lung cancer, the announcement said.

Roth also helps establish several events throughout the year to contribute to the Jack Roth Fund, such as the Jack Roth Rock 'n' Roll Run, a 5K run and walk that features food, music, awards and prizes for the community.

"All of these finalists are extraordinary in what they do for others and it's clear that they are a valuable asset to the city of Columbus and its surrounding communities," said Rob Comstock, senior vice president and general manager for Direct Energy.

"Being able to recognize these remarkable individuals and their charities is an honor for us," he said.