In the true spirit of a dedicated volunteer, Nancy Stewart didn't want to be the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce's 2018 ThisWeek Booster Community Volunteer of the Year.
"I tried to get out of it because there are so many people who are more deserving than me," the longtime resident of north Clintonville said. "But then I realized I would be insulting the people who nominated me if I pulled out.
"I thought it was very nice of them."
And those nominators -- at least 10 of them -- were very nice in their comments about Stewart, who still speaks in the buttery Boston accent of her childhood -- something for which the ardent volunteer has no explanation.
"Truthfully, I don't know," Stewart said. "I mean, I was 19 when I left Massachusetts."
Stewart grew up in Braintree, about 9 miles south of Boston.
Clintonville Area Commission District 9 representative B.J. White felt so strongly that Stewart deserved the Volunteer of the Year honors that she launched a Facebook campaign to encourage others to nominate her.
"She is my go-to resident historian, civic-involvement fact-checker," White said. "She is a pillar of strength in the community."
Fellow District 9 resident and neighborhood activist Rich Fowler had no hesitation about acceding to White's request to put Stewart forward for the award.
"It's just her dedication," he said. "She has the community at heart, it seems like, 24/7. She's always arranging a meeting, volunteering.
"She's very anticipatory in our neighborhood. She's worked on the streetlight project, worked on the COTA turnaround, and when we had the car-wash issue in the past. She just goes, goes, goes for the community."
Another nominator, Clintonville resident Judy Robinson, described Stewart as a "behind-the-scenes" volunteer with a fervor for improving her Sharon Heights neighborhood and Clintonville in general.
"(She) does a lot of work that no one's aware, and doesn't want to be recognized for that," Robinson said. "She is what I call a little bulldog when it comes to trying to right things for Clintonville, for which she has a huge passion."
Robinson said she first got to know Stewart when they worked together on creating the Clintonville Neighborhood Plan in the early 2000s.
"Her passion never wavers, which is cool," Robinson said.
Stewart moved to Clintonville in 1965 from Washington, D.C., after having lived in Moscow during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Not long after taking up residence, Stewart said she took up the challenge of trying to improve her new neighborhood.
"After a while, you know your neighborhood and you want to keep it nice," she said. "You don't want to be dumped on, and I mean by that zoning variances. If other parts of Clintonville don't want it, maybe you don't want it either."
Stewart, a fixture at Clintonville Area Commission meetings and in its committees, often can be heard taking up District 9's battles with CAC members. A founding member of the Sharon Heights Community Association, her efforts helped lead to the transformation of the former site of the Sharon School at East Stanton and Foster avenues into Sharon Meadows Park.
"She likes to see her neighborhood prosper," White said. "She likes to stand up and be counted and speak for those who don't have a voice.
"I think now is her time. I was mostly shocked that she hasn't already been awarded with such an accolade for her involvement in the community."
Stewart's volunteer efforts don't end at the Clintonville borders. She also offers her time and labor to Buckeye Bargains, a thrift store run since 1966 by the University Women's Club on the Ohio State University campus.
The shop, open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays at 2121 Tuttle Park Place, sells donated goods, with the profits benefiting the women's club's scholarship fund.
Stewart will be honored alongside the chamber's Business of the Year, J.R. Scott Insurance Agency, and its Businessperson of the Year, Cliff Wiltshire, during the 18th annual Celebrate Clintonville awards, set Feb. 22 at the Clintonville Woman's Club.
Recent ThisWeek Booster Community Volunteer of the Year winners include Clintonville residents Judy and Tom Skinner; Greg Denby of the Columbus Metropolitan Library; Will Reiss of Bishop Watterson High School; Cat Erney of the Clintonville Farmers Market; and Mary Rodgers of the Clintonville Historical Society.