LIST: Central Ohio winners for the 2019 Jefferson Awards


Many thanks to those of you who nominated all our super volunteers. We received 152 nominations. And, after two rounds of judging and some very close votes, we have our winners.

Lou Gatch, Tammy Jewell, Reita Smith, Glenn Stephenson, and Charles Tompkins all claimed a medal on Tuesday night. Glenn Stephenson will now go on to Washington to compete for a national award.

A big congratulations all who were nominated. Hopefully, we will see your names again next year.

Here is a list of our winners and a summary of what they have done:

LOU GATCH spear-heads a furniture-building project for the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio. He and his team developed a system to speed up the production of much-needed dressers for people transitioning into housing. Lou’s system took dresser production from one per week to up to 48 per week.

TAMMY JEWELL grew up poor and often didn’t have basic hygiene items, which made an already difficult life even more so. So, Tammy started God’s Hygiene Help Center, providing free toiletries to those who need them, so that young people and their families can keep their pride and dignity.

REITA SMITH has spent 60-plus years preserving and telling the story of her ancestors and the community of Poindexter Village and Columbus’s Near East Side. Reita, an expert in African American genealogy, has volunteered thousands of hours working on the dream of a Poindexter Village Museum to honor one of the first public housing projects in the country.

GLENN STEPHENSON has turned a family suicide experience into a mission to help others who are thinking about ending their lives. He’s been a volunteer with the Suicide Prevention Hotline for 19 years and is a first-responder to suicide scenes, supporting those who’ve just suffered a loss. Glenn also trains and mentors other volunteers with Franklin County’s Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors organization.

CHARLES THOMPKINS has served the Milo Grogan community for more than 30 years, changing thousands of lives in that neighborhood through his work on the area commission. Charles runs holiday meal and adopt-a-family programs, coaches the youth baseball team, and spear-headed an effort to revitalize and clean up the community and re-open the community center.

Here is a list of our finalists and a summary of what they have done:

JO ALEXANDER has served on the board of the Neighborhood House, Inc., where she helped with grant acquisitions, service programs and fundraising. She is currently president of the board of NAMI Franklin County, where she has been a tireless champion for the mentally ill and their families.

LYNNE ARONSON founded Stop the Suffering to help rescue shelter pets in rural Ohio through foster and adoption programs. STS saves pets that are scheduled for euthanasia by transporting them to approved rescue programs and finding them new forever homes.

KATHY BRAIDICH is the founder of the Turban Project, creating attractive headwear for people who are losing their hair due to medical issues. Kathy and her volunteers have turned out more than 27,500 turbans, caps and beanies, sending them to 33 cancer treatment centers for their patients.

REV. RICHARD ELLSWORTH served as Chaplain of the Columbus Divisions of Fire and Police for decades and has been Chaplain for the Ohio Highway Patrol since 1991. For the last 61 years, this WWII veteran has supported the Central Ohio community in several capacities.

KATHY FAUSNAUGH helped create Westfall C.A.R.E.S. to assist homeless and food-deprived students in the rural Westfall School District. This group makes sure that students and their families have nutritious meals, even over the holidays.

BARBARA FREEMAN is a human trafficking survivor who uses her experience to help other trafficking victims. Barbara goes into prisons to offer support to victims, drives around the city trying to identify and rescue women who need help, and runs a safe house for those victims.

RICK HAHN, owner of Nancy’s Home Cooking, uses his restaurant to help feed the hungry and the homeless, continuing the legacy of the restaurant’s former owner. Rick has taken it a step further. With his Pay Forward program, restaurant patrons can donate and help feed and clothe those in need.

AUNDRE HOWARD has spent countless hours volunteering for Equitas Health Care and for the Special Emphasis Program at the Defense Supply Center Columbus. Aundre works to make sure that all people, especially minorities, women and those with disabilities, are treated fairly.

JOSEPH MACHADO is a Viet Nam veteran and a long-time volunteer for Honor Flight. He’s also the founder of Veteran Interfaith Bridge, whose mission is to expand support for Ohio’s active and reserve military, veterans and their families through faith-based communities.

RAY O’NEAL has been blind since he was a child. But that hasn’t stopped him from being a dedicated Goodwill employee and community volunteer. Ray has worked with Voicecorps Radio Reading Service and the American Council of the Blind. And he developed community programs designed to teach the public that people living with blindness are just like anyone else.

DR. DANA ROBINSON-STREET is a retired Navy Lieutenant who is on a mission to improve the lives of veterans. As a member of the Women Veterans ROCK Campaign, she works to make sure that veterans have the services they need to transition from military to civilian life. Dana is also lobbying for the establishment of a veterans home in Central Ohio.

ANNA ROSIER has spent almost half of her eleven years supporting those in need. Anna organizes donations for the homeless, collecting blankets, lunches, and toiletry bags. In 2018, Anna delivered 350 lunches, 100 hygiene bags, and 90 blankets to the homeless.

JANET SOLTIS, a retired English teacher, still enjoys spending time with young people. So, she volunteers at Huckleberry House, helping teenagers who are experiencing some kind of crisis. She cooks with them, baking cookies and making Rice Krispy Treats … anything to help get their minds off their troubles for just a little while. Janet has also started a scholarship fund for the young women at Huck House.

LESLIE TWIGG has used her job as an elementary school music teacher to grow a program that helps patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. For 20 years now, Leslie has had her students make pillows for the children at NCH. What began as a project for her second-grade class is now a school-wide project. Leslie and her team gave the hospital 700 pillows this year.

MICK YINGER spent more than 20 years in law enforcement and has seen it all. Like many first responders, he has lived through traumatic events that impacted him, and, ultimately, his family. So Mick started The Bridge to help first responders deal with the aftermath of violence, fatalities, devastation and other job-related stresses. The Bridge offers counseling and support to the responders and their families.

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