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Jenco Award recipients honored for their service

Pictured are the 2023 Jenco Award recipients (from left) Ben Nease, Andy Jones, Monica Batteiger, Lacey Rogers and Susan Gilfert who accepted the award on behalf of her late mother, Sara Gilfert.

2024 Jenco Award nominations open through June 3

MIDDLEPORT, Ohio – Five Appalachian Ohio residents who go above and beyond in their service to others were celebrated during an April 20 ceremony at The Blakeslee Center in Middleport, hosted by the Jenco Foundation and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO).

The Jenco Awards recognize unsung heroes who, outside of their paid positions, give their time, talent and passion in ways that contribute to quality of life in Appalachian Ohio. Recipients are nominated by fellow community members.

“The impact of these award recipients is immeasurable, contributing to the well-being of our neighbors and our neighborhoods and inspiring us all to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Julie Cohara, Jenco Foundation committee member. “Although each has left a unique and enduring mark on our region, all have etched legacies rooted in service, visionary leadership and love for the people, places and future of their communities.”

The 2023 Jenco Award recipients are:

Monica Batteiger of Zanesville is a community leader, advocate and activist who has given tirelessly and selflessly to help individuals impacted by substance use disorders and to improve access to recovery services. She is a co-founder of Drug Free Muskingum, serves as the family advocate at the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department and has spearheaded many events and the creation of resources that are bringing community together in a movement to end addiction.

Sara Gilfert of Athens, who passed away in March and was honored posthumously, was an artist, educator and innovator who founded the Paper Circle in Nelsonville, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to the preservation, advancement and celebration of paper and book arts. Through the Paper Circle, she created life-affirming opportunities for artists to exhibit and teach, programs that expose children to the joy of art, and innovations in the field of papermaking that have resulted in a worldwide following.

Andrea “Andy” Jones of Rockbridge is a consummate volunteer whose service includes the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center Board, Hocking County Board of Health, Logan Tree Commission, Logan in Bloom, Hocking County Soil & Water Conservation District, Bishop Educational Gardens and more. She is the driving force behind many Hocking County initiatives aimed at environmental education, protection and community involvement, including the zero-waste efforts at Lilyfest, the Monarch Waystation at the Hocking Hills Tourism Association Welcome Center and the Butterfly Trail.

Ben Nease, who in November was elected mayor of Middleport, is the owner and lead instructor of Bitanga’s Martial Arts Center, where his training includes giving back to the community. Since 2017, he and his students have been bringing together and strengthening their local community through the annual Bitanga Break-A-Thon, which has raised more than $235,000 to support everything from improvements to the Meigs County Council on Aging’s Blakeslee Center to local high school band programs and heart screenings for local youth.

Lacey Rogers of Athens is a counselor, implicit bias trainer, consultant and social justice activist dedicated to nurturing safe and inclusive communities for all people. She is the city of Athens’ first diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility training coordinator. Her service includes leading Empowering Women of Ohio, various positions with United Campus Ministry, co-creator of the Women of Color in Athens group and other roles that seek to create supportive and welcoming spaces for everyone, with an emphasis on local youth.

The Jenco Foundation and the Jenco Awards uphold the legacy of Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest who dedicated his life to serving others. In 1985, Father Jenco was kidnapped while serving as director of Catholic Relief Services in Lebanon and spent 19 months in captivity. Even in confinement, Father Jenco continued to serve, providing a listening ear for other detainees, including journalist Terry Anderson.

In 2001, Anderson, who passed away on Sunday, founded the Jenco Foundation to honor the legacy of his friend. In 2011, the Jenco Foundation joined FAO as an endowment, ensuring that Father Jenco’s legacy would live on in perpetuity.

Nominations being accepted for 2024 Jenco Awards

Do you know someone in Appalachian Ohio who has made a difference in their community through service to others and visionary leadership? The Jenco Foundation is seeking nominations for the 2024 Jenco Awards through June 3.

Nominations are encouraged across areas essential to quality of life: arts and culture, community and economic development, education, environmental stewardship, and health and human services. While nominees may be inspired by their daily jobs, only the service they perform outside of their paid positions will be considered. Nomination forms and additional information are available at

For more information about the Jenco Foundation, the Jenco Awards, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and how you can support the people, places and future of the region, visit, email or call 740.753.1111.