Everyday Acts Of Kindness Inspire Gratitude In The AW Community

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — All it takes is one act of kindness to brighten someone’s day.

It doesn’t take any heroic effort to volunteer, speak kind words or listen to someone in need.

When The Mirror asked readers to recognize others for their acts of kindness, the response was overwhelming. The Anthony Wayne Community is full of giving, loving people who go out of their way to make a difference, even if it’s just with a simple act or attitude.

In today’s edition, we’re sharing the second half of more than 30 names of individuals and organizations that were submitted. To check out last week’s acts of kindness, visit www.themirrornewspaper.com.

Terri Massucci

Terri Massucci has single-handedly brought the virtual community that grew during the pandemic back to an in-person community, said Allison Aey.

“Her time and commitment to fun activities like the rock snake, an Easter egg scavenger hunt, Taylor Swift hunt and more has encouraged competitive camaraderie and outdoor fun for families and adults. Terri devotes a great deal of time to sharing community events on social media forums and supporting them with her attendance and assistance.”

A Mentor, Ohio, native, Terri moved to Waterville in 2016. She continues to work part time for Lake Business Products of Highland Heights, Ohio, which she’s been with for 26 years. 

“The best part of being ‘almost retired’ is the people I get to meet and the games and activities that have been able to be put together for the community,” said Terri, who spearheaded the Wally the Rock Snake, Hunting for Frisbees and the Rescue of Taylor Swift activities in Waterville. “Helping with the Waterville Christmas event and our Easter egg hunt was also a great way to give back to the community.”

In 2022, she began attending Waterville City Council meetings to learn more about the amphitheater proposal and encouraged Mayor Tim Pedro to visit Mentor to learn more about that city’s municipal complex and music venue – which he did.

“Terri is willing to step in and present ideas and follow through with a plan, including organizing and recruiting volunteers,” Tim said.

In addition to organizing community activities, Terri launched and moderates the Meanwhile in Waterville Ohio Facebook page and teaches SilverSneakers classes at the Waterville YMCA.

“Having the Y in our community is one of the greatest benefits of the area,” Terri said. “I also enjoy the beauty of Farnsworth Metropark and being able to walk or bike to anything in our area.”

Terri has three adult children and four grandchildren ages 4 to 19. 

“Family is the most important part of my life. The time I spend with them is a blessing,” she said.

Mike McArthur

Mike McArthur puts a lot of time and effort into fundraisers to benefit the community, said Dawn Green.

“Mike created the annual 5K on the Fairway at Fallen Timbers Fairway that raises money with his race and raffles to donate to Boys and Girls Club of Toledo, Nature’s Nursery and Cancer Connection of Northwest Ohio,” she said. “In the last eight years, he has raised over $50,000 in donations for these charities and raised $9,669 this year alone. He puts a lot of time and effort into his fundraisers to give back to the community.”

The 5K on the Fairway is a nonprofit that Mike formed in 2023. Through this organization, he hosted four different events. In March, it was a 4x4x48 challenge in which participants run 4 miles every four hours to total 48 miles.

“All funds went to Nature’s Nursery to help sponsor an animal ambassador. We were able to raise over $4,000 just by running,” he said.

The second event was a drone golf ball drop at Fallen Timbers Fairways. 

“We dropped 150 numbered golf balls to find one winner of half the money with the other $1,000 going to Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo,” he said. 

The third event this year was in August – the eighth annual 5K on the Fairway and golf outing, raising funds for Cancer Connec-tion of Northwest Ohio, Nature’s Nursery and the Otsego girls basketball program. 

“In all, we had 150 runners, 120 golfers and our online raffles as well,” Mike said. “We were able to raise $9,600 for these charities.”

The fourth and last event this year was the first Chili Open golf scramble. Nearly 80 golfers came out in late October and raised $3,300 for the Stepping Strong Foundation, supporting friend Megan Cranor on her journey to run the Boston Marathon. 

“Along with our nonprofit, I volunteer all over town at many road races, especially our hometown gem, the Glass City Marathon,” Mike said. “The great part of 5K on the Fairway is every dollar raised stays local with Northwest Ohio organizations.”

Mike works full time at First Solar as a field services manager and is co-chair of the donations committee. He has worked for First Solar since 1997.

“I love my ability to work with our customers and bring their feedback to our internal team,” he said. “This year, I was able to bring First Solar to the Run Toledo team to be the presenting sponsor of the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Chase in downtown Toledo. Being able to support Cherry Street Mission is a great community effort.”

For 10 years, Mike has been married to Abbey, who is director of events for the 5K on the Fairway. 

“She has a wonderful gift, running all of the day-of activities, including coordinating our fleet of volunteers,” he said. “My daughters, Hayley and Hannah, both AW alumnae, are always active with these events, helping get people where they need to be, filling food tables, entertaining kids and all the other things we need to have successful events. I want to just say how thankful I am for this honor and the people who help make all this possible.”

Linda Myers

Linda Myers is an incredibly kind, generous and talented woman, said Halina Schriefer.

“She volunteers at the Anthony Wayne Food Pantry in Zion United Methodist Church,” Halina said. “She also teaches Pilates, creates tie-dye crafts and plays a number of instruments.”

A retired physical therapist assistant, Linda worked for Mercy Hospital’s pediatric physical therapy and Heartland physical therapy units. 

“It was a very rewarding career, helping people understand and improve awareness of their bodies, helping them regain strength and movement so they could return to activities they enjoyed,” Linda said of Heartland. “At Mercy, I worked in the pool and in the hippotherapy program. What’s not to love about kids, water and horses?”

Retirement offers many opportunities to grow and be a part of a kind and giving community, Linda noted.

At Zion United Meth-odist Church, Linda plays the organ and keyboard, occasionally incorporating Native American flute and singing bowls into worship. She also promotes the church’s Anthony Wayne Food Pantry, which provides bags of food to Whitehouse-area families in need twice a month.

She calls herself the “please and thank-you person” – asking for donations and responding with gratitude. All it takes is a post on Facebook to recruit donations for nonperishable food items throughout the year or special foods for Christmas, Thanksgiving and other special occasions.

“The community has always responded generously when they are made aware of the needs of others,” Linda said.

Through her business, Gilboa Homespun, Linda creates and produces machine embroidery de-signs for fun and for businesses – interpreting their logos in thread. She also dyes fabric, yarn and fibers and does hand-spun yarn and tie-dye products that she sells in local shows, including Schriefer’s Ord-inary Pioneer Spiritual Healing Community gathering each summer.

“Halina has created a very caring and nurturing space at Ordinary Pioneer in Whitehouse,” Linda said.

In her home studio, Linda teaches private Pilates lessons, using a reformer, mat and other pieces of equipment.

“I prefer one on one, as then I can focus on what the client is bringing to the session, whether it’s stiffness, an area of pain or feeling great – let’s do this! Pilates is a very thoughtful and intentional method of exercise, appropriate for just about any age and fitness level.”

At home, Linda also fosters dogs for Animal House Rescue and currently has a large Newfoundland ready for placement. Married to Ron, they have one daughter who is an Anthony Wayne graduate and now a genetic researcher at Duke Medicine in North Carolina – and a granddaughter who loves to come to “Camp Grandma” for a few weeks each summer.

Mari Ness

Mari Ness does so much for the community: packing weekend food bags for children, serving the Monclova Area Parents club, leading in Girl Scouts and serving at church, said her mom, Robin Pressnell.

“And she takes her daughter with her to learn about so many things,” Robin said.

“My daughter is my inspiration to work harder and do better each day,” Mari said of Sadie. “I have found peace and happiness in volunteering. I include my daughter to break her out of her normal routine while giving her a chance to learn new skills, meet new people and have fun, all while making a positive impact on our community. My hope is that my efforts can inspire friends and family to volunteer and make a difference.”

As an Owens Corning employee, Mari has led several volunteer events, including serving at the Susan G. Komen Survivor Breakfast, doing a women’s build for Habitat for Humanity, creating Fleece & Thank You blankets for children in local hospitals, serving at Cherry Street Mission and working in the Walleye concession stand to raise funds for Aurora Project – a house for area homeless women and children.

In 2020-2023, she served as OC’s chairman for a silent auction that raised funds for United Way, Habitat for Humanity, YWCA, Con-necting Kids to Meals and Cherry Street Mission.

As communication leader of Salute Affinity Group, she helped build hygiene kits for military personnel and families, and assisted with the 180th Fighter Wing’s holiday party.

With MAPS – Monclova Primary’s parent organization – Mari served consecutive two-year terms as vice president and president and now is a committee chairperson, volunteering at events during Sadie’s last year at the school.

During her time with MAPS, Mari has led the largest fundraisers for the school while also leading the Yearbook Committee and Student Directory Com-mittee.

A Girl Scout leader since 2019, she led her troop through a project to make blankets, pack weekend food bags and served hot meals.

A member of Cedar-Creek Church, Mari greets guests before service. She also participates with a team that volunteers in the community. 

Mari lives in Monclova with her husband, Nick, and daughter Sadie. 

Bobbie-Jo Newman

Bobbie-Jo Newman has left a lasting impression on the Anthony Wayne and Maumee areas, said Abigail Schroeder, director the Spring Green Educational Foundation Diversion program.

“She is always humble, and her kindness radiates through. She has been such a support to our organization and through every child she has worked with,” Abigail said. “If I could find words to describe Bobbie-Jo, it would be the following: kind, loyal, dependable, honest, hardworking, resilient, respectable and a leader. She’s one of those people that would never ask you to do something she wouldn’t do herself.”

A law enforcement ranger for Metroparks Toledo for the past year, Bobbie-Jo previously served 10 years as a Waterville police officer. At the same time, she has worked as a support officer for the Spring Green Educational Foundation, working with first-time youth offenders.

“Our program gives kids a second chance to learn from their mishaps and not have a record,” she said.

For Spring Green, she goes with the youths on community service projects, including Habitat for Humanity, Let’s Build Beds and Metroparks. 

“It’s one of the requirements for the kids to complete the program – serving their community,” she said. “We never ask a student to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves. That’s what makes good students, teachers and learners.”

In her spare time, she also volunteers for Sunshine Communities. And in the summer, she volunteers to speak at various Safety City and Safety Town programs.

“The Metroparks are big on volunteering and a great place to work,” said Bobbie-Jo, noting that all 19 parks in the county are beautiful and unique.

Being both a police officer and support officer fits right in with her passion to serve and help others, Bobbie-Jo said.

“In this line of work, I wear many hats. Sometimes, people need a simple question answered or directions. Other times, people just need someone to talk to. And then there are also those people who make poor choices and are dealt with as the law sees fit, to protect society,” she said.

Bobbie-Jo is the mom of two grown children. Her daughter is an early childhood development teacher. 

Her son served in the U.S. Navy for six years, including three deployments. Her daughter-in-law is in her eighth year in the Navy and has completed two deployments. They are expecting their first baby in March. 

“I’m pretty excited and proud of them both,” she said of her children.

John Nicholson

John Nicholson is the reason Waterville had a Give, Take, Share free vegetable stand this year. 

“Everyone in town was familiar with his vegetable stand. Even though it wasn’t at full capacity, he kindly volunteered his home for the free vegetable table,” said Terri Massucci, adding that John gives donations from his sales to Waterville United Methodist Church.

John studied crop science at The Ohio State University, where he played in the band while earning a bachelor’s degree in 1953, followed by a master’s degree in agricultural education in 1962. He worked with farmers as a career, helping them solve crop problems. He retired from the OSU Extension, where he worked as a crop agent until 1977.

The produce at his Karis Street farm stand was a hit. The community relied on John to pick up fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, onions, tomatoes and peppers, but his most bountiful harvest was corn, earning him the nickname “the corn guy” for many years. 

He donated 100 percent of his proceeds from the stand to the church to fund its new building, which opened in March 2022.

He’s been a member of the church since 1964, and church member Donna Martin calls him an “angel on Earth.” 

“His heart of service is a blessing to our community,” she added.

Kay-Lynne Schaller

Kay-Lynne Schaller, a Penta Career Center family and consumer sciences teacher at Anthony Wayne Junior High School, has an engaging and dynamic teaching style and a no-nonsense, yet fun classroom management style that is exceptional, said district communications specialist Rebecca Schwan.

“Her students respect her to no end and work really hard as a result – not always an easy task with junior high students. This effort translates into countless successes at competitions over the years,” Rebecca said. “She also heavily instills the importance of service, empathy and using one’s resources, gifts and talents in service to others. She is so very generous with moral support of her colleagues and is often the first to send me a ‘good job’ note of encouragement.”

Kay-Lynne joined the district in 1994, teaching for four years before taking a break to start a family. After teaching at Owens Com-munity College and Davis College, she returned to Anthony Wayne Junior High as a Penta Career Center satellite instructor in 2007.

As a family and consumer sciences teacher, Kay-Lynne has taught principles of food, financial literacy and textiles and interior design courses.

“These relevant courses enable students to learn a discipline that can help them lead a more productive and healthy life with ‘knowledge you can’t live without,’” she said. “It is so much fun to teach a topic that students can readily see the value of. When they come into class eager to learn, it makes class a joy!”

Kay-Lynne is the first Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) advisor that students encounter, and the students and families take advantage of this career-technical student organization.

“I have been humbled by the depth of their projects and thousands of members of our community have benefited from their service projects,” she said. “It is truly satisfying to coach students in their presentation skills and then watch them qualify to present their projects at the National FCCLA Leadership Conferences. This is such a valuable career experience.”

During her time as FCCLA advisor, Kay-Lynne has seen most of her students qualify to compete at the national level, and some have become regional or state officers. One earned the rank of national officer, and another received the Japanese Exchange Scholar-ship Award. 

“Students have found their college majors through FCCLA and received thousands of dollars in college scholarships for themselves and grants for our school,” she said. “It is deeply satisfying to work with students on a one-to-one basis to further their research in their personal interests and provide the coaching necessary to develop award-winning presentations.”

Kay-Lynne said her goal each week is to foster a love for greater knowledge through engaging lessons that inspire curiosity and critical thinking.

“Building a supportive and respectful rapport with students is crucial in their academic and personal development, and the way to do this is to recognize and nurture their individual strengths,” she said. 

Kay-Lynne also values open communication and collaboration with parents as well, to ensure the best possible educational experience for the student.

Married to Lou Hebert for 30 years, Kay-Lynne has two grown sons and three grown stepsons with families and grandchildren. In her spare time, she is involved in working with battered women and homeless and poor families at Perrysburg Heights Com-munity Center and The Cocoon.

Devin Schroeder

Devin Schroeder is a busy high school junior, but he finds time to volunteer throughout the community, said Rita Chovan, Nature’s Nursery volunteer coordinator.

“He helped Nature’s Nursery, especially when the new location at Dutch Road was getting ready to be occupied by our education animals and rehab animals,” Rita said. “He selflessly gave us time to get our front sign and other electronics working. He worked many weekends and late nights helping make the new location ready.”

Devin focused on setting up security cameras, alarm systems and getting access fobs ready for staff.

“I recently made a video to show at one of Nature’s Nursery’s biggest events of the year – the Birds and Moore – that explains everything Nature’s Nursery does to help with wildlife rehabilitation and conservation,” Devin said.

At school, Devin plays the quint drums as a member of the Marching Generals and is a percussionist in the symphonic winds.

Devin also donates his tech skills in school, serving as the head lighting operator for all of the plays and musicals until he graduates. 

“I was introduced to running the lighting board my sophomore year and instantly knew it would be something I would want to be more involved in,” Devin said. “I shadowed the lighting operator during last year’s play, Clue, and this year I helped in producing The Play That Goes Wrong and Matilda Jr.”

For those plays, he brought in some of his own lights and borrowed LED lights, as the current auditorium lights are only capable of turning off and on. Devin set up his own lights to change colors, flash and move. 

At CedarCreek Church, Devin has volunteered to run the computer, cameras and lighting board. For New Life Alliance Church, Devin volunteers on the tech team and is a substitute drummer in the band.

“I plan on going to college to get a degree in something along the lines of professional stage lighting design,” he said.

Amy Shiffert and Cheri Voltz

Amy Shiffert and Cheri Voltz – secretaries for Waterville Primary School and Anthony Wayne High School – are the type of people who “smile through the phone,” said district communications specialist Rebecca Schwan.

“These women make guests to the building feel welcome. They have made a concerted effort to learn the district inside and out to be able to answer questions from our families,” Rebecca said. “They also work extremely hard to ensure our substitute employees are well-prepared to step into their roles. All of this on top of helping to support students who need to visit the office for any number of reasons. They are extremely helpful and pleasant and a joy to work with.”

Amy started as a substitute teacher in 2020 and joined Waterville Primary as secretary the next year. It’s a job that has brought her immense joy, she said.

“The student interactions bring me laughter almost every single day, and many of my coworkers have become close friends outside of school. I am fortunate to hang out with them every day,” Amy said.

On Amy’s desk is a sign that says, “In case no one told you today: Hello! Good morning! You belong here. You’re doing great. I believe in you!” She remembers being a shy kid who cried and didn’t want to go to Waterville Primary School every morning – even though she loved school once she was there.

“I remember how much it helped to know that my teacher, classmates and friends were waiting for me,” she said. “Being made to feel an important and happy part of everyone’s day kept me going. It honestly still does to this day!”

As an attendance secretary with a desk right up front, Amy is the first person children and visitors see when they arrive at school – especially if they come in late.

“I am very intentional about telling them how glad I am they’re here, or how much we have missed them if they were out for a while,” she said. “I want to do everything I can to demonstrate that we’re a close community and we are all valued!”

In addition to work, Amy leads a Scout Cadette troop, is treasurer of Zion Christian Preschool and is a member and volunteer with Waterville Community Church. She recently created a pickleball team with co-workers and is a strong supporter of Nature’s Nursery. Amy is married to Scott, who works for the University of Michigan. Their daughters Betsy, 11, and Clara, 9, are involved with theater and baton. 

“Watching them is absolutely my favorite pastime! We all enjoy traveling, biking and laughing together,” Amy said.

Cheri has been with the district for seven years, starting out as a reading tutor at Monclova Primary and joining the high school as a secretary three years ago.

“The best part of my job is the opportunity to work with all the fantastic students and staff,” Cheri said. “I’m regularly exposed to new challenges in a fast-paced environment. I enjoy problem-solving and collaborating with such an excellent staff to find solutions to any issues.” 

While at work, as in life, Cheri said she tries to keep an open mind and look for the good in all people in situations.

“We all are working through life to create our own story, and you never know what chapter a student or staff member is working on or through,” she said. “I’ve found every person has something positive, something precious and something unique about them. With this, I’m intrigued by people’s stories! I strive to be patient and compassionate, and I’m always excited to hear about people’s successes. I firmly believe our students and staff are AWHS’s backbone and they should always be celebrated.”

Cheri is married to Curtis Voltz, who has been in the United States Air Force for 28 years and recently took command of the Operations Group at the 180th Air National Guard base in Swanton. They have two children who are active in Anthony Wayne High School: freshman Corrin and sophomore Jaythan.

Jim Weber

Every year, Jim Weber – who drives bus No. 19 in Whitehouse for Anthony Wayne Local Schools – gives each of his 120 students a $5.00 gift card for Christmas.

“That alone is an incredible act of generosity, as he has many, many students who ride,” said Rebecca Schwan, communications specialist for the district. “This year, he went above and beyond by talking with his students and suggesting they pay it forward together.”

So this year, after learning that the Anthony Wayne Community Food Ministry was serving 125 children per week with bags of food to carry them through the weekends and holidays, Jim decided to take a different approach.

“I asked the kids if they would be willing to give that gift to the food bank for the kids. They were all ecstatic about it,” Jim said. “I think these kids are the heroes. Yeah, the money comes from me, but they’re giving their gifts up for other kids.”

Ron Shoemaker, president of the food ministry, accepted the $750 donation, which will supply food for two weeks.

“The money I don’t care about. It’s about being able to have these kids get a lunch or a breakfast,” Jim said of the donation.

As a full-time bus driver for the district, Weber knows almost all of the students’ names – talking to them during the few minutes of layover before they’re dropped off at the elementary school or on the Finzel Road campus.

Becoming a bus driver didn’t cross his mind until Jim was laid off a year before retirement and was on unemployment.

“My one daughter said, ‘Dad, you would make a good substitute teacher,’” he recalled. “My other daughter suggested I should become a substitute bus driver.”

He trained with Spring-field Local Schools and at one point was driving as a substitute in several districts, including Anthony Wayne, Pike-Delta-York, Springfield, Liberty Center and Swanton. Knowing most of the roads in those areas made it easier to transition between all of them.

“Whoever called me at 5:00 in the morning got me. The dogs were getting me up anyhow,” Jim recalled. When Anthony Wayne had a full-time opening, Weber decided to take it.

“My wife said that at least she would know where I was every day,” he laughed.

As the father of four Anthony Wayne graduates who were all Marching Generals, Jim said he’s happy to be back in the district driving students safely to and from school every day.

Christine Young

As an Anthony Wayne Junior High School social studies teacher and Purple Star liaison, Christine Young displays a student-first mentality.

“She is a phenomenal teacher and source of encouragement and support for students,” said district communications specialist Rebecca Schwan. 

Christine works with military-connected students and families and has developed programs to support students who need extra academic assistance.

“She also spends hours of her own time on evenings and weekends helping students complete their community service requirements,” Rebecca said. “She is passionate about education and serving her home community.”

A lifelong AW resident and graduate, Christine has worked in the district for 18 years.

“I enjoy building relationships with students, especially those who sometimes struggle with social situations. I want to be the person they come to school to see even if I do not have them in class. Everyone needs a positive person in their lives,” she said. “I also enjoy participating in school assemblies and functions. I am always willing to embarrass myself for a smile or laugh from a student.”

As a teacher, Christine said she believes that all students want to succeed, and she sees each day as a fresh start. Some need more support or get overwhelmed and struggle to vocalize what help they need. It’s important to struggle and learn to work through those problems, she advised.

“Sometimes, you have to fail and reflect. I share with students how I fail and reflect often. For example, I may design a project or lesson that I believe will be awesome, but it is a disaster. I reflect with students afterward and we work out what was good and bad. In addition, I take their suggestions and comments seriously to help craft a better assignment for next time,” she said.

Two years ago, Christine organized a free, afterschool Homework Helpers tutoring program. Every Wednesday and Thursday, several high school National Honor Society and Interact Club members volunteer as tutors to work with junior high students who need some extra academic support.

As part of her job, Christine also advises and supports the school’s military-connected youths through the Purple Star Generals club. She works with the families to ensure they are supported during household transitions and deployments. 

“It is my honor to celebrate our military families,” said Christine, who also serves on two state councils to develop programs for military-connected youths: the Ohio MIC3 Council and the Ohio Purple Star Advisory Board. 

Community service is important to Christine, and it also shows her students that she practices what she preaches. She supports or serves the Whitehouse American Legion, Task Force 20, 180th Air Force Base and the Anthony Wayne Alumni Association. Christine also organizes opportunities for her students to serve along with her, as every junior high student is required to complete two hours of service per quarter. 

“We have served with the Whitehouse American Legion by placing honor flags on veterans’ graves on Veterans Day and Memorial Day for the past two years,” she said. “I try to work with different organizations every year to expose my students to different nonprofits. I have organized and volunteered with Food for Thought, Let’s Build Beds and the Toledo Area Humane Society, just to name a few.”

Christine has been married to Marc for 13 years. He works for Mercy Hospitals in the IT department and loves tinkering with electronics and fixing up old arcade games. Their son Preston, 12, plays French horn in the seventh-grade band and is a member of the AW junior high Quiz Bowl team. Bronson, 9, played tackle football with the Anthony Wayne Youth Football League.

Justin Zemanski

Dr. Justin Zemanski is busy enough as a teacher and basketball coach, but this past fall he worked tirelessly on a campaign for the Anthony Wayne Local Schools’ levy and bond issue, said junior high teacher Christine Young.

“Justin did so much behind the scenes; saving us thousands of dollars by contacting people from OEA (Ohio Education Assoc-iation) to help cover the cost of canvassing materials, mailers and literature as well as seeking business donations and speaking to groups,” Christine said. 

“As a basketball coach, he also encourages his players to support the community by organizing service opportunities for the boys to participate,” she continued. “He coaches the whole person, not just the player, and wants to turn them into good men. Justin really is a lovely, positive person who gives a lot to our school and community.”

A social studies teacher at Anthony Wayne High School for the past 21 years, Justin created and now teaches the community engagement class, in which students team up with classmates to research, plan, create and execute a 60-plus-hour service project that fills a void in the community. The students in these classes carry out eight to 10 community service projects each year, collecting goods for sports organizations, animal shelters and food banks, supporting local nursing homes and other nonprofits.

In addition to teaching, Justin has coached junior high, junior varsity and varsity sports in the district for 15 years. He currently coaches the eighth-grade basketball team, which does community service – typically with Sunshine Comm-unities – each season. 

“I do not feel like I’m going to work. I simply feel like I’m going to school to teach and coach. I feel blessed to have been able to teach in a community like Anthony Wayne,” he said.

Justin is married to Elizabeth, a teaching professor at Bowling Green State University, and they have two children who attend Anthony Wayne Local Schools.


The Nature’s Nursery Education Center is named for the nonprofit’s cofounder Laura Zitzelberger (left), who was surprised in April 2022. She is joined by Rita Chovan, Nature’s Nursery volunteer coordinator, and members of the staff and volunteers.


Laura Zitzelberger

Laura Zitzelberger is one of the finest human beings ever to grace this planet, said Shellie McKnight.

“She’s kind, she cares for all creatures, and she’s a fighter,” said Shellie, referring to Laura’s recent lung transplant.

A 1980 Anthony Wayne High School graduate and inductee into the Anthony Wayne Alumni Assoc-iation’s Hall of Fame, Laura found a love of animals while working at the Toledo Zoo. In 1989, she co-founded Nature’s Nursery – a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned wildlife – with Deb Cooper. Even while working other jobs, Laura was cleaning cages, feeding animals and doing education programs for the nonprofit during her free time. In 2000, Laura became the first paid member of the staff. Nature’s Nursery now takes in almost 4,000 animals a year and provides educational programming both in its new Dutch Road home and out in the community, with paid staff and over 100 volunteers.

“Laura is the soul behind Nature’s Nursery,” said operations director Nicole Frederick. “She’s been through the wringer with health issues the last few years, but I’ve never met a person stronger and more determined to overcome any challenge in front of her.”

Even while dealing with a life-or-death situation, Laura was still involved with client communications until staff forced her away to focus on herself, Nicole said.

“Laura is always there for anyone,” said volunteer Diane Glauser. “If she heard about someone in distress, even if she barely knew them, she would post that she was available for a call, day or night, if they needed to talk. Laura was literally days away from having to go home or be put in an induced coma until a new set of lungs came through … yet she was still advising people on Facebook about giving assistance to animals and encouraging one of her co-workers. She is a true and caring person to everyone.”

With a passion for helping both people and animals, Laura found the best of both worlds with Nature’s Nursery, Nicole said. While she’s no longer involved with direct animal care, the staff and volunteers all benefit from Laura’s years of insight on dealing with different animal situations. Early on, Laura did research and attended training programs to provide the best care possible for everything from bunnies and turtles to raptors and foxes. Her gentle way of explaining the nuances of each animal enhanced the public’s appreciation of all types of creatures.

“Every volunteer would say she taught them about wildlife and corrected myths about animals in the wild,” Shellie said, explaining that she learned about how mother deer leave their fawns alone to protect them, and that it’s not a good idea to give bread to a bird. Shellie recalls her first day as a volunteer, when Laura encouraged her to hold an injured bald eagle on a gloved arm.

“I was absolutely in awe of this majestic bird. Laura was careful about watching me and the bird, which was in for a feather and wing repair,” Shellie said. “Laura respected the intelligence of the volunteers and gave them space as their experience grew.”

While Laura is on a brief hiatus following her lung transplant, Nicole knows that her mentor and friend is just creating a more determined version of herself.

“Laura will be back to helping others in no time!”

Read first part of this series

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