On September 27th, 2018 at the historic Stuart’s Opera House, the Jenco Foundation Fund and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) honored six individuals from four Appalachian Ohio counties with the 2018 Jenco Awards. The Jenco Awards recognize the region’s unsung heroes, who have devoted themselves to direct, caring action that contributes to the quality of life in Appalachian Ohio. This year’s honorees include Ada Woodson Adams of Athens County, Dan Palmer of Lawrence County, Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Shaw of Meigs County, K. Allene Kilgore of Athens County, and Grant Plummer and Tami Phillips of Jackson County.
The Jenco Foundation Fund and its annual award are named for Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest who committed his life to the service of others. Most notably, in the 1980s, Father Jenco served as the director of Catholic Relief Services in Lebanon, where he was kidnapped and spent 19 months in captivity. Even in captivity, Father Jenco continued to serve, providing a necessary listening ear for others detainees, including journalist Terry Anderson. Following Father Jenco’s death in 1996, Mr. Anderson wanted a way to honor Father Jenco’s legacy of compassion and giving so he created the Jenco Foundation.
Since 2002, the Jenco Awards have recognized visionary leadership in the service of others throughout Appalachian Ohio. Nominated by fellow community members who witness their service and leadership in action, Jenco Award honorees are selected through a formal committee process and review. Jenco Award recipients receive an individual cash award to use in the manner most appropriate to their leadership.
“It has been one of the highlights of my life over the past several years to serve on the Jenco Awards review committee,” said Carolyn Fisk, fund representative for the Jenco Foundation Fund. “Every year I am amazed at the innovative ways ordinary people do extraordinary things that make their communities better places, and this year was certainly no exception. This group of awardees have committed themselves to the spirit of giving embodied by Father Jenco by making our neighborhoods more beautiful, building community with free meals, preserving the history of the region’s most marginalized, and more – collectively making our region a brighter and happier place to live.”
Each honoree was recognized for his or her service to the region:
Ada Woodson Adams of Athens County returned to her home in Appalachian Ohio after time in Chicago at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and quickly began work to preserve the history and legacy of African Americans in the region. As president of the Multi-Cultural Genealogical Center in Morgan County, she collects and preserves resources on the region’s African American and multicultural history and helps others study and reference those materials. In a volunteer role, Adams has also led numerous history tours, delivered countless lectures, helped produce documentaries, and advocated for the preservation of buildings with multicultural significance, including a former stop on the Underground Railroad.
Dan Palmer, who works in Lawrence County, couldn’t stand the idea of children in his community going without basic necessities. That’s why he founded Operation GRACE or Giving Relief to Area Children for Enrichment. Palmer solicits donations from area businesses, including toiletries and clothing, and then distributes those donations to schools throughout Scioto County, where they are allocated to children who need them.
Grant Plummer of Jackson County might be young, but that has never stopped him from his devotion to his community. A junior at Wellston High School, Plummer is involved in a variety of civic activities and organizations, including Wellston Main Street, Make Wellston Beautiful, and the Wellston Historical Association, for which he serves as Deputy Secretary. Since the age of nine, Plummer has worked to share the stories of these organizations with the larger community, including working with the Historical Association to create the group’s promotional slogan, regularly design brochures, attend meetings, and advocate for historical preservation.
Allene Kilgore of Athens County had a vision twenty years ago of building community and filling a need for those without access to consistent and healthy food by offering a free meal to the people of Athens. “Monday Lunch,” which takes place at Kilgore’s church, the First United Methodist Church of Athens, started small. But, through the determined efforts of Kilgore and other volunteers, the program has expanded to serve around 100 to 150 meals each week to people of all different backgrounds, including students, community members, and individuals with developmental disabilities.
Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Shaw of Meigs County has devoted countless hours to addressing the lack of digital connectivity in the region, which thwarts development and opportunity. She founded the Citizens Connectivity Committee and led the group in hosting the 2017 Appalachian Ohio-West Virginia Connectivity Summit and Town Hall, which drew hundreds of citizens and several state representatives. The event even prompted FCC Commissioner Clyburn to testify before a House subcommittee on the issues facing our region. Shaw is also a professional folk musician, and operates a thriving private music studio, where she teaches traditional Appalachian music to 35 students.
Tami Phillips of Jackson County has made her community a cleaner, more beautiful, and happier place to live. Seven years ago, Phillips founded Make Wellston Beautiful, which initially filled community needs through volunteer landscaping. Since then, Phillips has incorporated her group, which has been awarded several grants to revitalize Wellston, including the development of popular sports facilities used for multiple tournaments, and is often seen working at the concession stand. Since founding Make Wellston Beautiful, Phillips’s leadership has led to the injection of $1.7 million of grant dollars in the Wellston community.
Because the stories of Jenco awardees deserve to be shared and celebrated widely, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is partnering with Only in Appalachia, a student run organization aiming to re-write the Appalachian narrative through the power of positivity, authenticity, and storytelling. FAO and Only in Appalachia have come together to produce videos about the 2018 Jenco Award recipients, which will be released weekly on both FAO and Only In Appalachia social media channels, starting September 30.
If you know someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty in service of others, please nominate that individual for the 2019 Jenco Foundation Fund Awards. The nomination window opens annually in the spring; in the meantime, sign up for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s e-newsletter at www.AppalachianOhio.org or follow FAO on Facebook to hear when the call for 2019 nominations is released.
For additional information about the Jenco Foundation and the award that honors Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, or to learn more about each of this year’s Jenco Award recipients, please visit www.AppalachianOhio.org/Jenco or call 740.753.1111.