Grove City Rotary award honors retired educator who teaches in other venues

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
Steve Jackson, Southwest Franklin County Historical Society president, shares a laugh with historical society members as he cleans the Orders School House's windows July 22 at Century Village in Grove City. The Grove City Rotary is honoring Jackson with its 2020 Service Above Self Award.

Although he has been officially retired for three years, Steve Jackson has never really stopped teaching.

"I'm a teacher by profession -- I taught history and English (at Madison-Plains High School)," he said. "I suppose being part of the (Southwest Franklin County) Historical Society is a natural outgrowth of that.

"It's really important for people, especially young people, to know about the history of their hometown community. Get them interested in history, and you will have young people who are much more productive citizens and less likely to be involved in antisocial behavior. If they have a sense of who they are, where they come from and a sense of place, they're more likely to take pride in their community and want to contribute to it."

A lifelong Grove City resident, Jackson's contributions to his community, including serving the past 14 years as the historical society's president, are being recognized by his selection as the recipient of the Grove City Rotary Club's 2020 Service Above Self Award.

A ceremony honoring Jackson was scheduled July 24 at the George Edge outdoor stage at Park and Broadway in Grove City's Town Center.

Jackson is the fourth recipient of the award, which typically is presented in a ceremony held during the Grove City Homecoming event held by the city on the Friday night of the Grove City Alumni Softball Tournament weekend.

While the softball tournament was held using safety protocols due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the city canceled the other homecoming events.

"It's a shame we couldn't hold our usual ceremony, but we're really pleased that we were able to recognize Steve, even if it was in a revamped format," said Andrea Russell, chairwoman of the Rotary Club's Service Above Self Award.

Jackson is a well-deserving recipient, she said, because of the important role he has played in helping preserve the historic heritage of Grove City and southwest Franklin County.

He gets involved in volunteering not for personal attention, but because of the pride he takes in his hometown, Russell said.

Jackson is a direct descendant of the James Orders family, one of the early settlers of the area that later became Grove City.

A portion of Century Village, the park on Orders Road that features several restored historic buildings, most of which were moved from their original locations in Grove City or southwest Franklin County, was once owned by members of his family, he said.

"It's something I often think about when I'm out at Century Village," Jackson said.

Many of the buildings that have been preserved at Century Village were about to be torn down before the historical society arranged for relocation to the park, he said.

"Think of all the wonderful history that would have been lost," Jackson said.

The park gives visitors a chance to step back in time and imagine and learn about life during the 19th century when Grove City was an emerging settlement, he said.

"We're so blessed to live in a community that supports the preservation of its history," Jackson said.

Along with Century Village, the Grant-Sawyer Homestead has been preserved on Haughn Road and the historical society operates the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum at 3378 Park St.

Jackson has played a major role in each of those preservation projects, Russell said.

The museum, Grant-Sawyer residence and the buildings at Century Village have been closed to the public since mid-March due to the pandemic.

"We were in the museum the night of March 12 working on getting some things ready to celebrate the museum's 15th anniversary and after we left that night, the stay-at-home order and building closures went into effect," Jackson said. "We haven't been back since."

In recent weeks, Jackson and other historical society volunteers have been working in the gardens at Century Village and completing the restoration of the circa 1884 railroad depot that was moved in January 2018 from its original location at the intersection of Front and Park streets.

The depot's interior has been restored to portray the time when it served as a stop for trains.

"It's really going to be something for people to see when we can have visitors back at Century Village," Jackson said.

During normal times, he serves as a docent at Century Village and the Grant-Sawyer residence.

It's a chance for him to put on his educator hat and teach community members, students or visitors about Grove City's past.

"I taught for 46 years and part of me didn't want to stop teaching even though I was eligible to retire," he said.

Giving back to one's community is satisfying and rewarding, Jackson said.

"I really think that when you get involved in doing something for your community, you're getting back a whole lot more than you're giving," he said. "You're taking the responsibility of helping to make the town where you live into a nicer, more enjoyable place to live."

Preserving the history of a community leads to good outcomes, too, Jackson said.

"A community is much more likely to have a positive present and hopeful future if its residents have a sense of from whence they came," he said.

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