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Mantua – Nearly every year since 2010, Kim Marfy and fellow staff at the Crestwood Middle School have encouraged eighth-graders to log volunteer efforts for a charity of their choice. At the end of the school year, participating students have the opportunity to win $100 on behalf of their charity. The number of kids who participate each year ranges from five to 15, according to Ms. Marfy. This year, CMS boasted 11 impressive students, making the selection panel’s job a difficult one.

“In January, our students were challenged to complete 12 hours of community service,” Ms. Marfy explained. “This challenge was made in an effort to meet a social studies standard that shows the connection between civic/political engagement and reaching personal goals. It was entirely optional and there were no requirements as to where a student had to complete their service.” She noted that volunteer options within the school were made available to students for whom transportation was a concern. In addition to completing the minimum hours of service, students were required to submit documentation about where they worked, and why they chose the particular organization.

In 2010 when the program began, Amber Harris and Rebecca Pochedly were honored as Heroes, and their charities, 4H Doggie Brigade and the Animal Protective League, were awarded $100 each. In 2011, Morgan Saffles earned that honor, resulting in a $100 donation to her charity, the Parrot Sanctuary. The following year, Morgan Faldowski won, with Hattie Larlham as the ultimate winner that year. In 2013, foster children received tote bags to help transport their belongings, courtesy of Sydney Kulla. The winner the following year, Kayla Grubbs, passed along $100 to her charity, the Portage County Dog Warden. The CMS Hero program wasn’t held in 2015, but returned in 2016, where Maddelyn Rennecker earned donations for the Garrettsville Food Cupboard and the 4H. This year, 11 eighth graders each completed a minimum of 12 service hours and an application describing their reasons for volunteering and the charity of their choice. In no particular order, those students and their charities are highlighted.

First, Payton McMahon earned a total of 13 service hours helping out with a variety of causes, including the Hiram Rummage sale, the Pit and Skit, and the FCCLA Princess Ball, a father/daughter dance that hosted 325 fathers and daughters. He shared that his motivation for volunteering as wanting to be a role model for others.

Next, is Gina Irwin, who spent her service time at the Akron Canton Regional FoodBank where she re-boxed and labeled food. Ally Sabol, another candidate, focused on improving her local community by volunteering at St Joseph’s Church as an Altar Server, and Christmas caroling. In addition, she tutored and counted box tops at school, and helped out in her neighborhood by provided babysitting and gardening services. In her application, Ally shared how easy it was to brighten someone’s day, by just taking a few minutes out of her own day.

Beka Butterfield loved the experience of working at the Fieldstone Farms Therapeutic Riding Centers, where she tacked up horses, led classroom and riding lessons, walked beside beginning riders, helped with general horse care at the stables. Beka found great rewards in the welcoming, forgiving environment the riding center provides to its clients, and plans to continue volunteering there. As a Young Marine, Mike Coleman realized that some Portage County children wouldn’t have a great Christmas and that bothered him. He got involved with the Toys for Tots program to help insure that deserving kids would have a happy holiday. He also wanted to make sure the Mantua Police and Fire Departments were proud of their vehicles; he spent hours on a regular basis keeping the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars clean — something helpful, but not on most people’s radar.

As a gifted student, Lydia Faldowski enjoys helping others who struggle academically. She used her gifts to help out in the CMS Writing Center and during her time with Mrs. Reece’s class at the Primary School. She enjoyed helping kindergarteners learn the alphabet and sight words and helping middle schoolers with writing assignments. And those students earned better grades, in part because Lydia was there to assist. Similarly, as a child of two teachers, Lillian Engelhart was drawn to spend her 15 volunteer hours with the afterschool-tutoring program at the Intermediate School. In addition, she also completed 12 hours coaching in the CMS Writing Center and spent many hours serving community meals at her church.

Community service drew in Bryce Pruszynski, who submitted 17.5 service hours, much of it with the Kids Weekend Meals Program, which provides Friday backpacks containing breakfast, lunch and snack items for the weekend for needy students at the Primary and Intermediate Schools. In addition, he worked a clothing drive at his church, and raked leaves for some elderly residents, as well. And since helping the community build a new school was a personal goal, Bryce worked with the Citizens for Crestwood Committee to promote the issue.

According to CMS teacher Kim Marfy, there was very tough competition to be named the #1 CMS Hero of the year. So much so, that the panel determined the task to name just one hero impossible. “So, for the first time since 2012, we chose two winners,” Ms. Marfy beamed, “Raeanne Quiggle and Nolan Wysong.”

The first winner, Raeann Quiggle, completed service hours in three areas: at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, The Aurora Memorial Library, and with her Girl Scout Troop. She explained that she loves the idea that she just made someone’s life easier and she just might have changed the trajectory of someone’s day. At her church she served at the community meals and the Christmas Boutique. At the library she worked with the Summer Reading Program. A donation in Raeann’s name was made to St. Joe’s Church.

The next winner, Nolan Wysong, has completed all his service hours at the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank. His motivation is simple — he believes that food is a basic human need that all people should have access to.

Nolan is especially mindful of the hungry children who benefit, and considers his service as a way to nourish not only their bodies, but also their minds. Initially, he was reluctant to log his hours and call attention to himself, but later reconsidered. Nolan explained in his application, “since 400 people can be fed with the $100 prize money that accompanies the CMS Hero of the Year designation, a little attention is worth it”.

In addition to having two community-minded candidates named as winners, Ms. Marfy shared that an unprecedented third candidate was recognized, as well. Zoe Simmons (pictured below) logged an impressive 38 service hours within the Crestwood Community. She divided her time among the CMS Writing Center, the talent show as the mixing engineer, the track team, and the high school soccer team. She also worked countless hours an in effort to pass the recent bond issue so that a new school could be built. Zoe completed her application by sharing, “I would like to request that in the event that I do win, the prize be donated to the CMS Student Sunshine fund, as I find the very principles of the fund embody what I believe in–helping others in the community have a lesser load to carry, and be able to feel welcomed in a community of kindness.” When the CMS Heroes panel read Zoe’s application, they were touched by her maturity and foresight. When they shared her story, a group of anonymous donors collected a $100 donation in her name, for the CMS Student Sunshine Fund, which provides material and financial support for CMS students in need or crisis as determined by the school counselor.

Ms. Marfy acknowledged, “Thank you to the PTO and to Mrs. Schmidt who dipped into her Principal’s Fund to support our CMS Heroes. And thank you to the anonymous donors for the Sunshine Fund Donation.” She continued, “Most of all, thank you to these amazing students who rose to the challenge — You make us so very proud.”