A diverse group that has made significant contributions to the Middletown area will be honored Thursday night at the 30th annual Middletown Community Foundation’s meeting.
Two women under the age of 40 and two men, with a combined age of 195, will be recognized during a meeting at Miami Valley Gaming, the local charity has announced.
DeAnna Shores, 39, will receive the Mary Maurer Volunteer of the Year honor; Vanessa Potter, 32, of Trenton, has been chosen as the Middletown-area Steel Magnolia Award recipient; and 95-year-old Harry Pratt and 100-year-old Everett Sherron will share the Mary Jane Palmer Nunlist “I Love Middletown” honor.
The honorees and the secret winner of the Roland P. Ely Jr. President’s Award will be recognized at the sold-out event, according to T. Duane Gordon, executive director of the foundation.
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The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes outstanding community volunteers between the ages of 30 and 50, Gordon said.
Shores, manager of Environmental Prevention for PreventionFIRST! and a professor of English at the Middletown Regional Campus of Miami University, volunteers with the Miller Ridge PTO and YLA Youth in Government.
She serves on the advisory board for the Middletown Area YMCA, is a member of the Police Department’s Citizens Advisory Board and is president-elect of the Kiwanis Club of Middletown. She formerly served on the Middletown School Board and worked as project coordinator for the Coalition for a Healthy Middletown until the funding was cut this year.
Shores said she learned the importance of volunteering at an early age through Girl Scouts and by emulating her mother. She said one of her favorite quotes comes from heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
“I truly believe that,” she said. “If you can serve in some capacity — no matter how large, how small — that’s our civic duty to do that. It enriches us. As much as you pour out it’s an opportunity for others to pour back into you.”
Pratt, a Middletown native, was a B-25 bomber pilot in World War II. His working life was spent as a vice president with airplane manufacturer Aeronca. He has volunteered with the Middletown Airport Commission, Middletown Aviation Club, United Way, Miami University Middletown Advisory Board, Butler Tech Advisory Board, American Legion, Middletown Safety Council, Boy Scouts and Forest Hills Country Club.
His tenure of 55 years on the board of Junior Achievement Middletown — the third oldest in the country and oldest in Ohio — is the longest of any Junior Achievement board member in the United States.
When he graduated from Middletown High School in 1940, he earned the Charles R. Hook Scholarship that allowed him to attend the University of Cincinnati.
“I need to pay Charles R. Hook back in some way,” Pratt answered when asked about his volunteering. “Back in those days, things were tight and you didn’t have any money. Very little money to go to school.”
Sherron, a Paducah, Ky., native, moved to Middletown as a child when his father took a job with the Boy Scouts. A year later, he became a Scout and remains active with Troop 718 today. Although he was drafted into World War II, he was given a medical release due to a previous surgery but continued to contribute to the war effort by building aircraft engines in a defense plant. He then worked for Black Clawson for 35 years.
He has served many years as an usher at First United Methodist Church and staffs the Middletown Historical Society’s Canal Museum every Sunday afternoon.
The Steel Magnolia Award, funded by the AK Steel Foundation, recognizes women who have overcome adversity to have an impact on their communities.
Potter, born to a drug-addicted mother and mentally ill father who attempted to kill her as a child, was raised largely in the foster care system, she said. She endured two abusive marriages, helped raise her brother, and is a single mother to her three children and adopted niece. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Miami University earlier this year and is a full-time employee at AK Steel in quality control.
She started an online support group for troubled teens and volunteers at Hope House and The Gathering. She helped with the Making Leadership Happen Event at Middletown High School and hopes to create an after-school program to help keep students off of drugs and out of violence.