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Our stars will shine

There are many different awards programs and recognition events held throughout the Tri-State Area each year.

And that’s a very good thing, because they all remind us that there are many people and organizations in our region who are doing great things and are deserving of praise.

Our Community Stars program is just a little different.

One thing that makes our stars stand out is that they are people you might never have heard of. They are the true unsung heroes and go about their routines without ever looking for the spotlight. They shine by doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.

But there’s something else about each of those who is chosen for the award — they have been nominated by their friends and neighbors, the very people who are touched by their kindness and willingness to help on a daily basis.

It’s a system that has worked well since the awards were first handed out on Oct. 27, 1998. Much has changed in the years since that first dinner, which drew a near sell-out crowd at the old Lenora’s in Hollywood Plaza. But the essence of the program, to honor those individuals who go above and beyond to make the lives of those around them better, has not, and it’s that drive to strengthen our community that will be recognized once again when this year’s recognition dinner is held at 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at Froehlich’s Classic Corner in downtown Steubenville.

The process of selecting the honorees is grueling, but it’s one members of our staff look forward to each summer, beginning in early July, when the nomination process begins. Things really get tough once in the next phase, when a panel made up of editors and staff members sort through those nominations and select the honorees.

Nothing was different this year. Readers submitted 46 nominations. What complicates the process is that each had his or her own qualities that would have made them a great honoree. Several of those who had been selected said when they were first notified that they couldn’t accept the honor. Most of them agreed to participate after talking things over with their friends and family members.

This year’s honorees include:

¯ Mary Albaugh of Bloomingdale, who founded Amazing Grace Pillowcases Inc., a nonprofit that helps brighten the lives of children, the homeless and veterans.

¯ Michael Berry of Steubenville, who believes in the power of helping people.

¯ Chari Bills of Steubenville, who founded the Ohio Phlebotomy Training Center and has never forgotten the opportunities she has received.

¯ Michael Bozzelli of Steubenville, who is always willing to pitch in when the call for help goes out.

¯ Rhonda Clevenger of Wintersville, who is the driving force behind the Together We Care soccer tournament that helps battle cancer.

¯ William “Ox” Curenton of Weirton, who works to make sure area residents have access to quality recreation facilities and opportunities.

¯ Sandy and Phil Judy of Richmond, who work to ensure the history of their community is preserved.

¯ Madelynn McKinney of New Cumberland, a 7-year-old who sacrificed birthday presents to help the Hancock County Animal Shelter.

¯ Dwayne Morley of Bergholz, who helps village residents with projects and in many other ways.

¯ John Schwertfeger of Follansbee, whose entire life has been dedicated to helping others.

Tickets for this year’s dinner are available by contacting Diana Brown at the newspaper office at (740) 283-4711. The price is $20 each for adults and $10 each for children. If you haven’t purchased a ticket yet, remember that time is running out — the reservation deadline is Sept. 17.

The evening is presented by Weirton Medical Center, with special support provided by M&M True Value Hardware and, as awards events go, doesn’t last too long — those who attend will enjoy a meal with family and friends, or even a person who just a few minutes before was a complete stranger. After that, each star will receive his or her award and say a few words.

It’s a way for our community to thank those whose efforts make the lives of all who are around them better.

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

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