MASON COUNTY — The great, Greek philosophers surmised human beings should expect the unexpected, some even went so far as to warn humanity it should expect nothing.
Out of the unexpected, and its losses, something is most always gained thanks to the efforts of those who refuse to sit by and do nothing. This was the recurrent theme at this year’s Spirit of our Community Awards reception. The reception honors the best in volunteerism in Mason County.
Recognized this year were Charlie’s Angels for Health; Mario Liberatore for Economic Development; Jack Fowler for Arts and Culture; Heavenly Hands Trinity Knitting Ministries for Human Services; Letart Corporation Sand and Gravel for Youth and Education; Dennis Brumfield for Recreation.
Co-emcee for the event, Rick Handley, first introduced Charlie’s Angels, a group of volunteers which have raised over $100,000 for the American Cancer Society and recently established the Angela “Charlie” Lilly Memorial Fund — Charlie died from breast cancer in 2005 at the age of 38 following a three-year battle with the disease. During the presentation, Handley spoke candidly and poignantly about his late wife Sue, who also died of cancer, and the impact Charlie had on her life. The core committee of Charlie’s Angels is led by her sister Wendy Lilly with the assistance of Charlie’s other sister Jackie Stewart, their mother Dixie Lilly and their aunt Sandra Willet. Other key team members include: Amanda Stewart, Rachel Stewart, Karen Meadows, Jonna Rice, Amy Crank, Ashley Cossin and Angela Lanier.
Handley then introduced Liberatore who was nominated by Charles Lanham, who said “One of Mario Liberatore’s strongest assets is his passion for the community.” Liberatore helped establish the Mason County Community Foundation, where he currently serves as president. He serves on the board of directors for the Mid-Ohio Valley Center in Mason County and was instrumental in the development and financing of the $6 million facility that now offers career training opportunities for more than 1,500 students. As Finance Chairman for the Point Pleasant Junior and Senior High School Facilities Committee, Liberatore was instrumental in raising money for the new football field, bleachers and the new track. He put together a $700,000 bond issue to complete the funding. He also assisted in raising an additional $425,000 for restrooms, a concessions facility and four new tennis courts. At the same time, he led the Auditorium Committee to raise funds for more than double the seating capacity of the new auditorium from 365 to 800 seats — a $850,000 project.
A 25-year member of the Main Street board of directors, Liberatore has been involved with their programs since their start in 1988, including the $7 million Riverfront Park. In 2012, he was named the Main Street Director of the Year for the state of West Virginia. Liberatore recognized Lanham, his family and the many other volunteers in the community who help bring ideas into reality in Mason County.
Handley then introduced Jack Fowler. Fowler was nominated for the 2013 Spirit of Our Community Award by Leigh Ann Shepard for the tireless work he put in to raise the funds to start the Point Pleasant River Museum, as well as his efforts to rally supporters and excitement within the community for the museum. This year, one of the community’s big triumphs was the dragonboat festival organized by the river museum at Krodel Park. Fowler accepted his award by recognizing others in the community which help make Mason County a better place to live by volunteering their ideas and time. Fowler also gave special recognition to Martha and Ruth Fout who also work at the river museum to ensure its continued success.
Then, Ohio Valley Publishing’s Managing Editor Stephanie Filson took over emcee duties, introducing the Heavenly Hands Trinity Knitting Ministries. The group makes a variety of items based on the needs of the community. They specialize in prayer shawls for victims of domestic violence and hospice patients, lap covers for ailing veterans, chemo hats for the suffering, and baby blankets for little ones. The idea behind the group was started by the late Joan Moore. That vision grew into a dedicated group of ladies who get together weekly to knit gifts for people they don’t even know. Every Wednesday afternoon you can find around 20 ladies working away at Trinity United Methodist Church — making items of comfort for body and soul.
The Heavenly Hands knitters include: Patti Tribble, Vicky Rice, Vickie Reynolds, Mary Hendricks, Joyce Lee, Leatha Queen, Ellen Riffle, Marge Grueser, Paula Champman, Teresa Johnson, Sherry Wallbrown, Sue Brady, Bernadine Keyser, Zoann Roush, Judy McWhorter, Shirley Ball, Kay Rutherford, Ival Wamsley, Charlotte Stephens and Ashley Wood.
Filson then introduced Letart Corporation Sand and Gravel which is Beale Elementary School’s partner in education. The local family business was nominated by Pat Brumfield of Gallipolis Ferry for the 2013 Spirit of Our Community Award because of all they do to support their school. The company is operated by three brothers. One of them, Jon Thompson, said over the years the business has done what they could to help Beale and other schools.
The company is responsible for the Beale Elementary School sign; assisting with landscaping; funding magic shows, movies and field trips; paying for student participation in national academic games and many other types of support. It’s all part of what Thompson refers to as “passing along our blessings.” Each Christmas, Letart Sand and Gravel also adopts a needy family. In addition to the company’s financial contributions, the employees of Letart Corporation Sand and Gravel are known to give of their own time, as well. They attend fundraisers, judge science fairs, and, when the situation calls for it, they even donate their blood.
Filson then introduced Brumfield, a local businessman known far and wide for his enthusiastic contributions to sports in Mason County and beyond. He has coached, refereed and contributed to the athletic experience of youth throughout the region. In 1981, Brumfield started the Point Pleasant Youth Soccer League. Since that time, he has held offices in local, state, regional and national soccer associations. From 1993 to 2000, he served as president of the West Virginia Soccer Association. He is currently the treasurer of the United States Youth Soccer Association and has been designated referee of the year by state and regional associations.
When Brumfield accepted his award, he talked about his family and community, including the Marshall Community, asking all at the dinner to remember the 75 people who perished in the 1970 plane crash, some of whom Brumfield knew personally.
Each honoree received a $2,000 honorarium made on their behalf to the Mason County Community Foundation, which was appreciated but more than likely not what the nominees ever expected when they began their endeavors.
As Wendy Lilly put it when accepting the award for Charlie’s Angels, losing her sister was the hardest thing she’d ever experienced. However, when Lilly, and the other nominees were faced with the unexpected, the option to do nothing was not an option.
(Editor’s note: Photos of this year’s Spirit of our Community Award winners appear on this page. The photo of Charlie’s Angels already appeared and ran as a standalone in Friday’s edition.)