City of Kent accepting nominees for volunteer awards

Grace Murray

In preparation for April’s national volunteerism week, Kent officials are looking to recognize individuals whose volunteer efforts are bettering the community.

Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala worked with Pete Mahoney, Kent State University’s special coordinator for university and city relations, to create the City of Kent Mayor’s Volunteer Recognition Awards.

The awards are part of a national campaign that is coming to Kent for the first time, Fiala said – noting that he’s happy to be accepting nominees for the new awards in his mailbox and inbox until the April 1 deadline.

“We know there are people out there who are doing things just to warm their own hearts and the hearts of others,” Fiala said. “Now, we want to show them that we care and we want to recognize them with one of these awards. It’s about time we had something like this.”

Mahoney said the awards are open to Kent residents as well as those who live outside the city’s borders as long as their volunteer efforts are completed in Kent.

“We really didn’t want to limit the awards to Kent residents because how many Kent State students are Kent residents too?” Mahoney asked. “We had to create a program that encompassed everyone who makes a difference in the community, and the university is a huge part of that. Leaving university students out of the equation just didn’t seem right.”

Similarly, Fiala said the program is meant to highlight people from all areas of the community.

“[Mahoney and I] tried to take a cross section of the city, university and public education system,” Fiala said. “We tried to get a little bit of each entity that works so hard to make Kent what it is. We didn’t want to leave anyone out.”

In doing so, the pair created eight categories to honor individuals and groups, which include the following: Theodore Roosevelt High School Volunteer Service Award, Theodore Roosevelt High School Group Volunteer Service Award, Kent State University Service Award, Kent State University Group Volunteer Service Award, Adult Volunteer Service Award, Group Volunteer Service Award, Business/Corporate Award and Lifetime Volunteer.

Award Criteria

All information was gathered from the City of Kent Mayor’s Volunteer Recognition Awards packet.

    •    Volunteer service must be completed in the City of Kent

    •    Self-nominations or nominations by family members will not be accepted

    •    Nominations for a group or business must be made by an external source
    •    Court-ordered community service does not qualify

    •    Nominees cannot receive monetary compensation for the work they completed

    •    Awards are for volunteer service only – other forms of participation, such as charitable donations, will not be considered

Though not everyone will receive an award this year, Mahoney said he and the mayor plan to continue the program in the years to come.

“Everyone isn’t going to win,” Mahoney said, “but whether someone wins or not, he or she helped the city to win. We’ve got a great city with an enormous amount of pride. We’re going to continue this because it’s what really matters at the end of the day.”

Fiala said at the end of this year’s program, they’re going to “evaluate the pluses and minuses” to help determine how to make it better in the subsequent years. He said he hopes it’s something that community members can begin to look forward to each year.

“Communities develop this program over an entire year,” Fiala said, “and Pete and I have just been working at it for three months. We live and we learn and we try to make it better.”

For now, nominees will be evaluated on a number of criteria by a committee consisting of Fiala and Mahoney as well as City Manager Dave Ruller; Kent police chief Michelle Lee; Kent fire chief John Tosko, Kent State’s Dean of Students Shay Little; Kent State’s USG Community Relations Director Hanna Ward; and Theodore Roosevelt high school teacher Chris Hibbs.

The recipients will receive their award April 9 during city council, Mahoney said. As always, the city council meeting would be open to members of the public who would like to be there to watch as their family members, friends and colleagues are honored for their service.

To nominate an individual or group for the award, Fiala asked that a written summary of the volunteer efforts be sent to [email protected] or 217 E. Summit St., Kent, OH 44240. All nominees submitted before 5 p.m. on April 1 will be considered as long as they meet the necessary criteria.

“It’s a way to say thank you,” Mahoney said, “not just to the winners, but to everyone who works to better this city. We don’t say thank you enough.”