Big hearts: Honoring this year's Jefferson Award winners

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I believe we’re all put on this earth to make a difference. What would be praiseworthy about living a long life without making a ripple on the water?

That’s the thought I came away with after attending the 10TV Jefferson Awards ceremony, April 6. It’s an annual awards program that honors community servants. Each nominee was chosen by their peers. People who’ve seen their work and wanted others to know about it.

As I moved through the crowd waiting in the lobby for the program to start, I heard wonderful stories about people who turned a cause into a crusade. Dale Cory created The Bed Brigade. A program that simply provides beds for needy people. I had no idea how many people are living in Columbus, sleeping on the floor. Not because they want to, but because they have little or no furniture in their home or apartment. Cory makes the bed frames by hand. He even enlists high school students and other volunteers to assemble them. He’s made hundreds of beds.

Dawn Heideman is a teacher at Walnut Ridge High School. She founded Be The One. It’s a volunteer group that helps at-risk students who are going through the trauma of violence, homelessness or extreme poverty. I met one of the girls she’s helping. The teenager saw her mother shot to death outside their apartment two years ago. Heideman has been helping stabilize her life ever since. She’s set to graduate from high school this spring. Heideman’s giving spirit is a wonder to behold. Youngsters gravitate to her smiling face, earnest tone and open arms. She says she probably gives out 300 hugs a day. Heideman will go to Washington, D.C. later this year to represent Columbus in the national Jefferson Award competition.

Amber Hudson created MASH. A pantry that provides food for veterans and military families. Hudson thought it was shameful and unacceptable for the men and women who’ve served our country to not have adequate food. Her group gets donations from the Mid-Ohio foodbank to provide veterans with fresh produce, bread and other staples.

Speaking of food, George Mrus created Culinary Comfort Care. It’s a program that provides special meals for hospice patients and their families. He makes these meals from scratch. I saw some video of him making meat lasagna for a woman in hospice care. Although she labored to breathe through an oxygen tube, you could see the delight across her face as she savored every bite of her special meal.

It was a moving ceremony, honoring just a fraction of the people who make up the big heart of Columbus. Folks who volunteer their time and often their money to make life better for others. What an unselfish spirit! The kind of spirit that truly makes this city great.