BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Seven individuals and one local nonprofit organization were honored at the Hometown Hero Awards on March 10 for their dedication to the community and their advocacy for Maumee residents.
The event, which took place at The Pinnacle, featured Mayor Rich Carr and Jenny Barlos as the emcees. The two explained the criteria for each award and congratulated the winners. There was also a moment of silence for the people of Ukraine during the ceremony.
The presenting sponsor, Metamora State Bank, had president and CEO Kathleen Fischer in attendance. Fischer invited several women she works with to the banquet in honor of International Women’s Day.
The highest honor of the night, the Maumee Outstanding Citizen Award, went to Eddie Campos.
Campos was nominated by several people, including John Mangas, who works alongside him at RE/MAX Preferred Associates and introduced him during the awards ceremony.
“I’ve known Eddie to be a lot of fun. I’ve known Eddie to have a great sense of humor. I’ve also known Eddie to be a very dedicated and committed husband and father,” Mangas said. “He cares immensely about the people in his life. He gives back 110 percent. He puts himself, full throttle, into everything he does, and he does it with grace, dignity, a smile and some humor along the way.”
Mangas outlined several groups that Campos has provided continuous support for over the years, including the Maumee Athletic Boosters, Maumee City Schools, Panther Pride Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Campos, a Maumee transplant, made his way into the city after years of working within the community. He is a husband, father, realtor, philanthropist and community leader.
“It’s fantastic to be a part of this, I am glad you guys have embraced me and have brought me into your community,” Campos said.
When Campos moved to Maumee several years ago, he aimed to welcome others to the community, much like the community has welcomed him since his move. He has emphasized the organizations he believes make Maumee a wonderful community to be a part of.
During the ceremony, he thanked his wife and children for supporting him and loving him. Campos recognized several members of the community, his team, the chamber, his friends, the people who nominated him, the organizations he is a part of and many more – outlining the support required from each individual and organization to make an award like this possible for him.
“I think this is a remarkable event to be able to showcase how awesome all of you are in the community of Maumee, so thank you for embracing me,” Campos said.
The River Award, presented to a company or organization that has demonstrated leadership and support in the community and exceptional generosity, was presented to Sunshine Communities.
Rob Fairchild nominated the organization because of the support it has provided to his family, especially his sister Gail.
When Fairchild’s mother passed away, his family was searching for someone who could provide their sister with the care and support she needed to live her fullest life.
“She lives life with a greater purpose. Sunshine Communities gave that to her,” Fairchild said.
He said Sunshine has provided his sister with housing, respite care and a job she loves to do.
“Sunshine Communities is truly a bright light in our community, giving support to people of all ages with developmental disabilities,” Fairchild said.
Fairchild thanked Sunshine for providing important services to every person who needs it and going above and beyond the last two years when so many lives have been disrupted.
“Our mission at Sunshine is to create community for people with developmental disabilities, their friends, their family and the staff,” Sunshine CEO Jason Abodeely said.
Abodeely said the organization has spent the last 70 years making sure each person who comes through its doors – both individuals supported by the organization and staff members – is doing the best they can each day to live a fulfilling and impactful life.
He credited the Maumee area for supporting the Sunshine community and continuously ensuring the best possible future for every person.
Bridge Awards were presented to two Maumee coaches, Cam Coutcher, MHS head football coach, and Brian Jones, the varsity softball coach.
Coach Cam Coutcher was nominated by Alex Schrinel, a former student and player of Coutcher’s who is now part of his coaching staff.
“What has made Cam an individual worthy of the Bridge Award … are his selfless actions, leadership and drive to help the development of the youth of our community that people don’t see,” Schrinel said.
Schrinel outlined three particular instances that made Coutcher stand out as a youth mentor: the opportunities he has created for younger athletes to hone their skills, the relationship he’s fostered between high school and youth athletes and his motto, “love, serve, care.”
“That is ‘love what you do, serve others and care passionately about others’ success,’” Schrinel said.
Coutcher has stressed the importance of this motto by advocating for each of his students, establishing relationships on and off the field and modeling respect for the community.
“I truly love the people that I mentor. I go out of my way to make kids feel special,” Coutcher said. “I’m not afraid to tell a player that I love them or go out of my way to provide an act of service to them. My reason for doing what I do is truly to positively impact people in general. Simply being around the kids I teach and coach gives me energy and fills me up.”
He thanked Maumee schools, the chamber and those who nominated him for recognizing him and thinking him deserving of such an honor. He also thanked his family for their support and love. Coutcher credited all of the coaches and teachers he had growing up and has worked with for guiding him on this path.
“I’ve been given opportunities to mentor and serve in the Maumee community by great people,” Coutcher said.
Several parents, players and former players sent in letters of nomination for coach Brian Jones.
Maumee High School senior and current player Peyton Phillips introduced him at the event.
“Coach Jones is the most dedicated coach I have ever had the pleasure to play for,” Phillips said. “He eats, sleeps and breathes softball.”
Phillips said he cares about each player, not just during the season but also year-round, and spends much of his time supporting all Maumee sporting events.
Former player Parris Hurt sent in a video congratulating Jones on the award she had nominated him for.
“I truthfully could not think of a more deserving person for this award,” Hurt said.
Hurt said he taught her a new perspective on softball and the importance of the journey, not the destination. That mentality is important to Jones.
“I’ve always said life is about the journey, not the destination,” Jones said. “In 10 or 20 years, student-athletes won’t remember wins or losses, or what their record was each year, but they will remember the friendships they built with each other and coaches. They will remember the Myrtle Beach trips and they will definitely remember Coach Jones rapping Eminem on the bus.”
His goal as a coach, he said, is to make a difference in both softball and life for each of his players.
Jones thanked each parent and player who sent in nominations along with his coaching staff for their assistance every year. Jones also recognized his children and wife for their support and love.
Golden Apple Awards
Four Maumee City Schools teachers received Golden Apple Awards – Annette Carroll, Shannon Cusumano, Terri Mortemore and Lisa Pauken.
They were introduced by Maumee City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Cramer.
A fourth- and fifth-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Wayne Trail, Annette Carroll was nominated for going above and beyond the call of duty.
When introducing her, Cramer said several of Carroll’s colleagues had nominated her, describing her as a top-notch educator who is dedicated to her profession.
“One consistent theme in the numerous nominations was the fact that she’s not only a great teacher, but just her passion and that she truly has that gift of an educator,” Cramer said. “This is why her students respect and remember her for the love she extends to them each and every day.”
In the nominations, Carroll was lauded for going the extra step for each student. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Carroll has dropped off supplies to students and colleagues and reminded them they are not alone. She has helped students acquire food and clothing when necessary.
Carroll said teaching has been her calling and vocation since she first decided to pursue it – after attempting to deny the signs for many years.
“My daughter, Faith, asked me what I would do if I wasn’t teaching and I told her I would probably walk the half-mile down the street to the elementary school and volunteer,” Carroll said. “I need to be with kids.”
Carroll thanked the students for helping teach her, too. She also thanked her husband and children for being so understanding of her devotion to the field. Carroll credited her parents, friends, in-laws and coworkers for helping her through her career and teaching her about service.
Fort Miami Elementary’s counselor, Shannon Cusumano received her Golden Apple Award because of her dedication to the students.
When Cramer introduced Cusumano, he called her a cheerleader for her students and outlined the many ways in which she has made students feel safe, heard and loved.
“She is often described as the MVT – Most Valuable Teacher – for her impact on students by being calm and a positive influence whose energy and stamina are all traits that were mentioned over and over in her nominations,” Cramer said.
As a counselor, Cusumano’s job is to provide preventative lessons on problems the students might run into and help reactively with various issues – both behavioral and emotional – the children will have. One of the ways she helps them handle big and small emotional issues is to compare feelings to the weather.
“I often work with students and I explain that feelings are a lot like the weather – emotions come and go and they can change like the weather, without any true control over them,” Cusumano said.
Some days for her and her students are rainy, cloudy and filled with storms, but when her students have learned to trust her and come to her for guidance – those are her sunshine moments, Cusumano said.
She thanked her students for trusting her and making her job worth it. Cusumano also thanked her family and coworkers for their support and guidance and her principals – former and current – and Cramer for trusting her to be a counselor for the children.
Having dedicated more than three decades of her career to MHS, Terri Mortemore received her Golden Apple Award just a few weeks after her retirement.
Cramer described her as enthusiastic about her field, saying she knew how to connect with students and show them how to handle difficult lessons and understand their abilities.
“Over those years, she fostered the personal growth of students while demanding that they learn the ability to think critically and apply their knowledge to real-life situations,” Cramer said.
Mortemore thanked those students – and their parents – for trusting her with their education.
“Throughout my entire career teaching chemistry, I knew that students wouldn’t remember all the chemistry facts, but I wanted to give them the sense of taking a hard class, having a little bit of fun with it and being successful,” Mortemore said. “I hope that I’ve given that to my students. You can be successful when you try something hard.”
Her career, though sometimes difficult to balance as a full-time educator and parent, was made easier by her husband who supported her, she said. She thanked her family and colleagues for their guidance and help throughout the years and Maumee for honoring her and being a great place to have spent her career.
“I can’t think of a better place to have served and used my time as a professional to share what I love to do with my students,” Mortemore said.
Lisa Pauken is a reading specialist at Fairfield Elementary and was nominated by several colleagues who were impressed by her dedication, positivity and love of her students.
“She’s a teacher who works to serve her students, helps them feel safe and encourages them to take on the daunting task of learning to read,” Cramer said.
According to Cramer, Pauken puts all of herself into her work. She even helped create and maintain a community library box outside of her school. Pauken does these things because the children she works with have inspired and taught her so much, they are her reason for teaching, she said.
“We are always striving to be better to challenge ourselves, evaluate our own practices and look to teach every student, all the students, as best as we can,” Pauken said. “It takes a team from all levels to make that happen.”
Throughout the years, Pauken and her coworkers have adapted with every new challenge, and she expressed her gratitude for all of their support. She thanked her family for their understanding and also assisting her with her job.
Pauken also said she knows that her colleagues’ motivation is the same as hers – the students. She thanked the students for their laughs, inspiration and love. One student in particular, Elena, left her mark.
Elena was a kindergartner in Pauken’s class who passed away in 2010. Pauken brought a photo of her to the ceremony.
“Her mama asked if I wanted to help her prepare for the funeral. Everything that Elena made in the classroom meant so much then,” Pauken said. “At this time, I realized the immense impact we have as teachers on our students and families.”