BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — The exceptional individuals who continually strive to create a better community were honored last week at the 45th annual Hometown Hero Awards banquet.
The event took place on March 5 at The Pinnacle in Maumee. Maumee Mayor Richard Carr and former Maumee council member Jenny Barlos served as emcees for the evening and Metamora State Bank served as the event’s presenting sponsor. A special tribute was also paid to Dick Anderson, a strong supporter of the Maumee community and a former Outstanding Citizen honoree who passed away last week.
The evening’s top award was presented to Allison Fiscus, who was named the 2019 Outstanding Citizen.
The manager of the Maumee Branch Library, Allison pioneered partnerships with area preschools, incorporating the Toledo Lucas County Public Library offerings into the pre-K curriculum. She created a similar program with Maumee City Schools that not only guarantees a library card to all staff and students in grades 4-12, it also provides library-to-school access through the school’s technology, which provides an educational bonus worth approximately $250,000 per school.
In addition to serving as library branch manager, she also serves as president of the Maumee Uptown Business Association and is a member of the Maumee Design Review Board.
Allison’s husband Jon nominated her for the award and introduced her at the event.
“Some people might try to make the claim that libraries are a thing of the past with advances in technology, but Allison is the shining example of what libraries do today and how they evolve with the times,” he said.
He also credits her with being a wonderful wife and mother to their three children.
“I’ve been blessed to have amazing role models all my life, from my parents to many of my teachers, but never would I have imagined that I would get to marry such a wonderful human being. They say that you’re only as good as the company that you keep and I count my lucky stars that I am able to have such a strong and confident person not only to be a great role model but also consistently push me to be a better person,” he said.
Allison said she felt honored, humbled and proud to be named Outstanding Citizen. Noting that nothing happens in a vacuum, she said she is especially thankful for the community relationships between Maumee City Schools, the Maumee Uptown Business Association and the Maumee Chamber of Commerce
“Maumee is a richer place to live because we are willing and able to work together in groups to truly make big things happen in our community,” she said.
She thanked her family and her library colleagues and encouraged those in attendance to stop by the library.
“Reading is the key to unlocking so many opportunities that are out there. Libraries can help you learn no matter your age, can help you create no matter your level of skill. We can help you start a business and help you take a vacation. Stop by the Maumee library, I guarantee you we will find something for you.”
Golden Apple Awards:
Golden Apple Awards were presented to Michele Davidson, a clerk librarian at Gateway Middle School; Loren Burkey, an MHS art teacher; and Pam Reese, an MHS English teacher and yearbook advisor.
District director of technology Jason Dugan nominated Michele Davidson for the award.
“Her vision was that people would be excited and have fun coming to the library,” he said.
Crediting her with fully embracing the idea of converting the library to a makerspace area, Dugan said that Davidson brought vision and design to the space as well as great ideas for student projects.
“She makes a daily difference on kids. She allows them to explore, she allows them to design, she allows them to collaborate and challenges them every day,” Dugan said.
Davidson, who began working in the district in 1997, when the library still utilized a card catalogue system to check out books, acknowledged that things have changed. While “makerspaces” became a new buzzword in the field of education, Davidson realized quickly that Maumee fully embraced the new concept, and she did as well.
“My job as a clerk librarian changed forever and changed for the better,” she said. “Now, I not only help kids find great reading materials and materials to do research with, but I also have the opportunity to help Gateway students think, make and improve as they create, invent and learn, using high-tech and low-tech materials.”
Maumee High School principal Matt Dick nominated Loren Burkey for the award. Calling him a true pioneer in his field, Dick said that Burkey puts the latest tools in the hands of students to help them become job-ready with the very best skills in the area of digital art technology.
“He is a leader and an innovator at Maumee High School,” said Dick. “To say that he is an art teacher doesn’t describe the transformational impact he has had on the Maumee High School Art Department.”
Burkey extended his gratitude to Dick as well as other district staff, the board of education, fellow teachers and students.
“I’m lucky enough to have a job that I go to that I truly love and a profession that I truly believe in and I am only up here because I am surrounded by great people,” he said. “This is a very meaningful honor for me and I really appreciate it, and thank you all.”
Mikayla Becker introduced Pam Reese, who she says was her most influential teacher while attending Maumee High School.
“When I think back on my high school years, Ms. Reese is one of the teachers that I have the fondest memories of,” Becker said. “I started each morning as editor of the yearbook in her class and I always started each day on positive note.”
Reese, who is a 32-year veteran Maumee teacher, plans to retire this year. Reflecting on her lengthy career, she fondly recalled her grandmother, who she credits for her decision to become a teacher.
“I really give her credit, even though she never said, ‘you’d make a really teacher.’ She came in all sneaky-quiet through the side door and kind of planted the seed,” Reese said. “It’s the only career I ever considered and I hit a home run because it’s been a great career and I look forward to walking out the door with the feeling that maybe I have planted a few seeds and it’s a very satisfying feeling.”
L.J. Archambeau received the Bridge Award for his work with Maumee baseball.
Two of the players he coached, Ayden McCarthy and Michael Dembski, introduced him at the award ceremony.
“If you do not know him, he is a very influential person and I really suggest that you sit down and talk to him and in a short time I’m sure you can learn something,” McCarthy said.
“You’ve taught me so many things,” he said. “Thank you for always being there for me. I might not even have kept playing baseball if it wasn’t for you.”
Archambeau said he is blessed, honored and humbled to be part of an amazing community.
“The reality of it is I am not the person that should be up here. I learned early on that baseball is a sport that is a copycat industry, an activity steeped in tradition and accumulated experiences,” he said.
He credited all of the coaches and mentors who have helped him through the years.
“These great men have reinforced in me how special friendships are created around this game.”
He paid special tribute to his father-in-law, Ron Hoag.
“Like the other coaches I just listed, Coach Hoag would do just about anything for you,” he said. “He is a man with gruff exterior, but underneath is an amazing, selfless and loving heart.”
First Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church received the River Award for exceptional civic responsibility. Church members are credited with helping the community in a number of ways through volunteer work and fundraising efforts.
Rev. Le Roy Williams and David Kaiser presented the church with the award.
“Everyone at First Pres-byterian Church embraced us,” said Williams, who leads a nondenominational church at First Presbyterian.
“Pastor Clint Tolbert offered, along with the trustees, an opportunity for our church to flourish in Maumee,” he said. “We are two churches in one space – sharing stories with God’s grace.”
Kaiser, who founded Mosaic Ministries, an organization serving individuals in the Old South End, said the church members regularly serve meals and volunteer their time at the ministry.
“They live it out. They are the oldest church in Lucas County and for 200 years, this church has been living out a 2,000-year-old faith and we’re so glad that they have,” he said.
Pastor Clint Tolbert said that the award is a great affirmation for the hard work of the congregation.
“A few years ago, we were challenged with the question, ‘Would anyone care if our doors closed?’ so we redoubled our effort to try to make sure that the answer would be undoubtedly yes,” he said. “This award is an affirmation that our community notices and cares, so we’re really grateful for that.”
Receiving a standing ovation upon receiving his Hometown Hero Award, Donald McConnaughy was honored for his pioneering work in the field of emergency medical services.
Maumee Fire Chief Brandon Loboschefski nominated McConnaughy for the award.
“Chief McConnaughy was one of the forefathers in our EMS system that was growing at the time and is still one of the top in the nation today thanks to him and his other colleagues who had the vision back then to be progressive thinkers to care for so many people,” Loboschefski said.
Calling him an advocate for a disaster medical team and crediting him for developing and leading the Maumee fire department while serving as a teacher and mentor to many, Loboschefski said McConn-aughy continues to give back and stay involved.
“For one, I feel very blessed to be able to work for him and learn from him for many years,” he said.
McConnaughy thanked city leaders, family and friends and those who mentored him and were part of the original team working on EMS service.
“What started as a desk in the firehouse kitchen, an ambulance and the pregnant blimp – a Chevy van sliced down the middle and widened to enable us to transport patients – has grown to 15 full-time paramedics, 31 paid on-call EMTs, one county life squad and three fully equipped city life squads. It is my privilege to watch how the program continues to grow under Chief Jim Dusseau’s leadership,” he said.
Not only was Maumee on the forefront of emergency medical services, but the city was also fortunate to have many city leaders believe in what they did and invest in state-of-the-art equipment, he said.
“For a city our size, we were ahead of our time,” he said. “I am fortunate because my childhood dream became my life’s work and I would like to accept this award on behalf of the men and women who continue to dedicate long hours to making Maumee, Ohio one of the best little cities in all of America.”