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Editorial: Citizen Awards recipients serve as inspiration to others

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 10:00 PM

As usual, the front pages of The Herald-Dispatch last week were filled with a variety of stories. They included the tragic, such as the killing of a county sheriff and the death of a "BUCKWILD" television show cast member, as well as legislative action at the state Capitol and endeavors to clean up and beautify Huntington.

But the common thread in each day's edition -- and the stories that best focused on what strengthens the fabric of the Tri-State -- were the stories telling about the people who have made a difference in the community.

As it does every spring, The Herald-Dispatch announced its Citizen Awards winners, one each day over a week's time, recognizing citizenship, volunteer efforts and accomplishments in business, athletics and the arts. The purpose is to give worthwhile contributors to the community their due. In addition, sharing their stories can help inspire others to pursue their passions in a way that not only benefits them but those around them.

This year's recipients certainly shine as examples of people whose work and deeds have been a positive for the Huntington area.

Leo Fleckenstein, the recipient of the Zack Binkley Award for Community Service, was the driving force for establishment of a dental clinic to serve the uninsured. Jack Bazemore, honored as the Business Innovator of the Year, guides a local company that puts integrity and customer service at the top of the list and also serves on a voluntary basis with many community organizations.

Dot Hicks, named Lowell Cade Sportsperson of the Year, was key to developing women's athletic programs at Marshall University decades ago and continues to support them to this day. Award for the Arts winner Katherine Cox has spearheaded the Huntington Museum of Art's outreach to expose tens of thousands people young and old to the beauty and messages of art.

Two special Community Impact awards cited accomplishments related to health care. Mike Sellards, chief executive officer of St. Mary's Medical Center, was honored for his role in the development of the St. Mary's Center for Education and filling a health care void in Lawrence County, Ohio, with the construction and opening last year of a $17 million campus in Ironton. David Graley, a former bank president who became chief operating officer of the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation, led a successful campaign to raise more than $12 million in just over five years for the Hoops Family Children's Hospital.

And Sylvia Ridgeway, the Citizen of the Year, served as an educator for 24 years before retiring and taking on a larger role in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She first became leader of the local chapter, reviving its membership, and in 2011 added the responsibility of president of the NAACP's state organization. She is credited with making both much stronger in working to protect civil rights.

These award recipients merit our full appreciation for how they have bettered the Huntington area. We all could take a cue from them. We may not accomplish all that they have, but we should realize that each of us can help make our community better -- if we simply decide to do so and carry through.

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