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Army of Sycamore Youth Center volunteers to receive state award

MANY VOLUNTEERS — Director Bobbyjon Bauman said the Sycamore Youth Center at 301 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, is blessed to have the number of volunteers that it does, some of whom are, front row, from left, Ray Szpulski, Maria Schlich, Marlita Hendricks, Rebekah Gilbo, Shayna Blackwell, Shanyia King and Kamille Lewis; middle row, Anna Knight, Rebecca Schaming, Lily Saliba, Brittany Wilson and Audrey Post; and back, Luke Krause and Joseph Desany. The center’s volunteer staff has been singled out for state recognition, having been selected as a 2021 ServeOhio Award recipient for Northeast Ohio. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — An army of volunteers who are warriors in their effort to make the Sycamore Youth Center a hub of help and hope for local youth will be recognized with a state award in April.

Bobbyjon Bauman, founder and director of the center at 301 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, was notified earlier this month that the volunteer staff of more than 60 individuals had been selected as a 2021 ServeOhio award recipient for Northeast Ohio.

The volunteer staff was nominated by Bauman, who was informed in a March 5 congratulatory letter about the staff being singled out for outstanding volunteerism and service.

“Congratulations on being selected for this award and thank you for the incredible service you provide to your community each and every day,” wrote William Hall, executive director of ServeOhio, Ohio’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism, which strengthens Ohio communities through AmeriCorps and volunteer engagement, according to its website.

“The ServeOhio Awards, made possible through support from the American Electric Power Foundation, recognize outstanding people, groups and initiatives in Ohio who make great contributions to their communities through service and volunteerism,” Hall wrote.

“The judging committee recognized these values in your nomination and were impressed by the time, talent and treasure you share with your community every day,” the letter continues.

A cash award of $1,000 will be issued to support the organization which benefited from the recipients’ service.

“We are delighted to honor you and recognize the service you have given to strengthen your community,” Hall wrote.

There will be a virtual awards ceremony to formally honor all 10 award recipients in the state. It is scheduled for April 21 from noon to 1:30 p.m. That falls during National Volunteer Week, observed April 18-24.

“Guests are welcome at this event, so feel free to invite friends or family to attend. Details, including the event link, are forthcoming,” Hall noted in the letter.

The ServeOhio Awards recognize a volunteer, service group, corporate group or volunteer initiative in each of Ohio’s five regions — Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest and Southeast.

The Northeast Ohio region takes in 19 counties, including Jefferson, Ashland, Ashtabula, Carroll, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Harrison, Holmes, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne.

There are more than 60 volunteer staff members at the Sycamore Youth Center who teach 250 students in grades kindergarten through 12 at the center after school each week, Bauman explained in his nomination letter.

“None of them are paid and yet these retired teachers, musicians, artists, seamstresses, custodial staff, etc., give of their time and talent each week to the students in Steubenville and the surrounding area through our 46 after-school classes,” Bauman noted. “We have between eight to 10 classes each day such as art, dance, hip hop, sewing, cooking, auto repair and drama — all provided free of charge to primarily under-resourced K-12th-grade students. We also work with the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center to provide volunteer service hours at the Sycamore Youth Center for students who are incarcerated or are on probation,” he added.

“All of the volunteers go well beyond the call of duty by paying for their own supplies for classes, cleaning up the center since we do not have a custodial staff and volunteering their time at our bi-annual iServe Days of Community Service,” Bauman said. “The size and scope of what this staff does is measured by much more than mere numbers. The staff has a heart for each of these children as they behind the scenes will help them with tangible needs at home, such as providing clothing, food and school supplies,” he added.

“I cannot think of an organization with a greater commitment, heart and drive for improving the lives of impoverished children than the Sycamore Youth Center volunteer staff.”

The volunteers range in age from freshmen in high school to 80-year-olds, according to Bauman. Most live in Jefferson and Hancock counties, but there are a few from Ohio County, too.

Volunteers include Marie Hosdil, Lissette Colon, Beeje Moorhead, Renee Thompson, Linda Arnold, Lois D’Alesio, Lawerence Lewis, Amanda Miller, Jamie Saunders, Pamela Bauman, Karen Aulet, Audrey Post, Joseph Desany, Anthony Desany, Ray Szpulski, Marian Szpulski, Elizabeth Weinold, Maria Schlich, Marlita Hendricks, Rachel Gilbo, Shayna Blackwell, Shanyia King, Kamille Lewis, Kristy Seditz, Brittany Wilson, Lily Saliba, Anita Saliba, Michelle Anderso, Claire Gorman, Sarah Gorman, Isaac Krause, Luke Krause, Jennifer Krause, Jeanie Smith, Mary Ostrich, Dr. John Hermann, Anna Knight, Becca Schaming, Patrick LeMasters, Amy Mahalio, Theresa Paterra, Joni Willie, Catherine Willie, Laura Norris, Candy Meiler, Michelle Palowski, Steve Forte, Maria Schlich, Daycha Wade, John Martinez, Jeff Ocean, Ryan Bradley, Ellen Mosti Barner, Patrick Long, Tonica Crawford, Helene Jones, Helen Polzer, the Rev. Matthew Moore, Kaly Shafer, Heather Sims, Bob Tomlinson, Ethan Fithen,Valleri Gordon, Michelle Santorelli Leasure, Debbie Roberts, Molly Trainor, Agnes Wear, Beatrice Wear, Matt Hill, Hu’Monni McShan, Dale Tombs, Paula Stevens, Craig Stevens, Bella Thompson, Paul Perdue, Arianna Rodriguez, Misha McGovern, McKenzie Martinez, the Rev. Sam Williams, Justin Davis, Courtnie Coon, Martariesa Fiala, Emily Ofca, Gabe Ofca, Octavian Taylor and Dan Kuzkowski.

“I am truly amazed at the generosity of time that had been donated for the sake of the youth in Steubenville. When I compiled the list and saw that we had more than 80 volunteers I was shocked,” Bauman said of the nomination process. “Sycamore could not run without their assistance, and I’m truly overwhelmed by their kindness and care for the children,” he said.

“There is a $1,000 award which is great, and we do appreciate that, but more so the fact that the state recognized what the people are doing, that means more to me than the money, that these people have given self-sacrificially over the last three and a half years and are being honored by the state of Ohio,” noted Bauman.

The center’s volunteer staff provides more than 50,000 volunteer hours a year through after-school classes, tutoring, cleaning, food preparation and other tasks they accomplish “to touch the lives of our area K-12 youth,” according to Bauman.

Classes at the center run throughout the school year Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. To 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings. The staff also puts together 500 meals each week to distribute to area K-12th grade students every Friday at East Garfield Elementary School and the Sycamore Youth Center.

“They provide meals so that students have access to food over the weekend when they are unable to have breakfast and lunch at school. They also provide 500 meals each week during the summer through the Mobile Food Pantry Program they run in which meals are distributed at nine sites throughout the Steubenville/Wintersville area,” Bauman explained.

“A volunteer staff of 12 people works at the center all summer on our food program, week-long summer camp and cleaning/renovating the building. The total amount of meals given away to needy children for the year 2020 was more than 20,000. As a result of the effort of our volunteer staff, more than 500 students are reached through our after-school classes and weekend and summer food program. Every under resourced student in the Steubenville/Wintersville area now is able to get food seven days a week. The school provides it for five days, including during the summer, and the Sycamore volunteer staff provides it on the weekends,” he added.

The center officially opened in October 2018 on the heels of a late September grand opening — the fulfillment of a dream, in Bauman’s estimation. “It was a dream I had years ago that, by God’s grace, just fell into my lap when I saw that it was available,” he said in explaining in a previous story how the center came to be. Bauman initially had asked the Rev. Ashley Steele, executive director of Urban Mission Ministries, what would become of the building after the church there, Sycamore Tree United Methodist Church, ceased to exist.

At the time, Steele referred Bauman to the Rev. Jim Winkler, at the time superintendent of the Ohio Valley District of the United Methodist Church, East Ohio Conference.

“He was the leader of the United Methodist Church district the church was in, and they graciously donated the building to us,” Bauman said. The center is owned by the nonprofit 501(c)(3) Ohio Valley Youth Network led by Bauman, its president. OVYN is an alliance of church youth workers, educators and social agency leaders who work with youth. Its members plan events and share ideas on ways to improve the lives of local students through Biblical principles.

Constructed in 1892, the former church building was deeded over to the OVYN in May 2018 at no cost by the East Ohio Conference, United Methodist Church. In its history at the corner of Fourth and North streets, the building was Calvary United Methodist Church, a merger of First Church and Hamline. When Urban Mission was newly formed decades ago, it was located in Calvary Church.

“Although it was free, it took us nearly a year to clean up, fix up, get a new roof, a new boiler and get it up to code, which cost us probably around $50,000,” Bauman had said. “Fortunately we have a new roof and a new boiler so we should be good to go for a number of years without having to incur any major expenses. We also are thrilled that we finally had a chair lift put in through a grant which will allow greater access to our disabled students and adults.” The chair lift was paid for through a grant awarded by the Mary Jane Brooks Charitable Trust Foundation.

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