Winners of this year's Upper Arlington Community Awards ranged from a trio of middle school students to former city manager Ted Staton, but they all have one thing in common: They found a way to give back to the city where they live and work.
Awards were handed out Jan. 28 at the annual State of the City in five categories: safety, senior, youth, business and community enrichment. Staton, the recently retired city manager, received the Stewardship Award, a sixth category added this year, in recognition of his leadership and dedication to Upper Arlington.
Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley said Staton's accomplishments included helping to buoy municipal revenues through "right-sizing" the city's workforce, spurring economic development and pressing for a 2014 increase in the city income tax.
Upper Arlington Police Officer Jon Rice won the Safety Award for what City Council Vice President Brendan King said was ongoing dedication to the community and to Upper Arlington Schools through his role as a school resource officer.
"As a police officer, (Rice) is all too aware of the challenges facing students and families when it comes to substance use and abuse," King said. "As a father, police officer, the high school resource officer, Stand Project board member and adviser for the Stand Project Student group, Officer Rice demonstrates a unique combination of empathy, understanding and accountability.
"As a board member for the Stand Project -- the Upper Arlington Community Coalition to prevent substance abuse -- Officer Rice is a subject-matter expert on the law and a tireless advocate for students. He understood that we must reach more young people, raise awareness and offer substance-free activities and took on the challenge of starting the Stand Project Student group on his own time.
"In the spring of 2018, with guidance from Officer Rice and Syntero Counseling, the Stand Project high school students were trained to go into the middle schools to share with younger students the challenges and solutions surrounding substance use and abuse."
The Senior Award, presented to an individual who is actively involved in the community through volunteer service and taking a leadership or participatory role in community programs, went to Judy Dixon Jenks.
"Judy shares her skills as a volunteer at the senior center," Councilwoman Michele Hoyle said. "She served two terms on the Senior Advisory Council, assists with the UA Senior Association Financial Audit and serves as a weekly volunteer in Cafe UA.
"In the community, Judy has been the treasurer of the Public Employee Retirement Inc., Riverside Hospital Family Practice Patient Advisory Council, Philanthropic Education Organization president and a member of Daughters of the American Revolution."
The 2018 Youth Award went to Hastings Middle School students Claire Geistfeld, Maria Buffer and Katie Overmyer, who organized a Take Off event to empower girls in fifth through eighth grades.
"They wanted to give girls a chance to 'take off' their makeup, take off the fakeness, take off the act and take off on their personal journeys," Councilman Jim Lynch said.
"The three believe that navigating teenage years can be a challenge and wanted to create an evening where girls could celebrate being unique, feel confident, special and valued. The three planned all the event details, secured grant monies and were able to attract a featured speaker, former Olympian and OSU basketball star, Katie Smith."
Lynch noted that in addition to organizing Take Off, the three girls are involved in the Hasting Middle School BEARS group, which focuses on kindness, and the Best Buddies Program, which pairs them with students in the multiple-handicap program.
Colin Gawel from Colin's Coffee took home the Business Award.
Councilwoman Carolyn Casper said his service to people in need in the community singled him out.
"Both the Heart to Heart Food Pantry of First Community Church and Sam's Fan get (Gawel's) unquestionable support," she said. "Each year, he has a food drive in support of Heart to Heart. Similarly, he hosts an annual kickoff event for Sam's Fans, where they raise money and get people to sign up for their charity events.
"He frequently opens his coffee shop for organizations as fundraisers and to the community for important gatherings," she said. "Each Christmas, he turns his coffee shop over to another family. Every cent they make that day goes straight to a local family who needs help over the holidays."
The Upper Arlington Centennial Task Force received the Community Enrichment Award for its four years of work planning the city's 2018 centennial celebration.
Councilwoman Sue Ralph said the task force made the community's year-long birthday celebration possible because of its "hard work and inspiration of a dedicated team of volunteers and community organizations."
"The Centennial Task Force first got to work in 2014, and over the many months that followed, task force members were able to take their ideas from initial concepts to final projects and events that made 2018 a year to remember," Ralph said. "Centennial projects included the Centennial Legacy Project at Northam Park, a Centennial Magazine, UA's birthday celebration in March, release of the 1918 centennial beer, 100 trees planted from Earth Day to Arbor Day at various school locations, the centennial heritage tree project, centennial merchandise, banners and signs, the updated UA history book, courtesy of the Historical Society, the centennial cycle event and the centennial time capsule project.
"Beyond the steering committee, the work of the task force was made possible by members of City Council, city staff, the UA Library, UA Schools, UA Historical Society, UA Civic Association, the UA and Tri-Village Rotary clubs, the UA Community Foundation, Senior Advisory Council, UA Education Foundation, Cultural Arts Commission, the Kiwanis Club of Northwest Columbus and many more."