Maumee’s 49th Annual Hometown Hero Banquet Honors Teachers, Coaches And Community Leaders

The highest honor of the night, the Maumee Outstanding Citizen Award, went to Bill Buri (center). He is pictured with (from left) brother-in-law Rob Ferguson, daughter Maureen Buri, granddaughter Tessa Reichling, daughter Erika Buri, granddaughter Madeline Buri Crail, son-in-law Todd Crail and sister-in-law Jayme Brown. MIRROR PHOTOS BY DENNY McCARTHY
Maumee High School senior Chance Ruelle was honored during the 49th annual Hometown Hero Awards banquet last Thursday, receiving the eponymous award for his repeated displays of bravery during times of crisis. He is pictured with (from left) grandmother Joan, father Jerry, sister Cierra, mother Denise and grandfather John.
Pictured are Golden Apple Award winners (from left), David Bates (accepting in honor of Mary “Emmy” Bates), Carrie Durand, Steven Kiss and Mandie Bentz. The Golden Apple Award is presented to a teacher, counselor or youth leader who goes above and beyond to make a difference in students’ lives.
With several decades of coaching experience, Bridge Award recipient Coach Donald “Buzz” Rothenbuhler has impacted hundreds of youths in baseball and basketball. He is pictured with Jen Pyle.
Under One Roof Food Pantry received the River Award for providing hundreds of meals every month to families in need throughout the area. Pictured are volunteers (from left) Janet Jones, Dee Sabo, Leah Lorann, Bert Latuch, Deno Music, Judy Gniewkowski, Charlie Gniewkowski, Jane Music, Chris Rehard, Terry Rehard, Ann Maidment and Jennifer Ziolkowski.
Dave Urbanski received the Bridge Award for his extensive involvement in various Maumee City Schools programs and organizations. He is pictured with jazz band members (from left) John Robinson, Aaron Cameron, Greenlee Magrum, Kendall O’Shew and Emily Swartz.
The annual event was sponsored by Metamora State Bank and supported by employees, from left, Randy Cline, Chad Ulmer, Courtney Krieger, Jason Miller, Kim Smallman, Savannah Armstrong, Lisa Crooks, Raeanne Barringer, Missy Olivo and CEO Kate Fischer.

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — The 49th annual Maumee Chamber of Commerce Hometown Hero Awards Banquet honored individuals and an organization for the contributions they have made to the Maumee community.

The evening, which was sponsored by Metamora State Bank, brought together Maumee city officials, teachers, leaders and more to recognize winners in the Golden Apple, Bridge, River, Hometown Hero and Outstanding Citizen awards categories.

Emcees for the evening were former Hometown Hero winners Maumee Mayor Jim MacDonald and Maumee City Schools Board of Education member Allison Fiscus.

“We are proud to be honoring outstanding members in our community,” MacDonald told the audience.

Golden Apple Award

The Golden Apple Award recognizes a teacher, counselor or youth leader who has gone above and beyond to show excellence in education and made a difference in a student’s life.

“We have such talented educators who work so hard for their students and their families in Maumee City Schools, and shining a light on them at this event is a highlight of each and every year,” said Maumee City Schools Superintendent Steve Lee.

Mandie Bentz

For four years, Mandie Bentz was a substitute at Maumee Middle School, waiting for the ideal job to open up at the school. The four-year wait was worth it for the seventh-grade social studies teacher who had found her home with the fellow educators and students at the middle school.

“Ms. Bentz is a positive force in and out of the classroom, always going above and beyond,” Lee said.

As a middle school teacher, she knows the importance of helping students find a passion for learning and exploring their interests. She has dedicated much of her career to offering opportunities in several areas to her students.

Her own desire to be a teacher, particularly in history, was supported by her parents from a young age, Bentz said.

“My parents created a home that valued education,” Bentz added.

Bentz thanked those who serve others alongside her and have helped her down this path.

Carrie Durand

As a high school Spanish teacher, Carrie Durand has spent many years advocating for and supporting her students learning foreign languages.

“She exhibits a strong passion for teaching and deeply cares for and understands her students,” Lee said.

Having received nominations from several students, Durand’s goal to always help her students was made evident in the letters.

She thanked the students who have nominated her, along with her previous teachers, her family and fellow educators; however, she noted, the list of people she wanted to thank was extensive and too long to name individually. There was one group, though, she knew she needed to thank.

“That group is the families of Maumee who continue to choose us with the education and the well-being of their children,” Durand said.

She thanked those families for trusting her with their children, calling them the most outstanding resource of this community.

Steven Kiss

Maumee Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher Steven Kiss has spent nearly a decade working with the young minds of his community, helping them grow and become the best versions of themselves.

“Students know, without question, that Mr. Kiss is there as a supporter and mentor to guide them in and out of the classroom,” Lee said.

Helping the students discover who they are, and not just transferring knowledge, is a goal for Kiss, who learned what it means to be a teacher from his mother.

Kiss also thanked the rest of his family, colleagues and friends for their support before and during his career.

“This is the final message I want to leave for all of my students and for you – the educators, the community members and all individuals who are preparing young minds for the future. Find your voice, find your passion and whatever you choose to do, do it with love, do it big and do it with pride because at the end of the day, you are bigger than the whole sky,” Kiss said.

Special Mention
Emmy Bates

Longtime substitute teacher Emmy Bates was granted the Golden Apple Award posthumously. 

Kim LaClair, a retired Maumee High School teacher, said the impact of Emmy Bates as a substitute teacher can be seen across the schools, in the teachers and students she met over the years.

“Emmy’s title was that of a substitute teacher, but I can assure you that she was as much of an educator as any teacher in that building,” LaClair said.

When teachers were out of the classroom for whatever reason, they knew their students were in good hands if Bates was the one filling in for them.

“Emmy was a close colleague and a friend to most of us that worked at Maumee,” LaClair said. “She eased the burden for many of us during some of the most difficult and stressful times of our lives.”

As a friend of her late son Andy Bates and a Maumee High School graduate, Eric Shanteau knew Emmy Bates not just as a substitute, but also as a hero.

“For those of you who knew Emmy Bates, whether it was through the school system or from within the community, you were the lucky ones,” Shanteau said.

A moment with Bates, he said, could change someone’s life forever. She gave people love and much-needed support during every interaction.

“She was our support, she was our guidance,” Shanteau said. “Someone that needed more hugs than anyone was the one giving them out.”

She was a permanent fixture in the lives of everyone she met, Shanteau added. She was respected and loved by every student.

“She was someone you wanted to make proud and that was why so many students gave their all,” Shanteau said.

Bridge Award

The Bridge Award was presented to two individuals who have developed and fostered the youth of the community through coaching or mentoring in afterschool activities and clubs.

Coach Buzz Rothenbuhler

With several decades of coaching experience, coach Donald “Buzz” Rothenbuhler has impacted hundreds of youths in baseball and basketball.

“Anyone who knows Buzz knows he does what he does because he loves it, not because he’s looking for any kind of recognition,” said Jen Pyle.

In his speech, Rothen-buhler chose the moment to thank the coaches who have guided him throughout his own athletic pursuits and coaching career.

“There are three people I would like to recognize that helped me, molded me into the type of coach I am today,” Rothenbuhler said.

He thanked his former Little League coach Dave Krewson, fellow coach Jim Elliot and his former boss, Don Green.

These three men, Rothenbuhler said, helped him develop his coaching style.

Additionally, the coach thanked his parents and friends for their continued support of him and his players. 

Dave Urbanski

When Dave Urbanski’s children were in school, he did his best to be involved in whatever way they were comfortable with.

Chris Smalley, who first met Urbanski through their children in preschool, began to see him involved year after year in a variety of clubs and activities with his children.

“It was amazing to me, and I stopped and asked him one day, ‘Where do you find the time to help?’ and he would just say, ‘You have to make time,’” Smalley recounted.

As their children became involved in the MHS band, so, too, did Urbanski and Smalley. It offered another chance for Urbanski to volunteer, and he recruited members of the community to do the same.

“We couldn’t do this without a lot of support and help from the entire community,” Urbanski acknowledged.

As the former Marching Band Parent Organization president, Urbanski knows how important the band parents are and why their support is necessary to continue exploring every opportunity available to the students.

Urbanski thanked his family for their continued support throughout each adventure and those in the community who continue to stay involved with local youths and encouraged everyone to provide for the young residents in whatever way they can.

River Award

The River Award is presented to a business or organization that is making a measurable impact in the Maumee community.

Under One Roof Food Pantry

Providing hundreds of meals every month to families in need throughout the area is what made Under One Roof Food Pantry worthy of the award, according to Leah Lorann of Calvary Church.

“Under One Roof Food Pantry is standing in the gap for those who need support,” Lorann said.

The pantry meets people where they are, making sure they receive food and other basic necessities, including hygiene items.

According to volunteer Jane Music, the handicapped-accessible building for Under One Roof, which is housed on the grounds at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, resulted from a capital campaign and the generosity of an anonymous parishioner. 

Additionally, the support of several local churches and organizations helps St. Paul’s Episcopal Church provide for local families. Those partners include Calvary Church, Cass Road Baptist Church, First Church of Christ Scientist, First Pres Maumee and St. Joseph’s Maumee. Previously, the St. Luke’s Foundation and Faith Community Church have helped the pantry.

The volunteers and their willingness to do more than expected makes a difference in how many people can be helped.

“Our thanks to all of the many churches, schools, businesses, civic organizations, families and individuals who donate food and funds to our pantry,” Music said. “Whether you work with us to plan a food drive, or just show up at our door with a donation, you are the reason that we have grown and flourished in this community.”

Hometown Hero Award

A Hometown Hero is someone who has improved the community through their efforts and gone above and beyond and demonstrated a heroic action.

Chance Ruelle

At 17 years old, Chance Ruelle is the youngest-ever recipient of the award, but it is a much-deserved honor, according to his sister, Cierra.

“My brother’s journey to heroism was not one of grand gestures or flashy acts, but rather one of quiet determination and unwavering commitment to serving others,” Cierra said. “He has always put the needs of others before himself.”

Having been on-scene for three separate incidents that required the assistance of emergency first responders, the Maumee High School student has ensured the well-being of others in stressful situations.

Remaining calm in times like those and making sure he is able to be a force for good is all because of the people he surrounds himself with, Ruelle said.

“It shows what happens if you have good people around you,” Ruelle said of his friends and family’s influence on him.

He also thanked his sister for her continued support and his parents and grandparents for shaping him into the person he is today.

Outstanding Citizen

As an Outstanding Citizen, the award winner is someone who displays dedication and contribution to the community.

Bill Buri

With his work throughout the community, promoting environmentally friendly policies and actions, Alaina Meister knew that Bill Buri was deserving of the Outstanding Citizen Award.

“Bill has spent considerable time over the past few years working on tree-related issues in the city of Maumee as a volunteer,” Meister said.

Through his work on Partners for Clean Streams, Friends of Side Cut and the Maumee Environmental and Tree Advisory Commission, he has dedicated much of his time to creating a better world for those around him and all those who will come after him.

“Maumee, like many other towns in this country, is working hard to take itself into the future. We are all in a unique position to see that future realize itself before our eyes,” Buri said.

He is fortunate, he added, to be involved in just a small part of that through the advisory commission.

“Over 1,000 trees have been planted in our town and added to the city’s canopy,” Buri said. “This has been done in recent years and they will add strength to our environment, and in the simplest terms, they’re going to add beauty to our surroundings. I am pleased that I can play a small part in what’s happening in our town.”

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