BHJ honors community volunteers

WEIRTON – John Brown, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, told the volunteers recognized at the organization’s annual awards dinner Wednesday that their contribution to the Ohio Valley is priceless.

“Without your presence, we would be a lesser region. You have solved the hard problems. When others have said no, you have found a way to say yes,” Brown said as those attending the event at the Serbian-American Cultural Center stood to recognize honorees.

They were Toronto Mayor John Geddis, Wellsburg fire Chief Richard Kins, the Newell Community Improvement Coalition and Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Geddis is recipient of BHJ’s Bernie Kazienko Public Service Award, named for the late Brooke County sheriff and commissioner. Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham described Geddis as a highly intelligent public servant who takes great pride in his city.

He noted after being elected as a write-in candidate for Toronto councilman at large in 1978, Geddis went on to serve as council president for six terms and is in his fifth term as mayor. In that time, he has been involved in such projects as the construction of a $15 million water treatment plant, major ugprades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and improvements to city parks, Graham said.

Geddis was unable to attend because he is undergoing cancer treatment but was represented by his wife, Kathryne, and daughter, Mandy Capel.

Capel said her father wanted to recognize, for their cooperation over the years, several groups, including the Jefferson County Commission and Planning Commission, Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association, Ohio Public Works Commission, Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency, Water Development Authority and Department of Development’ and Community Development Block Grant and Rural Community Assistance programs.

“My father has always taken pride in hard work, public service and bettering his community,” Capel said. “You can always see the pure joy on his face when he talks about his community and the efforts of many people to make it a better place.”

Dan Greathouse said he and fellow Hancock County commissioners are proud of the Newell Community Improvement Coalition, which has worked to have new sidewalks put in along Main Street, welcome signs established at both ends of the community and flower planters and benches placed in many areas.

He noted over the last 12 years, the group has re-established Laurel Hallow Park, once a zoo in the early 20th Century, as a major recreational site, with an amphitheater where free summer concerts are held; walking and bike trails, picnic tables and most recently, a scenic overlook. It also has plans for a playground at Clarke Field, former site of the Oak Glen football stadium.

Beverly Enochs, group president, has credited the support of the Hancock County Commission, West Virginia officials and the citizens of Newell for the group’s success.

Representing the group on Thursday, coalition member Sue Thompson said the efforts show that Newell residents as a whole “take great pride in where they live.” She encouraged everyone to visit Laurel Hollows Park.

Past BHJ honoree Ruby Greathouse noted Kins has been a member of the Wellsburg Volunteer Fire Department for 43 years, 34 of them as its chief. She said the department has a reputation for excellence that can be credited to his leadership.

Greathouse said Kins’ service to the community began at a young age, when he was a Boy Scout. He later served the Army in Germany from 1968-70 and is a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Moose Lodge and Fraternal Order of Elks.

Kins laughed when it was mentioned that he was invited to join the fire department by his father, the late Bob “Weeno” Kins, who also was chief . He said as with the Army, he was “drafted” into the fire department but on a more serious note, he credited his father for “teaching me everything I know.”

Kins said he accepted the award on behalf of his father and all of the volunteer fire departments serving Brooke County.

In recognizing Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci noted an economic study of the school found the community benefited from more than $71 million in direct spending by the school as well as more than 80,000 hours of volunteer service, at an estimated value of more than $3 million.

Mucci said efforts by students account for about 30,000 of the hours and include assisting with the restoration of the Grand Theater in downtown Steubenville.

In accepting the award, the Rev. Nathan Malavoti, the university’s vice president for community relations, noted several other ways Franciscan students have helped the community, including working at the Urban Mission’s Unity Kitchen and serving as tutors at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.

Mike Florak, FUS director of community development, and Anita Jackson, FUS director of community relations, also were on hand to accept the award.