2019 Jenco Awards Recognize Devoted Service and Leadership of Appalachian Ohioans
Five Awardees Honored for Service to Others
Nelsonville, OH – On September 10, 2019 at the historic Stuart’s Opera House, the Jenco Foundation Fund and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) honored five individuals from Appalachian Ohio communities with the 2019 Jenco Awards. The Jenco Awards recognize the region’s unsung heroes, who have devoted themselves to direct, caring action that contributes to quality of life in Appalachian Ohio. This year’s honorees include Cathy Barney of Clermont County, Dottie Fromal of Athens County, Theo Hutchinson of Athens County, Sam Jones of Athens County, and Jennifer Sheets of Meigs 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 other 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 Awardees are selected through a formal committee process and review. Jenco Awardees receive an individual cash award to use in the manner most appropriate to their leadership.
“I am consistently amazed by all the ways people devote themselves to others with the profound spirit of giving embodied by Father Jenco, and each of this year’s awardees has only reaffirmed that,” said Melody Sands, fund representative for The Jenco Foundation Fund. “By helping our communities become better connected, more inclusive, and more abundant in opportunity, each of this year’s awardees has made the region a brighter place to live.”
Each 2019 awardee was recognized for their service to the region:
Cathy Barney of Clermont County has always had a love for the arts, and while volunteering in her daughter’s art classroom about 15 years ago, she observed that art seemed to be therapeutic for many children with less access to resources. So Cathy resolved to start “Artsy Fartsy Saturdays” to provide a free, weekly opportunity to access the arts for 4th-6th grade kids in her neighborhood’s subsidized housing development. Cathy has been leading the program ever since, and whether filming movies, baking pies, or drawing portraits, Artsy Fartsy Saturdays has provided many kids with a safe and reliable environment to explore who they are, try new things, and make their voices heard.
Dottie Fromal of Athens County started Nelsonville’s Thursday Night Community Dinner to provide home cooked meals around the table for the children served by the after-school center where she works. Noticing that many kids would often take food home for their families, she decided to expand the program, eventually to anyone who wanted to come. Now, the dinner serves 80-100 people each week, with as many as 300 guests attending for special occasions. Although not everybody fits around the same table anymore, each dinner continues to be about far more than just food, with a strong sense of community each and every week.
Theo Hutchinson of Athens County grew up in a family committed to social justice, whether expressed through ministry or activism, and Theo has had a lifelong passion for serving others. That’s why Theo didn’t think twice when asked by Athens City Schools staff to help with staff education on LGBTQ+ issues and offer input to update the district’s sexual health education curriculum to be more extensive, evidence-based, and inclusive of different gender and sexual identities. As an instructor of critical studies in education and as a trans person, Theo has continued to share ideas, personal and professional experiences, and many hours of time to build a more inclusive environment for the district’s children.
Sam Jones of Athens County has operated Sam’s Gym in Glouster, Ohio for decades, and has always seen the gym as a way to give back to the community. Sam provides a positive stable influence as a dedicated mentor to youth throughout Glouster and beyond, offering free training in boxing, kickboxing and the like. And his commitment to the town extends far beyond the walls of his gym, as he regularly organizes special boxing events to raise money for Trimble Local Schools, such as the annual “Boxing for Books” event. Having helped raised about $750,000 for the school district, Sam is widely recognized as a champion of education and community.
Jennifer Sheets of Meigs County revived the Meigs County Community Fund through her devoted leadership, growing it within only two years from a dormant organization with about $6,000 in assets to a dynamic, community-centered fund approaching $300,000. In collaboration with others serving on the fund committee, Jennifer’s tireless advocacy has built an organization for Meigs County people to give back to their home community. The fund has granted over $30,000 since Jennifer got involved, and with ongoing fundraising success, it is poised to contribute even more in the years to come.
If you know someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty in service of others, please nominate that individual for the 2020 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 2020 nominations is released.
For additional information about the Jenco Foundation and the award that honors Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, please visit www.AppalachianOhio.org/Jenco or call 740.753.1111.
About the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is a regional community foundation serving the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Foundation creates opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy. For more information about FAO, visit www.AppalachianOhio.org.