27th Annual Celebration of Leadership Nominees

INDIVIDUALS

Arts

Dwight Emmert

Dwight Emmert

Nominated by Tiffany Ball

Music is in Dwight Emmert’s blood. Emmert has not only played with some of the greatest musicians from across the country, but in his 11 years as EVSC’s Fine Arts Director, he has overseen double-digit growth of the middle and high school music programs. The EVSC honors musicians have even been able to travel across the nation to perform and work. Under Dwight’s leadership, EVSC has offered high-quality music education to all students, helping them to succeed both inside and outside the classroom.

Kaman Hillenburg

Kaman Hillenburg

Nominated by Mary Bower

Kaman Hillenburg is an advocate and leader in our region’s preservation of cultural heritage and artifacts. She founded the all-volunteer organization Southwestern Indiana Collections Connection Association (SICCA), which provides no-cost professional development and networking to staff and volunteers of cultural heritage institutions across the Tri-State. Kaman works with student interns from the University of Evansville and University of Southern Indiana, creating hands-on experiences for a new generation of artists, historians, and archeologists. 

Nathan Jochum

Nathan Jochum

Nominated by Ashley Kiefer

As co-director of the ParksFest Music Festival, Nathan Jochum ensures that the annual, free festival reflects the diversity of our area, includes local talent and features nationally acclaimed acts. He also serves as the SCORE Small Business Mentors chapter chair, helping many navigate their PPP and EIDL loans during the pandemic. In his current role at Ivy Tech, he helps students get the scholarships they need to access the education they deserve. In all he does, Nathan lifts others up so their voices are heard and their talent shines. 

Logan Stalions

Logan Stalions

Nominated by Beth Kroft

Coach Logan Stallions shares his love of chess with children to empower them to learn patience, strategy, and problem solving in an enjoyable way. He provides the chess tournaments at the CK Newsome center for a nominal fee, doing this on his own with little outside support. You can actually see his eyes light up when kids take an interest in chess and work towards getting better. Coach Logan ensures all kids get a fair chance at competing against their peers, always with a focus on learning and enjoying the game.

Cord Stith

Cord Stith

Nominated by Austin Maxheimer

With a drive to be “Bigger than Disney,” Cord has a grand vision for ArtIsLife studio and an ability to execute high quality art in our community. Just in 2021, Cord designed and project-managed the Tepe Park Basketball court mural, created the Tepe Park Neighborhood Hero portrait, consulted on the Washington Middle School mural, served on the Evansville Flag design team, produced an art installation at Stefanie’s on Washington, and spoke at the Indiana Arts Homecoming and Memorial CDC’s youth summer program. As a minority leader himself, Cord represents arts to the black community, inspiring and giving a voice to an emerging generation of artists. While his infectious personality makes you believe that anything is possible, his delivery of beauty and wonder to tangible projects shows you that it is possible.

Kirsten Wagmeister

Kirsten Wagmeister

Nominated by Susan Vaughn

Kirsten Wagmeister believes in the healing power of music. As Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra (EPO) Board President, she took steps to stabilize their finances and lead the board and EPO family to live its new mission statement: “Transforming lives and uplifting the community through the power of music.” During the pandemic, she partnered with EPO’s Executive and Music Directors to keep the music playing by providing recordings of the Peppermint Pops to patients. Kristen also created an Outreach, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee within the EPO Board to ensure music is accessible throughout our community and that the EPO prioritizes performing works of diverse composers. 

Community & Neighborhood

Tim Black

Tim Black

Nominated by Scott Wylie

Tim Black is a transformational leader in our community and a staunch supporter of equity and inclusion. He leads our local public media company as WNIN’s CEO and serves on numerous nonprofit boards and government commissions, including the Vanderburgh County Human Relations Commission. Tim places community well-being at the center of all decision-making. As the COVID pandemic has continued, he has worked to ensure both of WNIN’s media outlets provide accurate information on community conditions, vaccine access, and public health directives to our three state media markets for free. Tim also provided station resources to numerous community and nonprofit groups, allowing them to reach their constituencies despite the limits on in-person gatherings. 

Samantha Buente

Samantha Buente

Nominated by Vanessa Powell

Samantha Buente is a small business owner and a pillar of Haynie’s Corner. An active member of the Haynie’s Corner Arts District and Downtown Evansville Area, Samantha collaborates with like-minded individuals to organize community events and support local entrepreneurs and other small business owners. In addition, she is a fierce ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, passionately working toward creating and maintaining a safe space for LGBTQIA+ youth to be seen, heard, and supported through her work with Greater Evansville Youth.

Dominique Cosby

Dominique Cosby

Nominated by Emma Cosby

Dominique Cosby is an outspoken, understanding and extremely passionate community leader, working throughout Evansville to help bridge our community’s racial divides. He is known in our area as an effective collaborator and leader, engaging with local churches and other outside groups and hosting events to bring the community together. 

 

Fr. Jay Davidson

Fr. Jay Davidson

Nominated by Dave Schutte

Father Jay is on a roll! The 84-year-old Catholic priest is the administrator of All Saints parish in Jacobsville and is instrumental in the social justice initiative CAJE: Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment, an interfaith organization tackling tough community problems. From shepherding the Sunday evening Praise mass to hosting a free vegetable giveaway, a soup kitchen, and many other outreach ministries, Father Jay embodies servant leadership. And he has no plans of slowing down!

Xavier Davidson

Xavier Davidson

Nominated by Drew Claybrook

Xavier Davidson serves as an inspiring example of how much a young person can impact a community. Not only does Xavier speak up for underprivileged youth and people who deserve a secound chance, he seeks to decrease bullying by spreading suicide awareness. His goal is to help bring peace, understanding, and fairness to the world, one step at a time.

Amanda Deutsch & Emily English

Amanda Deutsch & Emily English

Nominated by Jennifer Deutsch

Amanda Deutsch and Emily English use their servant leadership skills to help the kids at the Boys & Girls Club. Due to the pandemic, volunteers were not allowed to go in person to the Boys & Girls Club, so the girls planned and organized 24 weeks of Zoom lessons to ensure volunteers could continue connecting and getting to know the kids, even dropping off kits they had made to supplement the lessons. The girls also organized their 4-H Junior Leader Organization to donate $300 to shop at the Boys & Girls Club Christmas store to help the kids give Christmas gifts to their family members.

Liam Douglas

Liam Douglas

Nominated by Ashley Riester & Fatalany Valazquez

As a transgender, black man in Southern Indiana, Liam Douglas considers equity and diversity in all he does. His biggest passion, apart from the LGBTQIA+ community, is creating equity and understanding for kids on the autism spectrum. He has helped so many kids as a licensed behavior therapist and now attends the Rogers Hair Academy to provide kids on the spectrum with a haircut. He maintains a backpack program to give kids school supplies and organizes the Adoption of a Family during the Holidays. As Drag King performer Jayden Licious, he uses the drag platform to bridge a connection between the drag community and families with special needs children. 

Rev. Christopher Droste

Rev. Christopher Droste

Nominated by Clarence Hopf

It is rare for a priest to be asked to serve two parishes, let alone three, but Father Christopher Droste is that kind of servant leader. He takes great care in getting to know his parishioners and the outside community members in all three parishes, remaining open to discussing changes he is making and creating space for collaboration. While navigating the coronavirus pandemic, he suited up the necessary protective equipment to visit those dying at the hospital so he could administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Fr. Christopher goes above and beyond for the three parishes he serves.

Adriana Duff and Giving Hearts of Evansville

Adriana Duff and Giving Hearts of Evansville

Nominated by Angela Doolittle

Adriana (AJ) is a loving, caring person who is a wonderful leader and role model for our community. She doesn’t ask for help in doing what she does but it is appreciated when she does receive help. She has passed out food bags to the homeless, organized holiday events for families. She does this all on her own time with help of several volunteers along the way.

Dave Ernspiger

Dave Ernspiger

Nominated by Brian Ensor

David Ernspiger created the non-profit Newburgh Buddy Ball to give the special needs community members the chance to play baseball with their fellows. There is no fee or age limit to participate. Ball players ages 5-70 years old have the chance to enjoy America’s favorite pastime. Always looking for ways to enhance this effort, Dave is seeking to expand the program into Evansville. Because of Dave, Newburgh Buddy Ball players and volunteers of all ages, races, and genders can play baseball and build friendships. Everyone wins! (Unless it rains, of course!)

Lee Griggs

Lee Griggs

Nominated by Keely Adams

Lee Griggs is a shining example of servant leadership within our community. She works tirelessly with the downtown community, advocating for the homeless population through the St. Mary’s and John’s churches. Her favorite quote is “never judge someone unless you walk a mile in their shoes,” and she lives by that motto. Lee inspires the community by keeping the church and programming available to everyone who enters their doors. She has a knack for noticing others’ gifts and strengths and helps to place them in the right position to be successful leaders. 

Guillermo Guevara

Guillermo Guevara

Nominated by Abraham Brown

Guillermo Guevara is known by the Evansville Latino Community for his welcoming spirit and warm heart. He founded the Latino Collaboration Table, a not-for-profit that connects thousands of local Latinos with needed services. If a family has just arrived in Evansville or someone needs a bilingual doctor or help with insurance, for example, people are told to “Call Don Guillermo!” He is a model for inclusion, equity, and diversity and is a champion for providing services to marginalized groups and minorities, including the growing Marshallese community.

Angela Hammers

Angela Hammers

Nominated by Keely Adams

Angela is a caring and dedicated advocate for the community’s senior volunteers and veterans. As the Program Manager for the Carver Senior Center’s RSVP Program, she connects 100+ senior volunteers with meaningful volunteer and community experiences. During the pandemic, she went on house calls to check on seniors and made baskets for those in need. She ensures veterans are not only acknowledged but also spiritually and physically lifted up through the Carver Center’s veteran program by providing social service connections, volunteer opportunities, and local resources. She is even spearheading a veteran and volunteer program in Posey County to start later in 2022. 

Holly Rankin Zaher

Holly Rankin Zaher

Nominated by Andrea Lantz

Holly uses her gifts and talents in her role at church and with numerous organizations to encourage and challenge people to connect, learn, and work together toward a common good. A gifted facilitator, she has helped many people navigate and map out their strengths and goals. Holly has dedicated countless hours to better understanding the neighborhood in which she serves by learning about subcultures, relationships, goals, and concerns and approaching each situation in a creative and nonjudgmental manner.

Amy Johnston-Higgs

Amy Johnston-Higgs

Nominated by Parri Black

Amy Johnston-Higgs is an amazing community role model who knows how to make good things happen. As a mother of five children, a State Farm agent, and a passionate advocate helping bring $125,000 to local nonprofits like Youth First, Inc., Hangers, and Little Lambs, her chutzpah knows no bounds when it comes to championing children’s health and safety. Amy also helps “Stay-at-Home Moms” get the support they need to re-enter the workforce. She not only provides employment with work-life balance but teaches women skills to earn a good living and care for their families. 

Fr. Gary Kaiser

Fr. Gary Kaiser

Nominated by Angela Walden

Since Father Gary Kaiser was assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church & School and St. Bernard Catholic Church, he has been instrumental in working with Catholic Charities to bring the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program to the Princeton area. Neighbor-to-Neighbor is a free, faith-based life skills education program to help families move away from financial dependence on social service agencies and toward self-sufficiency. The program will begin in Gibson County in early 2022. With a willingness to get his hands dirty, Fr. Gary works alongside volunteers to accomplish any task. His example of servant leadership has increased the church’s volunteer base.

Reagan Koester

Reagan Koester

Nominated by Megan Hoffherr

A Junior at North Posey High School and an active 4-H member, Reagan Koester excels as a youth leader and lives the 4-H motto to “Make the Best Better.” She raised nearly $3,000 to make 67 “Glam Packs,” which are gifts of toiletries and encouraging items to give to foster children when they are placed in a new home. She helped create an event called Ping Pong for Poverty in which 4-H members donate cans of food to a local food bank as the entry fee to participate in a ping pong tournament. Reagan also delivers ice cream to chemo patients to bring them joy during a difficult time.

Sondra Matthews

Sondra Matthews

Nominated by Watez Phelps

Founder of the Evansville African American Museum and Our Times Newspaper, Sondra Matthews lives servant leadership and inspires others to a common vision. For 35 years, she’s delivered the bi-weekly Our Times Newspaper to the community and many states, attending and reporting on local events impacting African Americans, Native Americans, women, and LGBTQIA+ communities. An advocate for aspiring writers, Sondra runs the Soul Writers guild and the Wangari’s Cards and Books bookstore. She is also spearheading a project to offer music history and music education to the Lincoln School community. On top of it all, Sondra is the village sage, providing wise counsel to all who ask her, giving of her time, talent, and treasure to uplift the less fortunate. 

Melissa Morehead Moore

Melissa Morehead Moore

Nominated by Don Crankshaw

Melissa has long been an advocate and influencer for Evansville, using her radio program to promote and support communities that are often left behind. Most recently she has encouraged COVID-19 immunizations in under-vaccinated communities by making her 50th birthday party, along with Going Forward Beauty Salon, a pop up immunization event. Melissa takes action to provide needed empathetic communication for communities throughout Evansville and beyond.

Cathy Myers

Cathy Myers

Nominated by Bret Myers

Cathy Myers creates a culture of collaboration and an environment of hope in all she does. She founded Hope Dot Com Corp (HDC), a centralized resource center in Evansville’s Downtown to help transform people suffering from homelessness, temporary housing, and challenging living situations. To help children living in hotels due to homelessness, Cathy hosts the summer program Camp for Champs. An avid collaborator and includer, Cathy welcomes everyone to help and receive help at HDC. Her dedication to others radiates in how hands on HDC is with the community.

Edward Nottle

Edward Nottle

Nominated by Noah Robinson

Since 2014, Coach Ed Nottle has helped more than 150 young athletes with physical, developmental, and cognitive disabilities participate in the Highland Challenger League Baseball Program. Through Ed’s tireless fundraising activities, no player is ever charged for access to the program. A former Minor League Baseball relief pitcher and manager, Ed is a fierce advocate for every child and encourages participation and collective goodwill amongst all the players. He is a fixture at every Challenger League game, and at 82 years of age, Coach Ed shows no sign of slowing down.

Arlinda Payne

Arlinda Payne

Nominated by Denise Kohut

Serving the Evansville area for 50 years, Arlinda Payne passionately helps anyone in need, connecting people to the right organizations and individuals to ensure their needs are met. She serves as president of the Black Nurses of Evansville and Tristate Associates and works with a diverse group of nurses, doctors, law enforcement, etc., who are enthusiastic about helping Evansville’s citizens with their healthcare needs. Arlinda has led several volunteer efforts, including organizing a backpack giveaway program benefitting 600 Evansville children, providing Lincoln Elementary students with hats and gloves for their winter celebration, and raising awareness for the Back the Vax project.

Jeff Purdue

Jeff Purdue

Nominated by Grace Walker

Anyone that knows Jeff Purdue knows his energy, passion, and drive know no bounds, and he’ll stop at nothing to make everything he touches the best it can be! Jeff inspires the community, giving countless hours, energy, and ideas to orgnizations like Granted, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and others, but he also makes an effort to personally encourage and and lift up  those around him. Jeff truly lives by the motto “Be grateful, be kind, be positive, smile, share your talents, and don’t give up!” 

Marietta Rodriguez

Marietta Rodriguez

Nominated by Sara DeWitt

Making sure all students and families feel welcome and valued is at the core of what drives Marietta Rodriguez. As the EVSC ESL Family Coordinator, Marietta engages and supports non-English speaking students and their families by fostering the child’s education and coordinating services and resources to ensure both the students and their families can succeed in our community. Originally from Venezuela, she uses her experience, leadership, and compassion to educate teachers and staff on effective ways to culturally connect with diverse families, helping schools recognize and celebrate their diverse student populations.

Bushra Saqib

Bushra Saqib

Nominated by Helen Azarian

An original founder of Women in Faith, Bushra Saqib has facilitated interfaith connections with diverse groups for over three decades. And for nearly 20 years, she has spear-headed the International Food Festival at the Islamic Center of Evansville. She was also instrumental in setting up the free MASIHA Specialty Clinic, which provides high-quality medical care for the uninsured, and she continues to devote volunteer time there. Bushra is passionate about increasing understanding between cultures to inspire harmony among all and regularly welcomes people into her home, serving them her delicious homemade food and creating a space for fellowship.

Scott Schymik

Scott Schymik

Nominated by Amy Bouchie

Owner of Sauced and Schymik’s kitchen, Scott Schymik is an entrepreneur who utilizes his businesses and resources to be a selfless leader. This year, he organized and sponsored Thanksgiving for the Evansville community free of charge. Over 300 people enjoyed a wonderful meal on Thanksgiving because of Scott. He displays the epitome of selfless leadership for the Haynie’s corner neighborhood and community at large, volunteering his time and talents to those in need.

Ben Trockman

Ben Trockman

Nominated by Phillip Jacobs & Beth Kroft

Ben Trockman is a tireless servant leader, seeking ways to ensure those who have physical limitations are given every opportunity to succeed. Having spent over a decade in a wheelchair, he advocates for changes to the workplace and community to support those who have physical mobility, sight, hearing, or other constraints. When people meet him, he goes out of his way to address their concerns and finds a way to tackle local problems head on. As a city councilman, Ben brings a public eye to things that many of us take for granted, engaging all around him to be part of the solution. Anyone who meets Ben is inspired by his positivity and fearlessness.

Patty Vanoven

Patty Vanoven

Nominated by Kyla Dowell

Patty Vanoven, Executive Director of the Gibson County Chamber of Commerce, is a force in the Gibson County community, guiding the Chamber through an unprecedented time in history with creativity and grace. She pivoted the organization to better serve today’s business community and initiated several strategic and collaborative efforts to modernize the Chamber. Just last year, she formed a partnership between the Gibson County Chamber, Gibson County Economic Development Corporation, and the Gibson County Visitors and Tourism Bureau to maximize each organizations’ resources, and she also built a modern mission, vision, and strategic plan for the Chamber while increasing their membership.

Bert Wheat, Tyna Wheat, & Monica Owens

Bert Wheat, Tyna Wheat, & Monica Owens

Nominated by Tammy Shaw

Tyna and Bert Wheat and Monica Owens wanted to find a way to leave their community better than they found it. For years, Bert, Tyna, and Monica found incredible ways to give back to the community, supporting organizations in unique ways. With the Evening of Elegance gift, the winning bidder received $2000 to spend on jewelry and a magnificent dinner with friends. Through a celebration of elegance, their servant leadership has raised thousands of dollars for countless nonprofits.

Education

Kylie Bedel

Kylie Bedel

Nominated by Megan Hoffherr

Senior at North High School and active 4-H member, Kylie Bedel is a stand-out role model for younger kids. As the youth state ambassador for the 4-H council, Kylie has shared her story to encourage others to participate in 4-H. Through the years, she has taught over 340 fourth graders from inner-city Evansville about animal by-products at the annual Ag Days event. When the live event was canceled during COVID-19, she created an educational video that was shared with schools and others in the community. A true advocate of agriculture, she goes above and beyond to share her wealth of knowledge with other 4-H members and the general public.

Dr. Kathy Elpers

Dr. Kathy Elpers

Nominated by Dr. Elissa Mitchell

Dr. Kathy Elpers has been a social work educator at the University of Southern Indiana since 1987. During her 30 plus years, she has guided and mentored countless students, many of whom are now social workers in our community. She is involved in several professional organizations and engages with USI students through service learning, community work, and campus organizations and groups. Kathy is passionate about her students and supports individuals of all ages to live healthy and productive lives.

Mendy Poole

Mendy Poole

Nominated by Jacy King & Dwight Peveler

Mendy Poole, Executive Director of Youth Build, has raised awareness for alternative education needs, mental health needs, and soft skills training for our at-risk community members and Youth Build’s targeted age group. Mendy took a program that was being terminated and sought resources to bring it back to life, creating an outlet for people ages 16-24 to build a better life by completing certifications in GED, OSHA, NCCER (Construction) CNA, IT, Advanced Manufacturing, interview skills, financial literacy and more. She greets everyone with an optimistic attitude, ready to help tackle whatever barrier is holding them back from their full potential.

Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Nominated by Kathrin Hast

Jody Robinson’s commitment to the young people of the Southwestern Indiana is evident in everything she does. Through the Workforce Development Board of Region 11, Jody implements the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program and is responsible for nine adults and over 250 youth in the area’s workforce. Jody is also the JAG staff team leader and is constantly recognizing the broader team’s efforts, assisting them in the classroom with enrollments and subbing as needed. She is known as the “glue” of the JAG program across Southwestern Indiana.

Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Nominated by Eli Lueder

Andrea Smith, longtime teacher at Harrison High School, moves mountains to ensure everyone can learn and understand what she is teaching. She treats all of her students the same. No matter their gender, ethnicity, or sexuality, if someone is struggling, Mrs. Smith makes everyone feel safe and comfortable in her class.

Lexi Smith

Lexi Smith

Nominated by Don Crankshaw

Lexi Smith would say she is just a kid, but she is so much more. Born without a right hand, she takes this as just a challenge of growing up, sharing that “If and when there was anything I thought I couldn’t accomplish at first, I found a way and taught myself with my parents encouraging me the whole way.” Lexi has mastered many physical life necessities and become an accomplished athlete. She is an inspiration to her teammates, family, friends, and community.

Ken Wempe

Ken Wempe

Nominated by Sara DeWitt

For more than 55 years, Ken Wempe has served our area’s youth as a teacher, principal, coach and volunteer. Since 2013, he has coached the North High School’s girls golf team, leading them to six state championships in eight years. He continues to volunteer at many community organizations, including Hangers, the EVSC student resource clothing bank. His dedication and commitment have shaped the futures of thousands of young people in our community.

Government, Public Service, & Environment

Brian Bohrnstedt

Brian Bohrnstedt

Nominated by Beth Kroft

Brian Bohrnstedt is a passionate supporter of US military veterans. His unending efforts work to ensure that veterans feel valued and recognized. As Old National has gone through the stages of a huge integration, Brian has repeatedly vocalized the need to ensure veterans are supported. Brian has combined his passions for veterans and cycling, organizing a cycling group to help engage veterans for fellowship, healthy exercise, and community awareness. His planned ride this year was over 80 miles and when mapped, looked like the American Flag.

Jillian Brothers

Jillian Brothers

Nominated by Adam Brothers

Jillian Brothers is dedicated to growing and improving the Posey County community and city of Mount Vernon. In her career as a social worker and therapist, she helps students and faculty deal with a range of mental health issues. She is also As a Willow Tree of Posey County board member, where she advocates for victims of domestic and sexual violence and is working to bring a shelter to Posey County. As a Mount Vernon city council member, she was instrumental in the beautification projects and helped approve a monument to memorialize the four African American men who were lynched in 1878 to build awareness of this dark past and attempt to keep history from repeating itself. 

Doug Claybourn

Doug Claybourn

Nominated by Dominic Poggi

A graduate of USI, Doug Claybourn has served as a Business Advisor for the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center since November 2012. Doug draws on his decades of banking experience to help small businesses start and grow. Doug is gifted with helping people think through scenarios and take action, while also being present to help them work through whatever challenges arise. The SBDC and business community is eternally grateful for Doug’s commitment to servant leadership.

Pastor Craig Duke

Pastor Craig Duke

Nominated by Liam Douglas

Pastor Craig Duke gave hope and love far and wide when he appeared in drag on the Evansville episode of HBO’s We’re Here, which follows famous drag queens as they recruit small-town residents to perform in drag. A father of an LGBTQIA+ daughter and then-pastor of Newburgh United Methodist Church, Pastor Craig shared, “You can’t do a drag show like this in southern Indiana and not offend someone. I’m hoping it’s a bridge for my daughter, for the church I serve, for the denomination I love, and for me.” Although he lost his job at Newburgh UMC after the show aired, Pastor Craig helped countless viewers feel loved by someone in the church for the first time.

Zach Garcia

Zach Garcia

Nominated by Kristina Arwood

Mother Nature has a great advocate in Zach Garcia. In his position with Wesselman Woods, he works to educate the community on how to be better stewards of the environment. His enthusiasm for and commitment to preserving the largest urban old-growth forest in the US knows no bounds. The programs and initiatives Zach has implemented have helped hundreds of children and adults grasp new and difficult environmental concepts and instilled the importance of our local ecosystem and how Wesselman Woods fits into the larger ecosystem. 

Matt Karges

Matt Karges

Nominated by Katie Karges

Sergeant Matt Karges is a remarkable officer for the Evansville Police Department, going above and beyond to protect his community. He collaborated with the Parks Department to keep these spaces safe for children and families. Having worked closely with victims of domestic violence, he partnered with State Representative Wendy McNamara to pass Senate Bill 79, which provides protective orders to keep victims of domestic violence safe from their abusers. His efforts embody what it means to serve and protect.

Margaret Kimmel

Margaret Kimmel

Nominated by Jake Kohlmeyer

Margaret Kimmel is a certified financial planner and Vice President of Investments with Raymond James. She works to ensure her clients are financially smart, stable, and prepared to make wise investments and decisions for life in family and community. She goes above and beyond to get to know the people she works with, from their family life to their personal interests. Margaret is committed to helping her clients achieve their goals no matter who they are and is involved in many community organizations and programs, including ANEW (A Network of Evansville Women).

Maurice Olwali

Maurice Olwali

Nominated by Don Crankshaw

Born to coffee farmers in Kenya, Africa, Maurice Olwali immigrated to this country for his education and eventually began working at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library as a customer service worker. Generally quiet by nature, he had an infectious smile and laugh and was the glue that held many groups together. Always showing great pride in his African heritage, he served as a role model to the teens and adults of color who visited his department. Maurice passed away unexpectedly in 2021 and will be deeply missed by all who had the privilege to know him.

Laura Nordine

Laura Nordine

Nominated by Luke Nordine

Laura Nordine is the School Counselor at Vogel Elementary where she serves over 600 K-6 students. She builds up these children by being a stable, loving presence, teaching students the tools to succeed and grow. Laura is also responsible for collecting and administrating outside community resources to the students and staff, working with various partners such as churches, the Tri-State Food Bank, etc. Laura’s work with Hangers helped the group earn the 2022 $5,000 Rotaract Signature Project Grant. She’s driven to help others, not out of ambition, but in order to see the world become a better place.

Jaimie Sheth

Jaimie Sheth

Nominated by Andrea Lantz

In the few years since her move back home, Jaimie Sheth has become a beacon of hope to people throughout Evansville. Through her organization, JD Sheth Foundation, Jaimie has helped marginalized populations locally and across the world, supporting greater access to resources and education to optimize their best functioning, outcomes, and contribution to society. An inspiration to all, Jaimie incorporates respect, dignity, and transparency into all she does by engaging and leading through serving others.

Health & Social Services

Paula Beck

Paula Beck

Nominated by Jodie James

Paula Beck makes everyone around her better. She has spent countless hours volunteering for organizations throughout Evansville and this selfless dedication is ever present in her work life, too. As a Senior Account Manager at Field and Main Insurance, Paula goes above and beyond to help clients navigate the intimidating arena of insurance. Her colleagues know her as a leader worth following—one who opens doors to help others. Paula is dedicated to helping everyone find their voice and get what they need to succeed. 

Janie Chappell

Janie Chappell

Nominated by Emily Reidford

Janie Chappell has been a fearless leader, educator, and advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. During her career, Janie successfully launched and sustained the CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training with law enforcement, Mental Health First Aid Trainings, Suicide Prevention Coalition, and HOPE Team, a community coalition for responding immediately post-suicide to surviving families and friends. Janie retired in December 2021, and while her shoes will be hard to fill, her impact and legacy will live on in our community through the incredible programs she started.

 

Dusty Fiester

Dusty Fiester

Nominated by Lorien Appman

Dusty Fiester has dedicated her career to supporting those who are undergoing cancer treatments by helping them navigate life after the treatments have stopped. She was integral to bringing Livestrong to Evansville in 2016 and has supported over 150 survivors, helping them to set and meet fitness goals. She encourages, cheerleads, and pushes participants to find their best selves. One of her patients said it best: “She led me to the only thing that has made me feel normal since my diagnosis.” Dusty finds the light in people and brings it out.

 

Sheila Hauck

Sheila Hauck

Nominated by Mallory Martin

Sheila Hauck is a nursing leader and pillar of nursing excellence in our community and state. During her time at Ascension St. Vincent, she has mentored countless nurses and provided immeasurable leadership to nursing quality, oncology services, and palliative care. Her leadership extends into the community through her collaborations with Cancer Pathways Midwest, the American Cancer Society, Komen of Evansville, and the Indiana Breast Cancer Awareness Trust. She also established a navigation program for Ascension St. Vincent’s Cancer Program to ensure timely, equitable services across the care continuum for all newly diagnosed cancer patients. 

Dr. Gina Huhnke

Dr. Gina Huhnke

Nominated by Shawn McCoy

Dr. Gina Huhnke, Medical Director of Deaconess Emergency Departments, has been instrumental in saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Huhnke has served as the Medical Section Leader for the Deaconess Pandemic Response while practicing in Emergency Departments, teaching students at IUSM–E, and serving as Medical Director for several local EMS services. She has been a liaison, consultant, guide, and champion for local government, health departments, EMS, educators, and skilled nursing facilities in our region. 

Zola Johnson

Zola Johnson

Nominated by Bonnie Alcorn, Willow Darnell, & Aisxha Givens

Zola Johnson’s mission is to educate and make wellness accessible to all communities. During her free yoga classes in downtown Evansville, everyone is welcome. She’s also introduced the area to Trap Yoga in an effort to reach underserved populations. In partnership with Albion Center, she also created a domestic violence awareness event where survivors shared their stories as others held a candlelit vigil for those who didn’t make it out. All of her events involve helping communities heal, whether by releasing the stress of their day or recovering from major trauma in their lives.

Jacy King

Jacy King

Nominated by Dwight Peveler

Jacy King helps people feel worthy and deserving by understanding their value, celebrating everyday achievements, and leaving room for people to learn from their mistakes. As a Youth Build case manager, she works with people ages 16-24 looking to build a better life by completing certifications in GED, OSHA, NCCER (Construction) CNA, IT, Advanced Manufacturing, interview skills, financial literacy and more. Not only does she work with the courts to identify candidates for the program, her mentorship and coaching have helped students make positive choices in their lives. 

Kelly Paul

Kelly Paul

Nominated by Mallory Martin

A Pharmacist at Ascension St. Vincent’s Epworth Crossing Pharmacy, Kelly Paul is dedicated to meeting the needs of the people in the community. She devoted countless hours to organizing and refining the Ascension COVID Vaccine Clinic operations. Because of Kelly’s can-do attitude and exemplary servant leader mindset, the clinics not only ran as smoothly as possible, but also had a positive, family environment where volunteers felt a part of the Ascension team. Kelly also came up with a curbside pickup system so patients had a safe way to retrieve their prescriptions during the pandemic. No matter the situation, Kelly finds a solution centered on the patient’s needs.

Timothy Weir

Timothy Weir

Nominated by Chris Metz

After retiring from a four-decade career in corporate communications, Timothy Weir was just starting as the Administrator of the Commission on Homelessness when the pandemic struck. This “volunteer role” quickly became a full-time endeavor. Under Timothy’s leadership, the Commission developed and deployed innovative solutions to protect the health facilities and their residents, including the creation of the Evansville Independent Self Isolation Center to provide a respite for those experiencing homelessness and COVID-19, as well as a mobile vaccine clinic . His work ensured that individuals experiencing homelessness received life saving healthcare intervention and vaccinations.

PROJECTS & PROGRAMS

Arts

Kindermusik with Julie

Kindermusik with Julie

Nominated by Jeremy Seger

Since 1999, Julie Wade has run Kindermusik With Julie, a developmental music program open to children of all abilities (both cognitive and physical) aged newborn to seven years old. Through this program, Julie helps children by enhancing and strengthening them physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. Current enrollment is approximately 450 children per semester. This program also empowers families by giving them the tools they need to help their children. Kindermusik with Julie has been recognized as the second best Kindermusik program in the US and the number six program worldwide for the past three years.

Reconnecting Families by Military with PTSD Inc

Reconnecting Families by Military with PTSD Inc

Nominated by Trina Plante

Reconnecting Families by Military with PTSD is combating isolation, anxiety, depression, and a range of other issues that negatively impact daily life of veterans. The group provides free tickets to events for veterans and their families to build a multifaceted network of interconnected relationships. By recognizing and actively facilitating positive interactions not only between veterans and their families, but also with the community they live in, Reconnecting Families builds solid and much-needed support with and for veterans.

Tepe Park Neighborhood - Basketball Court Mural

Tepe Park Neighborhood - Basketball Court Mural

Nominated by Austin Maxheimer

The Tepe Park Neighborhood initiative works hard to raise the quality of life for its neighbors by listening to the hopes, dreams and desires of the neighbors to ensure the vision of change is rooted in its residents. One of the goals is to install interactive art throughout the neighborhood that contributes to the area’s overall beautification and promotes connection between neighbors. A truly collaborative project, the Tepe Park basketball court mural project is the embodiment of the process and an incredible and stunning win for Tepe Park neighbors and the wider community.

Community & Neighborhood

Area Pet Rescue after 2021 Tornado

Area Pet Rescue after 2021 Tornado

Nominated by Don Crankshaw

In the aftermath of the devastating tornado that struck the Kentucky area in 2021, our area’s animal rescue organizations stepped up to help. Pound Puppies of Posey County, Warrick Humane Society, Madisonville Humane Society, and It Takes a Village collaborated to make room at their shelters for the displaced pets, and devoted time and resources to help reunite the animals with their families. 

Bedford Collab

Bedford Collab

Nominated by Andrea Lantz

DeAndre Wilson’s project, Bedford Collab, seeks to empower “foodtrepreneurs,” improve opportunities for local business, and increase diversity of entrepreneurs. Breathing life into a building that was previously considered “dead space,” DeAndre and others are transforming the old Bedford Tavern in Tepe Park into a shared commercial kitchen and a space where neighbors can come together for educational purposes and/or social events. There will also be room for a coworking/media space for entrepreneurs and artists alike. 

Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protests - Emani Marks

Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protests - Emani Marks

Nominated by Don Crankshaw

Moved to action over the death of Breonna Taylor and a desire to combat systemic racism in our area, Harrison High School then-seniors Emani Marks and friends brought the community together for a Black Lives Matter protest at the Four Freedoms Monument in Downtown Evansville on September 27, 2020. Also serving as a voter registration event, it created a safe space for community members to band together and have open conversations about needed change nationally and locally. 

Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protests - Keshawn Young

Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protests - Keshawn Young

Nominated by Rick Coleman

In Princeton, Keshawn Young organized a nonviolent demonstration following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. In the week before the protest as Keshawn was peacefully protesting with fellow students, the school principal, and a teacher, a pick-up truck with rebel flags from a neighboring county drove by, hurling water balloons at Keshawn and yelling racial slurs. Undeterred by this senseless act of violence, Keshawn continued to host peaceful demonstrations to bring awareness about the injustices faced by the black community.

Coalition of Inner City Neighborhoods (Fred Cook)

Coalition of Inner City Neighborhoods (Fred Cook)

Nominated by Sondra Matthews

Fred Cook is one of very few men in our community constantly thinking about the welfare of inner-city children. For over 20 years he has organized back-to-school rallies, giving away new clothes, filled back-packs, snacks, etc. He also organizes “Christmas in the ‘Hood” each year for children to be cheered with giveaways, cash prizes, snacks, and more. Fred can be found outside in extreme temperatures selling lemonade or hot cocoa to raise seed money for the projects of the Coalition. Wheelchair-bound, Fred shows how to use what you have to be an example of servant leadership, inspires others to help him to fulfill his passion to serve underserved children with fun and hope.

Evansville Día de los Muertos (Evansville Day of the Dead)

Evansville Día de los Muertos (Evansville Day of the Dead)

Nominated by Lauren Vos-Wanner

Evansville Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a grassroots collaboration between many Evansville organizations and individuals to provide an annual opportunity for the Evansville community to celebrate and learn about the Mexican holiday. Eric Ridenour and Sarah Spelbring, with the support of families and staff of the Montessori Academy of Evansville, collaborated with teachers and organizations throughout the city to create this free event to honor and share the many Mexican cultural traditions celebrated during Día de los Muertos.

The Homeless Experience Project: 48 Hours in the Life

The Homeless Experience Project: 48 Hours in the Life

Nominated by Jaimie Sheth

Aurora’s Homeless Experience Project: 48 Hours in the Life was an immersive experience for community members to understand life for individuals experiencing homelessness while raising funds to support Aurora and United Caring Services. In this program, twelve chosen people in the Evansville community were able to spend three days living like Aurora clients. Not only did the effort raise over $50,000.00, it also brought immense awareness to the real issue of homelessness to the Evansville community, which has the highest per capita homeless population in Indiana.

OptIN

OptIN

Nominated by Sara DeWitt

OptIN—Opportunities through Partnerships that Transform and Inspire—brings together the area’s largest and most influential employers with the EVSC to educate students about career options and to build transferable job skills. The program combines student passions and skills to establish a post-secondary graduation plan that generates excitement and upward mobility for students. The first of its kind in Indiana, OptIN seeks to ensure all students have a clear path to success, while aligning students with our region’s workforce opportunities.

READI Grant

READI Grant

Nominated by Lloyd Winnecke

Evansville Regional Economic Partnership, in collaboration with Southwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, submitted a regional development plan for Indiana’s READI grant, an initiative to invest in the growth and prosperity of everyone that calls the Hoosier state home. The grant encourages neighboring communities to work collaboratively to develop a bold vision for their future that, when implemented, will attract, develop, and retain talent in Indiana. Southwest Indiana was awarded $50 million on December 14th, 2021. With concerted effort and strategic vision, the READI funding will enable our region to be a better place to live, work, and play! 

Sunday T-Dance

Sunday T-Dance

Nominated by Tim Black

The Sunday T-Dance has quickly become a must-attend monthly event within the Evansville-Henderson-Owensboro gay community. For the last two-and-half-years, the event has provided a laid-back opportunity for members of the gay community and their allies to gather and revisit old friends and make new ones. Paying homage to Sunday “tea dances” organized in the New York homosexual community in the 1950s and 1960s, these events hosted by Mo’s House in Evansville are providing a welcoming outlet for local folks inside and outside the LGBTQIA+ community to connect today.

UE Theatre ChangeLab: Storytelling in our Backyard

UE Theatre ChangeLab: Storytelling in our Backyard

Nominated by Brooksie Smith

The UE Theatre ChangeLab: Storytelling in our Backyard was an investigative theatre piece focused on Evansville. The interview-based project, led by a team of theatre-makers, investigated the slogan “E is for Everyone,” specially asking, “Who do we mean when we say ‘e is for everyone?’” The project features a diverse group of Evansvilleians (school teachers, scientists, pastors, social workers, healthcare professionals, and restaurant workers) in a tapestry of stories exploring how Evansville is—or might not yet be—for everyone, artfully sparking a conversation about our city’s inclusiveness and how we can strive for a better future.

Education

#TechMe

#TechMe

Nominated by Austin Maxheimer

Debbie Calhoun and the #TechMe program responded to the Tepe Park Neighborhood’s desire to provide access to a rich array of lifelong learning opportunities for all ages by offering learning opportunities in coding, robotics, and everything tech related. Perhaps most importantly, the #TechMe program creates positive interactions and mentoring relationships with youth in the community. Their website says it best: “Technology is critical to shaping the world we live in. It’s our goal to see underserved areas engage in the world of technology to not only be consumers, but also DOERS.” #TechMe is investing in a new generation by making a difference one kid at a time.

Book N' Cook

Book N' Cook

Nominated by Charles Sutton

Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, in partnership with Legacy Taste of the Garden and Urban Seeds, created the virtual program, Book n’ Cook, to teach food literacy, promote traditional literacies, and raise awareness of the local food system. Youth from Grades 3-5 were provided with five books and cooking utensils, and once a month were given local, seasonal ingredients needed to prepare a recipe. Empowering youth in the kitchen to serve their families and friends while connecting them to the local food system creates a more sustainable and healthy environment for all.

Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library Storytime To Go Kits

Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library Storytime To Go Kits

Nominated by Erika Qualls Barnett

The Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library provides Storytime To Go kits, complete with songs and storytime tools, to educate, inspire, and engage our littlest readers. Reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing are the five early literacy skills needed for children to learn how to read on their own. Using a Storytime To Go kit, children learn new words while they sing, dance, and make music. It’s an excellent way to build the early literacy skills needed for learning to read!

EVSC/EVPL Free Tutoring Program

EVSC/EVPL Free Tutoring Program

Nominated by Sara DeWitt

Thanks to a new partnership with the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, more than 12,000 students have access to free online tutoring with content experts in a wide range of subjects and course levels. EVPL has seen a double-digit increase in usage of the program and more than 90% of students say it has given them more confidence with their schoolwork and helped to improve their grades. Never before has additional help been so available to so many students in our community. This program is truly changing outcomes for Evansville students.

GAIN

GAIN

Nominated by Sara DeWitt

GAIN—Growth in Academics through Innovation and Neuroeducation—aligns systems, practices, and mindsets around how humans and brains develop to produce transformational outcomes for students. GAIN is a first-of-its-kind program that combines rigorous academics with skills students need to be successful, such as problem solving, critical thinking, working in groups, and more to maximize student success. It is the ultimate child-centered approach to education—a journey, not a destination.

HHS Student Council - Change for Change Makers

HHS Student Council - Change for Change Makers

Nominated by Katelyn Kaiser

Change for Change Makers is a new program created by Katelyn Kaiser and the Harrison High School student council. Each month, the students choose a local nonprofit to support by raising money and awareness. So far, the student council has worked with Evansville Rescue Mission and Cancer Pathways. This community service-based initiative serves as a wonderful opportunity for kids to make connections with outside organizations, support local nonprofits, and get real-world experience.

Ivy Tech Community College Adult Basic Education

Ivy Tech Community College Adult Basic Education

Nominated by Nick Gathercole

Almost 455,000 Hoosiers have never finished high school. Ivy Tech is working to change this statistic. Through its Adult Basic Education program, Ivy Tech offers free classes in four locations throughout Vanderburgh, Gibson, and Spencer Counties. Beyond educational services, students in the program are offered career coaching, college admission support, food security, and transportation assistance, and other wraparound services to help all people achieve more.

Ivy Tech Community College English Language Learner Program

Ivy Tech Community College English Language Learner Program

Nominated by Nick Gathercole

The Ivy Tech English Language Learner Program is a free service for local residents not proficient in English. Students in the program come from all walks of life, and some are working towards High School Equivalency, while others have professional skills they are currently unable to utilize until they become proficient in English. By assisting those residents that need help learning the English language, Ivy Tech is reducing barriers to both education and employment and increasing diversity in the workforce.

Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG)

Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG)

Nominated by Sara Worstell

JAG Specialists in Southwest Indiana guide and aid students who have experienced significant life challenges to help them get a high school diploma or equivalent, secure a quality entry-level job, or pursue post-secondary education that leads to career advancement. Southwest Indiana is home to nine JAG programs, each led by a dedicated JAG Specialist who leads, guides, and encourages the students throughout the school year on the path to graduation. JAG has seen great success in Southwest Indiana  since the first program began in 2007. The 2020-2021 graduation rate for JAG in Southwest Indiana exceeded the 90% goal and achieved a 96.4% graduation rate.

New Tech Institute HS STEM Fest

New Tech Institute HS STEM Fest

Nominated by Chris Gibson

The New Tech Institute HS STEM Fest is a free annual event that brings Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to hundreds of students in the Evansville area. Its mission is to focus on the unique attributes of New Tech by providing the community with an event to share free, hands-on, STEM-related activities for students of all ages. The program’s goal is to help build strong minds, strong students, and a strong community throughout the Evansville area. In 2020, STEM Fest reached over 600 middle school students from the EVSC and Evansville Lutheran School on Day 1 of the event, and more than 1000 community members on Day 2.

Social Impact Librarianship at EVPL

Social Impact Librarianship at EVPL

Nominated by Charles Sutton

The Social Impact Librarianship at EVPL is a literacy language program designed to develop English language proficiency and respect while nurturing an individual’s native language. Social impact librarian Rachel Acton has spent over a decade immersing herself in subsets of the international community (e.g. newly arriving Spanish-speaking people, Marshallese, and Haitian populations) to help them navigate some of the barriers, cultural differences, and challenges to achieving stability, in an effort to teach language literacy. Her work is helping the international community become part of the fabric of our community. 

TRACES

TRACES

Nominated by Sara DeWitt

TRACES—Transitional Resources to Achieve Career & Educational Success—is an EVSC transition program in partnership with the University of Evansville that teaches EVSC’s special education life skills students (ages 18-22) the skills necessary to be independent and successful members of our community. Through the help of UE student mentors, TRACES students graduate with the tools to not only be independent, but also to find gainful employment. And it’s working! Currently, 92% of TRACES students have gained paid employment.

Government, Public Service, & Environment

Deaconess Aquatic Center

Deaconess Aquatic Center

Nominated by Noah Stubbs

The City of Evansville realized a great need in the community for more programming for swimming. The city’s long-standing indoor pool, Lloyd Pool, was no longer in a state to support quality competitive and recreational swimming programming, and so the Deaconess Aquatic Center was born. This public-private partnership provided a state-of-the-art aquatic center. This facility will provide swimmers of all ages and skills a place to enjoy.

Purdue Extension Vanderburgh County 4-H Program

Purdue Extension Vanderburgh County 4-H Program

Nominated by Beth Kroft

The Vanderburgh County division of the Purdue Extension program is committed to ensuring youth in the entire community are given opportunities to be educated and engaged in making our community better. Through educational materials, classes, workshops, and events, the Vanderburgh County Purdue Extension office provides 4-H in a way that is fun, educational, and builds skills for growth. Although often known for its focus on agriculture, 4-H also supports STEM learning, government structure and engagement, and healthy lifestyles and living for all ages. The Vanderburgh branch of Purdue Extension office makes it their mission to put youth first and empowers them to be tomorrow’s leaders.

Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park ChangeLab

Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park ChangeLab

Nominated by Erin Lewis

UE ChangeLab student Robert Lopez is transforming our community! Starting as a ChangeMaker project in 2017 and continuing on during Robert’s time as a UE student, Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park ChangeLab endeavors to create a wetland education park that collects rainwater and cleans it through the park’s plants. With the help of Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, UE, Bosse High School, Evansville Water & Sewer, and Toyota, the Toyota Trinity Stormwater Park ChangeLab will change the face of our city, increase our green space, and make our water cleaner, while inspiring future generations to do the same. 

Health & Social Services

Chemo Buddies - Shuttle Buddies

Chemo Buddies - Shuttle Buddies

Nominated by Gail Knight Williams

Chemo Buddies launched “Shuttle Buddies” in March of 2021 with the purpose of helping with transportation needs of cancer patients in our area. Access to care has been identified as the biggest barrier to patients’ care: chemo and radiation both require a strict schedule, and many patients cannot drive because of their diagnosis or treatment. Others have no support people of any kind to help. The service is free of charge to all of the chemo patients and currently works with Lyft, Garling Mobility and Comair to transport the patients. The ride service has contributed to the betterment of our community and the health and welfare of our chemotherapy patients. 

Deaconess Monoclonal Antibody Program

Deaconess Monoclonal Antibody Program

Nominated by Dr. James Porter

The COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment helps prevent hospitalization and death in patients who are most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. When the medication received emergency use authorization in November 2020, Deaconess created a program to administer it. By December 2021, they had already administered more than 5,600 infusions to patients with COVID-19—the highest in the region. The infusion nurses and other members of the monoclonal antibodies team worked 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week, and as a result, have saved countless lives, both from COVID-19 and by keeping hospital beds open for other patients needing care. 

EMBOLDEN Inc.

EMBOLDEN Inc.

Nominated by Andrea Lantz

EMBOLDEN Inc. seeks to improve the lives of at-risk and incarcerated youth and underserved communities through free yoga, wellness, and mentorship programs in collaborative partnerships. EMBOLDEN focuses on trauma-informed yoga and mindful wellness to address the specific needs of these populations. Founder Bianca Snyder uses her passions, talents, and gifts to enable greater healing in our community by listening, educating, and connecting people to needed resources so they can become better versions of themselves.

Friday Mornings with Patchwork Central

Friday Mornings with Patchwork Central

Nominated by Helen Azarian

Friday Mornings with Patchwork began as a collaboration between Patchwork Central and the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library to provide blood pressure screenings to passers-by at Central Library. The overarching goal was to engage with individuals and provide a non-stressful means to encourage healthful behaviors. Individuals can also share their health concerns with the Patchwork nurses and get support, up to and including getting a doctor’s appointment set. This program is remarkable for bringing health professionals to where needy individuals are, in a no-pressure setting, putting them in touch with assistance of which they may not have been aware.

Good Shepherd Catholic School

Good Shepherd Catholic School

Nominated by Shawn Collins

Every February Good Shepherd Catholic School, along with Good Shepherd Catholic Church, collects food items for the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry. Setting aside a week in February for the War on Hunger, the school contacts the Food Pantry to inquire about any specific items needed at that time, and creates a contest among grade levels to collect specific items. Through this project, the school challenges students to recognize their own blessings while bringing attention to those in need in our community.

LatinX Community Health ChangeLab

LatinX Community Health ChangeLab

Nominated by Erin Lewis

Equity in healthcare has never been more critical than it is today. Professor Cindy Crowe’s LatinX Community Health ChangeLab is bridging the divide between medical providers and their non-English-speaking patients. Her team of students interview patients and providers, make recommendations to improve care, and translate documents. They also partnered with Ascension to host two COVID vaccine clinics, helping over 100 people in the LatinX community get vaccinated and awarding a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to a young lady who got vaccinated. Cindy Crowe and the LatinX Health ChangeLabe are truly changing—and saving—lives.

MASIHA Free Specialty Clinic

MASIHA Free Specialty Clinic

Nominated by Abdul Mohammed

The MASIHA Free Specialty Clinic launched its Mobile Food Pantry in 2019 and has been working to address the issue of food insecurity in the region ever since. Their efforts are far-reaching, bringing food items to downtown Evansville as well as downtown Boonville on a weekly basis. They also sent 200 pounds of food and toiletries to Kentucky in the immediate aftermath of the devastating tornado in December 2021. The food pantry is yet another example of the tremendous outreach efforts of MASIHA, the clinic that continues to provide no-charge specialty healthcare to those in need. 

NAACP Evansville Area Branch Virtual Town Hall

NAACP Evansville Area Branch Virtual Town Hall

Nominated by Jeff Gruszewski

The NAACP Evansville Area Branch Virtual Town Hall series began in February 2021 as a limited four-part panel discussion with the topic “Is This Our Best Shot? Confronting the Twin Pandemics of COVID-19 and Racial Injustice.” The series has continued with monthly Saturday morning virtual Town Hall meetings, providing updates on the status of COVID-19 in the community, vaccine issues and access, and our response in particular sectors or communities, highlighting communities of color.

Southern Indiana Nurse Honor Guard

Southern Indiana Nurse Honor Guard

Nominated by Helen Azarian

The Black Nurses of Evansville and Tri-State Advocates are bringing the Nurse Honor Guard to Southern Indiana. This project arranges for a brief memorial service to be performed to honor a nurse who has passed on by recognizing their contributions to their chosen profession during their funeral. Years in the making, this diverse group’s members all share in the common belief that improving the health of our community benefits everyone. The Southern Indiana Nurse Honor Guard are role models who inspire others to follow their lead and serve their community.

UE / Harper Air Filter Changemaker Project

UE / Harper Air Filter Changemaker Project

Nominated by Erin Lewis

When Dr. Jeffrey Braun and his UE Physics students learned that a local elementary school needed better air quality in their classrooms with kids too young to get vaccinated, the group stepped up and took action. The UE / Harper Air Filter Changemaker Project is a collaboration with the Physics, Biology, and Engineering departments to build Corsi-Rosenthal air filter boxes to keep Harper Elementary children and teachers safer. The UE Students used their money from the Changemaker Fund to buy the supplies, build the boxes, conduct research on air quality, and assemble enough boxes to cover each classroom. The project not only creates a safer environment for Harper, but will hopefully inspire other schools to do the same.

BUSINESSES & ORGANIZATIONS

Arts

Evansville Civic Theatre

Evansville Civic Theatre

Nominated by Erin Lewis

Evansville Civic Theatre (ECT) enriches our community by cultivating an appreciation for the performing arts and providing an outlet for self-expression and education. During the pandemic, ECT has continued to provide theatre experiences by live streaming stage productions, sharing dramatic readings via Zoom, and hosting outdoor productions in non-traditional venues, to name a few. As the oldest arts organization in Evansville and second-oldest community theatre in Indiana, ECT is by the community and for the community—whether you are a student, an established actor, a CEO, or a ditch digger, there is room for you at ECT.

NoCo Park

NoCo Park

Nominated by Candace Chapman

Evansville’s new art space, NoCo Park, creates environments that foster real-life interaction and creative connections through interactive exhibit experiences. Owned by husband and wife team, Nicole Pinedo and Brandon Baker, NoCo Park is a place for people to have a good time, try something new, and be inspired. Nicole and her team host local artists weekly, encouraging all types of creatives—from painters, to makers, car enthusiasts, and photographers) to use the space. People young and old made their way to Third Avenue to be inspired and enjoy a unique artistic experience.

Old National Bank

Old National Bank

Nominated by Josh Armstrong

Old National Bank recently commissioned two murals in Downtown Evansville, one of which is the largest mural in the region. The murals represent Evansville and regional culture and history and were executed professionally, raising the standards of quality for murals in Southwest Indiana. Through this collaborative project, Old National Bank is showing that it truly is a bank for the community.

Twymon Art Gallery

Twymon Art Gallery

Nominated by Charles Sutton

Created in 2016 by William “Billy” Twymon II, the Twymon Art Gallery serves as a space to support artistic and creative expression for emerging and established artists of all disciplines. The gallery has built a diverse community of marginalized artists where they learn how to get their artwork gallery-ready and receive marketing tools to help exhibit and sell their art. Twymon Art Gallery is more than a gallery–it is a community where artists from all walks of life can feel welcomed, inspired, and empowered. 

Community & Neighborhood

Evansville Rescue Mission - OASIS Recovery

Evansville Rescue Mission - OASIS Recovery

Nominated by Nate Denning

Started in June 2020, the Evansville Rescue Mission’s OASIS program serves homeless men seeking recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Under Phillip Boyd’s leadership, the program teaches the principles of sobriety and connects the participants to outside resources. The OASIS program has been able to help many men graduate into independent living and find and maintain sobriety.

EVSC PD

EVSC PD

Nominated by Sara DeWitt

The Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation Police Department was formed in 2013 to promote a safe, secure, and nurturing learning environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Now, with eight EVSC PD officers, the EVSC is able to assign an officer to each of the district’s high schools, providing consistent safety and security and allowing the officers to build rapport with students. The program has helped provide a trusted, caring adult that students know they can turn to when needed.

Hope Dot Com

Hope Dot Com

Nominated by Jack Buttrum

Hope Dot Com (HDC) Corp is a centralized resource center located centrally in Evansville’s Downtown area. At HDC it is their vision to see people from all aspects of life who are overwhelmed by circumstances of homelessness, temporary housing, and challenging situations be changed and transformed. HDC serves the Evansville community in working to resolve immediate needs as well as larger problems through collaborative efforts with other organizations & agencies.

River City Pride

River City Pride

Nominated by Ashley Riester

River City Pride (RCP) serves as a go-to resource for the LGBTQIA+ community through celebration, activism, and education. After proudly hosting the first Evansville Pride Festival in 2019, RCP held virtual events in 2020 and 2021 to celebrate safely. RCP supports other nonprofit organizations, serving food on Thanksgiving and donating to Greater Evansville Youth. To ensure the LGBTQIA+ community has local access to needed health resources, RCP met with Deaconess to discuss ways to improve our area’s healthcare. In all their work, the RCP volunteers and board members create safe spaces for people to be their authentic selves.

Someplace Else Nightclub

Someplace Else Nightclub

Nominated by Kelley Coures

For 31 years, Someplace Else NIghtclub has stood as a beacon for our area LGBTQIA+ community and served as a place to socialize, celebrate, and occasionally mourn. Someplace Else has created a welcoming space for diversity and inclusion for all people, acting as both a social outlet and a gathering place to celebrate life events for those who are marginalized and may not be welcomed in their homes. It has served the community well and continues to give back in many ways.

XFIT BOXING

XFIT BOXING

Nominated by Heather Hallmark & Pamela Jeffries

Xfit Boxing fosters confidence in Evansville’s youth through physical fitness and a supportive environment. Coach Wayne and his wife, Coach Latasha, uplift, support, and treat everyone they meet like family. In addition to learning boxing, these kids are taught discipline, self-respect, boundaries, and kindness. This power couple truly cares about our children. They make the Evansville community better by meeting people where they are at to improve their physical fitness.

Education

AstraZeneca - Inspire Program

AstraZeneca - Inspire Program

Nominated by Keith Rawley

The AstraZeneca Inspire program seeks to set employees up for success by promoting professional development, mentorship, and leadership for professionals within the AZ workforce. The program provides an immediate network for employees relocated to the TriState area, creating opportunities to interact with other area companies to learn and share best practices among local businesses. The knowledge shared within the program cascades well beyond this AZ employee resource group as these individuals routinely pay it back through community service and volunteering, mentoring others and creating a stand-out mindset of professionalism, inclusion, and doing the right thing.

Caring Friends Daycare Ministry

Caring Friends Daycare Ministry

Nominated by Sandy James

Since 1991, Caring Friends Daycare Ministry provides quality care for children ages 31 months to 12 years old, specializing in children with disabilities. Caring Friends also helps fight food insecurity by becoming the food sponsor for the CACFP food program when there were no other food programs. The organization has mentored other daycares as well. Caring Friends has earned numerous awards in the early childhood education field and is a leader in progression in quality care in Southern Indiana.

Lyles Station Historic Schoolhouse & Museum

Lyles Station Historic Schoolhouse & Museum

Nominated by Clair Juenell Owens

Lyles Station Historic Schoolhouse and Museum devotes itself to preserving the oral, written, and physical history of the people of Lyles Station, the oldest surviving African-American settlement in Indiana. The building, programs, and tours allow the community to witness the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans with heritage in rural southern Indiana, learn about the development of the Heritage School, and understand the history of Gibson County. The museum also provides young people the opportunity to engage in farming, growing crops and sharing them with the community. 

Government, Public Service, & Environment

International Refugee Relief Center

International Refugee Relief Center

Nominated by Abdul Mohammed

The International Refugee Relief Center knows that all it takes to change the world is a little support. Founded in 2021, the center is determined to make an impact in the lives of international refugees by helping them settle in the United States of America. The center coordinates distribution of food, basic necessities, and medical care as needed. It also offers classes to help refugees get accustomed to US culture, setting them up to work and live independently. Through all its efforts, the International Refugee Relief Center embodies conviction, compassion, and servant leadership.

Trucks With Room to Spare Inc

Trucks With Room to Spare Inc

Nominated by Shelli Conaway

Trucks With Room to Spare (TWRTS) works to collect, transport, and deliver life saving-supplies for free to communities worldwide following a disaster. During the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, TWRTS worked in conjunction with other volunteer truckers to transport and distribute masks and other sanitation supplies to truckers and other front line workers in the transportation industry across the US. No matter the reason or location, if there is a need, Trucks With Room to Spare will deliver.

Health & Social Services

Chemo Buddies, Inc.

Chemo Buddies, Inc.

Nominated by Gail Knight Williams

Chemo Buddies, founded by Jill Kincaid in 2011, provides services to people who are actively fighting cancer right now! Buddies walk along-side the patients in the moment, delivering immediate help and comfort to the patients as they fight for their lives. Chemo Buddies are in every local treatment room every single day. They not only provide support to the patients, but patients’ families, friends, and even the caregivers.

Deaconess Clinic Memorial

Deaconess Clinic Memorial

Nominated by Pam Hight & Jessica Welcher

Deaconess Clinic Memorial, a partnership between Deaconess and Memorial Baptist Church formed in 2021, stemmed from the need for equity and diversity in healthcare. A diverse staff serves a population diverse in race, economic status, and background. Patients are not turned away due to inability to pay and social workers and office staff work with patients on comprehensive health plans so that followup appointments are understood and kept. The clinic offers full medical services to a majority of at-risk individuals, including those experiencing homelessness and people of color living in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Deaconess Intensive Care Units Staff

Deaconess Intensive Care Units Staff

Nominated by Dr. JoAnn Wood, VP, Chief Medical Officer, & Jennifer Chiusano, VP, Chief Nurse Executive

The Intensive Care Unit staff at Deaconess Midtown, Gateway, and Henderson Hospitals cared for hundreds of COVID-19 patients during the summer 2021 COVID-19 surge. Due to the Delta variant, this surge was sudden; it was also unexpected due to the wide availability of vaccines. Without the dedication and expertise of this team of medical professionals, many more people throughout our region would not have received the life-saving care they needed. The best care possible—delivered over many weeks by exceptional doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and others in the care team—saved countless lives.

Forefront Therapy - The Bronstein Clinic

Forefront Therapy - The Bronstein Clinic

Nominated by Jaimie Sheth

The Bronstein Clinic by Forefront Therapy is a nonprofit clinic in Evansville seeking to meet the physical therapy needs of the underserved in our community. Located in the Promise Zone, where such care is not always accessible, Forefront Therapy fills a need and allows everyone to have access to multiple affordable therapy options. The clinic has partnered with local nonprofits such as the JD Sheth Foundation and Echo Housing, proving that when nonprofits work together, they reshape communities.

Healing Reins of Kentucky, Inc.

Healing Reins of Kentucky, Inc.

Nominated by Monica Fella

Healing Reins of Kentucky, Inc.’s mission is “To assist individuals with special needs in meeting their full potential through interaction with horses.” Healing Reins provides Equine-Assisted Services (EAS) to individuals with special needs, including physical, mental health, or cognitive disabilities. These services include therapeutic riding and horsemanship, equine-assisted learning, and mobile experiences. Healing Reins provides a powerful paradigm to achieve positive outcomes for those with special needs.

Little Lambs of Evansville

Little Lambs of Evansville

Nominated by Erika Qualls Barnett

Since 1995, Little Lambs has helped safeguard the health and well-being of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens by partnering with professional organizations to provide prenatal and pediatric care, behavioral services, nutrition, drug and alcohol education and rehabilitation, and more. During the pandemic, Little Lambs adapted its service by creating virtual classes for parents to earn vouchers, implementing an online order form and pick-up service, and providing car seat training virtually and in-person using safe, social distancing practices. 

United Caring Services

United Caring Services

Nominated by Kimberly Armstrong & LeaAnn Newman

The staff and board of United Caring Services (UCS) are continuously striving to find services and solutions that will offer long-term support to their guests. UCS is the only night shelter in Evansville that offers a low-barrier place for those experiencing homelessness, addiction, and other challenges. UCS and its staff truly offer a community of caring with their commitment to provide an ongoing White Flag during the winter months—turning away no one in frigid temperatures.

 

Youth First, Inc.

Youth First, Inc.

Dr. Daryl Hagan

Founded in Evansville in 1998, Youth First, Inc.’s partners with schools and other agencies to connect kids and families to vital resources. Youth First (YF) now reaches 12 counties where 78 Master’s level social workers and prevention programs are accessible to 45,000 students in 105+ schools. Its phenomenal growth is a testament to its ability to strengthen the mental health and well-being of young people. YF’s core values of C.A.R.E.—compassion, accountability, relationships, and empowerment—set the tone for the staff and board as they work to improve lives. Their system of care for kids builds healthier mindsets and stronger skill sets, leading to a stronger workforce and safer communities.

 

News

#COL2022 Nominee Pre-Party

Last night, the 27th Annual Celebration of Leadership nominees came together on Zoom to get to know one another before the big event! Being virtual did not stop us from having fun and sharing in the spirit of Celebration of Leadership!  Watch the video...

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