The Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce, along with the Chamber’s 2020 Premium Sponsor – the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) — recently set about highlighting the stories of the Clinton County citizens, employers and employees, and organizations making an impact in our community during the pandemic.
For the first “Clinton County Community Champions” (C4) Awards, nominations were sought for those who have showed:
• Exceptional commitment to our community by helping with a special project and/or ongoing activities.
• Unselfish leadership, creativity, cooperation, and hard work in the service to others.
• Inspiration to others as a role model.
The 2020 C4 winners were announced at noon Tuesday via Facebook Live by the Chamber and CVB executive directors — Dessie Rogers and Susan Valentine Scott, respectively — from the CVB facility.
The winners are below, with a brief synopsis of their nominations:
• Art House, nominated by Paul Clark
Starting a business at the beginning of the COVID pandemic has presented its challenges, but Art House has always provided positive energy for our community including community-based programs. It is an inspiration to see such a creative business incorporate projects across generational lines.
• Rich Corrado, nominated by Kym Parks (representing Air Transport Services Group)
As the pandemic began, Rich set the course for all the ATSG companies. He opened lines of communications, formed the corporate strategy, and ensured that ATSG did everything in its power to keep employees safe. He continued to support the community by promoting local businesses and providing financial support to programs that did everything from providing masks to supporting military veterans.
• TinCap Cidery and Craft Beer Taproom, nominated by Art House
TinCap welcomed us to the neighborhood and supported Art House in ways we never could have imagined. Relocating our business and DIYing a lot of renovations and repairs during quarantine wasn’t easy. In addition to surprise meals, TinCap allowed us the use of their loft space. We are thankful for such a kind, innovative, community-driven business in our town.
• Alex Rhinehart, nominated by Andrew Conarroe (representing Art House and the Murphy Theatre)
Alex Rhinehart supports his community and leads by example in everything that he does. Alex volunteered his time and talent to transform our empty and exhausted storefront into a functional and beautiful studio and shop on a dime budget. Alex was also volunteering his time to complete a new library enclosure for the pocket part on Main Street, helping at the Murphy Marquee, and continuing to work full-time.
• Donna Slone Gumbert, nominated by Paula Smith (representing Council on Aging)
Director of marketing at Continental Manor in Blanchester and life-long resident of Clinton County, Donna Slone Gumbert formed the Blanchester Senior Community Collaborative with the goal of identifying and meeting the needs of seniors in the community during the pandemic. Because of this effort, 40-50 seniors received bi-weekly bags of non-perishable, fresh food, toiletry items, and educational resources from April through September.
• Jen & Jeremy Kaehler, nominated by Jenny Hartman
Jen and Jeremy Kaehler went above and beyond this past spring to ensure that the kids of Blanchester had food to eat while they were out of school. Jen and Jeremy got a group of community leaders together and supplied meals to around 200 students from March 16 (just days after school closed) to the start of school in August. The community of Blanchester all came together to gather donations, prepare meals, deliver lunches, while leaders like the Kaehlers helped organize the effort and help our community get through this crazy year.
• Administration & Staff of Clinton-Massie Local Schools, nominated by Kathleen L. Norman (representing the Clinton-Massie School Board)
Our 220 staff members have shown exceptional commitment, unselfish leadership, astonishing creativity, determined cooperation, and unrelenting hard work in the service of our students since the moment this pandemic hit Clinton County in March. The countless examples include navigating innovative methods for food distribution, escalated cleaning procedures, new bus routes, supporting remote learning, the constant threat of cancelled athletic seasons, supporting student and staff mental and physical health, countless hours planning and executing strategies, proactive and collaborative leadership, and, certainly, the ongoing creativity and compassion that our teachers show daily in connecting with their students, developing innovative teaching strategies and supporting each other.
• Beth Justice, nominated by Curt Bradshaw and Rogina Conroy (representing the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center)
Unselfish, creative, inspirational, and collaborative service to others do not adequately describe Beth Justice. Mrs. Justice goes above and beyond in her role as Superintendent of the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center. She has worked hard to be a champion for all educational leaders and students during the pandemic, and she has served alongside her superintendent colleagues in the county’s school districts to lead conversations, listen to the needs of teachers, students, and families, and bring a much-needed message of hope to educational leaders and staff across the county.
• Jenny Hartman, nominated by Megan Thompson (representing Blanchester Local Schools)
Wildcat Jenny Hartman goes above and beyond for students in the Blanchester Local School District. Miss Hartman volunteers countless hours to ensure local families have meals, clothing, and other items they need. She created the Wildcat Den where donations are available for students, and packed thousands of meals for students during COVID and summer break. Jenny goes above and beyond for those in the Blanchester Community!
• Brad Reynolds/Ohio Living Cape May, nominated by Dan Evers, Tom Dreyer, and multiple residents of Cape May
The grace and commitment with which the Ohio Living Cape May staff performs their exceptional work — and receives national recognition for its efforts, services, and performance — begins at the top. Executive Director/Administrator Brad Reynolds has been a constant and consistent leader who has persevered in keeping the residents at OLCM safe from the coronavirus. Despite frequent (sometimes daily) changes in orders from the state, Brad has kept the residents, staff, and family members informed with regular “One Calls,” he shows compassion and thoughtfulness, makes a personal commitment and takes interest in the welfare of each resident.
• Pam Bauer/Clinton County Health Department Staff, nominated by the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center and Cindy Stenger (Clinton Massie District School Nurse)
As public health department officials were beginning to navigate a pandemic, Pam immediately responded to the requests of school district leaders in Clinton County to assist in planning for a safe opening of school in the fall of 2020. She did this all while remaining very calm and reassuring, offering a voice of hope at a time when the community experienced fear and concern. Pam Bauer’s leadership and service to the Clinton County community by her and her entire staff have proven to be exceptional to the local school communities and to the entire Clinton County community.
• HealthSource of Ohio, nominated by Randy Riley (representing HealthSource of Ohio Foundation)
HealthSource of Ohio has proven to be a true leader in wellness throughout 2020. HSO not only retained all current staff members, but also expanded personnel to meet the needs of our communities, and the development and implementation of the COVID Testing Program. HSO’s testing team quickly emerged as a trusted community partner for Clinton County’s pandemic response and continues to serve as a community-healthcare liaison to the local business community and social service agencies.
• Council on Aging Comfort Meal Program, nominated by Paula Smith (representing Council on Aging)
Council on Aging began hearing from individuals who were afraid to go out for groceries and other necessities, and who were without their regular support network. After receiving additional federal funding to expand meal service to seniors during the pandemic, COA developed partnerships with area restaurants to bring comfort meals to older adults – particularly low-income older adults who were isolated in senior apartment buildings.
Meals buoyed the spirits of isolated older adults and helped them to feel connected to the world outside their doors.
• Friends of Clarksville, nominated by Carol Jean Carter and Kathy Rager
With Wade Hall’s leadership, Friends of Clarksville formed in spring 2019 with the mission statement: Building Community, Restoring Hope, and Growing our Future. Seeing the countless hours of work that this team sacrificed to give back to the community is humbling. The many hours that went into fundraising efforts, grant writing, playground design, equipment selection, meetings, research, bookkeeping and budgeting are endless but to see it all end with the happy giggles and smiles of children are a timeless reward.
• Lee Sandlin & Kaleb Holcomb, nominated by Amy Volz, Michael Snarr & the Sugartree Board
Sugartree is normally run by hundreds of volunteers each month, but when COVID-19 hit in March, Lee and Kaleb led a team of about 10 volunteers, many of whom are recovering addicts, and kept the place running for months. Despite the smaller team, the ministry began delivering groceries to high-risk people throughout the county, implemented a drive-up grocery option, continued to provide 6 meals a week, run an emergency men’s shelter serving dozens of men experiencing homelessness, and helped find alternative shelter for many more people who were left stranded. Additionally, they have had countless meetings with local authorities, politicians, and stakeholders to provide the most help to the at-risk population.
• Autumn Byrd, nominated by Andrew Conarroe (representing Art House)
Autumn is an inspiration to both children and adults, personifying kindness and leadership in many of the activities she’s involved with. This nomination is specifically to focus on the impromptu speech she delivered at Wilmington’s Unified for Equality Rally this Summer. Autumn understood the importance of the day and that her words matter. I was very proud to know her and for my own kids to see such bravery and determination in someone their age.
• Emily Quallen, anonymous nomination
Emily is a senior at Wilmington High School. She excels academically and is a member of the National Honor Society, Phi Delta Sigma Academic Sorority, the WHS Marching Band, and the Select Wind Ensemble, and in 4-H. Emily has not let the 2020 COVID environment stop her from safely participating in the Wilmington Community and beyond. She participated virtually with Wilmington College’s Friends Committee on National Legislation’s annual Spring Lobby Weekend in Washington, D.C., and served as an intern at the Clinton County Board of Elections.