The commitment of two Whitehall residents to the school district and civic organizations made them worthy of being named Citizens of the Year by the Whitehall Community Celebration Association.

"I was blindsided," said Jeff Stewart, 42, who was named the association's male Citizen of the Year for 2018.

Paulette Pettiford was named the female Citizen of the Year for 2018.

Each was selected for their service to the community through a nomination process, said Karen Conison, president of the WCCA.

Stewart is a 1994 graduate of Bexley High School and has resided in Whitehall with his wife, Teri, for 15 years. They have three adult daughters, two of whom are Whitehall graduates.

Stewart's volunteerism reaches to the Whitehall Youth Athletic Association, Whitehall-Yearling High School's marching band boosters, Buckeye Ranch, Girl Scouts of Ohio's Heartland and the celebration association.

Stewart owns a DJ service, Ultimate Sound Entertainment, and has donated services for various city events, including those for the Whitehall Division of Police.

Stewart and Pettiford were recognized at the celebration association's event Oct. 27.

"It was when the introductory speaker began talking about this person's DJ business that I knew they were talking about me," said Stewart, "but up until then, I had no idea."

Pettiford was nominated by Whitehall school board member Leo Knoblauch and Etna Road Elementary School Principal Jessica Moore.

Moore said Pettiford serves not only as a role model and sole caregiver for her grandchildren at four different Whitehall schools, but as a role model for other students as well, helping her granddaughter with safety patrol at Etna Road and supporting the lunchroom staff at Rosemore Middle School.

"Paulette can be found at almost every school board meeting and special event in the district, supporting not only her grandchildren but the Whitehall family," Moore said.

Pettiford, 66, has lived in Whitehall since 2009 and said she began helping out schools about eight years ago -- first at Kae Avenue when she saw children being dropped off early outside the school with no supervision.

As her own seven grandchildren progressed through the district's schools, she began helping out at other schools, too, including the lunchroom at Rosemore.

"I know a lot of the (other) kids now and have watched them go from (elementary school) to the middle school," she said.

Pettiford said she was surprised to receive the recognition.

"They tricked me to get me (to the ceremony)," said Pettiford, explaining the godmother of one of her grandchildren invited her to the Halloween costume party that preceded the ceremony.

"But all the kids were leaving when I got there and I began asking (other people) what was going on," said Pettiford, adding she was honored to be recognized.

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