Geographically speaking, Tim Huffman points out, Upper Arlington is in the heart of Ohio, and Huffman's Market -- a business his family ran for 30 years -- is in the Tremont Center in the heart of the community.

So maybe it's appropriate that the Upper Arlington Community Foundation selected Huffman and his family as the first recipients of a new Heart of UA Award that will be presented at the group's annual Raise the Roof event May 10.

According to the UACF, the award aims to recognize the cumulative philanthropic and volunteer efforts of individuals, families or family foundations over a period of five or more years that demonstrate "outstanding civic and charitable responsibility" and whose generosity encourages others to take philanthropic leadership roles in the community.

UACF Executive Director Tracy Harbold said the Huffmans have pumped untold love throughout the community over the past three decades, doing everything from supporting nonprofit organizations in Upper Arlington and handing out free hot dogs at the July Fourth parade to creating a quiet fund at Upper Arlington High School that hands out money to less financially fortunate students for things such as prom dresses or fast-food lunches.

"The Tim and Glenda Huffman family truly exemplify the Heart of UA Award, and we are honored to name them as our very first recipients," Harbold said. "When an organization in UA needs something, whether it be serving as an auctioneer at the Tremont School Auction or partnering with the city parks and rec department on dozens of events, activities and programs, they are always leading the way.

"The Huffmans have been great supporters of not only the Upper Arlington Community Foundation but also nearly every other nonprofit, school fundraiser or community project in UA."

Tim and Glenda Huffman moved to Upper Arlington in 2002, but their ties span back to 1987, when Tim opened Huffman's Market at 2140 Tremont Center with his brothers, Joe and Ray.

Huffman sold the business to Chicago businessman Raj Patel last July.

But from the first days his family owned the store, Glenda and the couple's children, Ryan, Tony and Melissa, were fixtures of the business and the community.

"We are very pleasantly surprised (about the award) and we're very, very humbled by it," Glenda said, recounting late nights in the early years, with her children helping to clean or sleeping in the store.

"We especially like this one because it includes our whole family and our whole family has always been part of that store," she added. "How many times when our kids were really little, it'd be every Friday night, Saturday, Sunday? That's where we were, all of us."

The Huffmans were known to greet customers with smiles and were famous for allowing children to power the electric train that runs on tracks above the customer floor.

They also had longtime employees who became well-known members of the community, including Earl Stover, who retired at age 87 shortly after the store was sold, and James Williams, a customer favorite who still runs the store's meat department.

Over the years, countless local students, veterans and others completing school projects or fundraisers were permitted to sell goods just outside the store, and Tim and Glenda annually dressed in costumes for Halloween.

They still serve as Santa and Mrs. Claus each year, traversing local streets in a sleigh so children can catch a glimpse and feel the magic of Christmas.

"He really likes having fun. I think we both love people, but I think especially Tim," Glenda said. "We have a costume for almost every occasion that goes on.

"I mean, we have a basement full of costumes."

More than simple fun, the Huffmans were known for supporting area 4-H members by purchasing pigs and lambs at the Franklin County Fair. Tim also has been known to provide anonymous aid to people in need.

"Tim would say, 'Get it fixed and send me the bill,' " Glenda said. "These were things that went done and nobody really knew about it, but people knew to come and ask Tim.

"Or someone would come to us and say, 'So-and-so lost her husband,' and Tim would send them a $1,000 gift and never wanted a thank-you. A lot of times, I don't even think the people knew where it came from. I think those kinds of things of things were much more important to us."

Tim Huffman said he's never been motivated by recognition for his philanthropy, but rather has always wanted to support his community.

He and six siblings spent a year in a Columbus orphanage now known as St. Vincent Family Center, and he said he's humbled by the success he's enjoyed over the years.

"We both had very humble beginnings," Tim said. "I've had a lot of things go on in my life that makes me appreciate the things I have now.

"We never wanted a whole lot, we never had a whole lot and never expected a lot, but we always did what we could do. We've enjoyed it. It's been very, very good for us."

In retirement, Tim and Glenda are working around their house and traveling. Tim said he particularly enjoys exploring the back roads of Ohio -- areas where the couple has no particular reason to venture.

He's also involved in the Rotary Club of Upper Arlington.

"We're still trying to stay involved as much as we can," he said. "I'm very humbled by (the Heart of UA Award).

"We're just people who are involved in the community."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate

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