Our stars ready to shine

When any event has lasted for more than two decades, there’s always the very real possibility that it will become stale.

A notable exception is the Community Stars program presented annually by the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.

We launched the effort to find 10 unsung heroes from across the Tri-State Area in 1998. To be honest, we weren’t sure what kind of response we would receive when the call went out for area residents to nominate those friends and neighbors who constantly go out of their way to help others, simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Those concerns went away quickly when the nominations started to pour in. The first recognition dinner, held in upstairs banquet room at the old Lenora’s in the Hollywood City Center, attracted a near sell-out crowd.

Choosing those men and women who will be honored each year remains a challenging task, but it’s one our staff looks forward to each year.

Readers of the newspapers submitted 45 nominations this year.

Each was impressive in his or her own way, and that only made the selection process even more difficult.

Even after the choices were made, the process did not get that much easier. The task that followed was to notify the people who had been selected. As usual, many of those who had been selected were hesitant to accept the honor.

They were certain there were many others who were more deserving. Some even decided to pass on the award, saying they did not do what they did to receive recognition.

Those responses are the exact qualities that make them community stars, and the reasons we will honor them during this year’s dinner, which will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at Froehlich’s Classic Corner, located at the intersection of Washington and Fifth streets in downtown Steubenville. The program will be presented by Weirton Medical Center, with special support being provided by M&M True Value Hardware.

The Class of 2018 includes:

¯ June Crago of Richmond, who plays a vital role at the Cancer Dietary Initiative.

¯ Sandy Day of Wintersville, who has researched and co-authored several books about area history.

¯ Jim Freiling of Mingo Junction, who is dedicated to bettering the quality of life in his hometown.

¯ Patricia Herring of Steubenville, who works with area youth through the Steuben Striders track program.

¯ Leia Hunt of Bloomingdale, who is a two-time cancer survivor who has launched a foundation to help others.

¯ Linda McFerren and Carolyn Walker, both of Toronto, who work to ensure the Toronto Main Street Museum can continue with its mission.

¯ Mark Nelson of Steubenville, who is tireless in his efforts to help the community.

¯ Barbara and David Snyder of Weirton, who share their time and talents through the Weirton Nazarene Church and the Weirton Christian Center.

¯ Robert Straka of Toronto, whose efforts have touched the lives of many in the community.

¯ Mary Zimmerman of Wellsburg, a woman who lives with metastatic breast cancer and who distributes bags that contain items that help make treatment sessions more comfortable.

If you are planning to purchase a ticket to attend this year’s dinner and you have not done so, know that time is running short. The deadline is Tuesday.

It’s a reasonably priced ticket — $20 for adults and $10 for children. Call Diana Brown at the newspaper offices at (740) 283-4711 for details.

Awards dinners have developed a reputation for running long. And while there are some that do, know that the Community Stars dinner does not fit into that category. After those gathered have eaten, we’ll present each honoree with a commemorative medallion and a gift card. Each of the honorees will have the chance to say a word and to discuss what it is he or she does and to thank those around them. That’s the entire program.

It’s a great way for our community to say thank you to those who work tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone who surrounds them.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)