Local groups receive honors

WEIRTON – The Salvation Army of Weirton and Hancock County honored local volunteers, groups and businesses during its annual dinner Monday at Undo’s.

Maj. Gene Hogg, area commander of the Salvation Army of Central Maryland and general secretary of the Maryland and West Virginia Division, served as keynote speaker for the evening and focused on poverty and its consequences.

Hogg helped with the relief efforts at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He has contributed more than 30 years of service.

Hogg and his family were homeless until he was 8 years old, when a Salvation Army post took them in and provided him with an actual bed for the first time in his life.

“I thought everybody lived this way. Bathing in public restrooms and asking people for money. I never knew that we were different until they took us in,” he recalled. “From that point on, everything the Salvation Army ever offered me, I said ‘yes.'”

Hogg’s parents found a home with the help of the Army, and he became involved in character building programs throughout his education, ultimately becoming an officer.

“There are many people, especially in the United States and in your own community, who are seeking redemption. They live in the captivity of poverty: poverty of mind, soul and body,” he said. “They suffer from hopelessness. The real difference between poverty and wealth is the amount of choices available to you. The Salvation Army showed me that my future did not have to be dictated by my past. They showed me how to escape from where I was. You don’t end poverty overnight. You can’t wave a magic wand over someone’s life. It takes people like you to make it possible to offer choices to people so they can rise up themselves.”

Maj. Sue Dewan introduced the advisory board that includes John Greco, chairperson pro-temp; Jane Anderson, secretary; Michael Wehr, finance chair; Doug Finton, property chair; and Cathie Caranda, Judy Case, Cathy Ferrari, Angela Frazier, Dan Greathouse, Jan Hicks, Kitty Kochman, Miki Marino, Bill Miller, Aggie Monezis, Tamara Pettit, Michael Powell, Rik Rekowski, Dan Taylor, Scott Winwood and Pamela Zagula. Life members are Kenneth Gabbie, Duke Horstemeyer, Walter Larch and Ruth Ann Valiga. Mayor George Kondik is an honorary member.

Maj. Dave Dewan and Greco then presented bell ringer awards to recognize outstanding generosity.

Individuals who received bell ringer awards were Marshall Conley, Sr., first place; Tina Kitchen and Christina Johnson, second; and Linda Kennedy, third.

Businesses receiving bell ringer awards included the Hancock County Savings Bank, first place; Greco-Hertnick Funeral Home, second; and Brooke-Hancock Labor Council, third.

Awarded in the clubs and organizations category were the Salvation Army Advisory Board, first place; the Salvation Army Home League, second; and the Kiwanis Club, third.

Greco presented the fifth-annual Star Award to James White Construction for “quietly donating tens of thousands of dollars in services and equipment throughout the years.” Michael Gianni, accepted the award on behalf of the business.

Thanks and recognition were extended to individual volunteers, who collectively contributed more than 10,000 hours of service last year.

“Thank you for the multitude of things that you do,” Maj. Sue Dewan said. “The Salvation Army could not operate without you.”

Norma Knight was named as the thrift store volunteer of the year and presented with a certificate.

Dewan then highlighted some of the accomplishments of the previous year. In 2013 in Brooke and Hancock counties, the Salvation Army assisted 642 households and 5,003 people with more than 1,894 clothing items and 1,121 grocery orders. Around Christmas, 465 families received assistance, 1,589 people, including 4,426 toys donated for children and more than 3,000 volunteer hours.

Brenda Greathouse of Hancock County Social Services related stories of “angels at work through volunteers in Weirton.” A single mom who couldn’t afford her electric bill paid the Army back, plus more, years later. Another woman brought a cartful of groceries every year on her own birthday in an effort to “pay it forward” and help others.

“I cannot stress enough the difference that each one of you volunteers makes. Alone we can do little, but together we can do much,” Greathouse said. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”

Annual program sponsors were First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union, P.S. Marketing, Greco-Hertnick Funeral Home, Hancock County Savings Bank, Miki Marino, Gus and Aggie Monezis, St. Paul’s Holy Name Society, United Bank Inc., Assure America, Kitty Kochman, WesBanco Bank, Dr. Ron Ard, Cathie Caranda, Judi Case, the committee to re-elect Dan Greathouse, R.E. Saxon Jeweler, Del. Ron Jones, D-Hancock, Mike Powell, Steel and Wolfe Funeral Home and Cremation Services Inc., St. Thomas Episcopal Church and Ruth Ann Valiga.

(Dalrymple can be contacted at sdalrymple@heraldstaronline.com)