MEIGS COUNTY — Meigs County resident Jennifer Sheets revived the Meigs County Community Fund through her devoted leadership, growing it into a dynamic, community-centered fund that will serve as a permanent resource for Meigs County people to give back to their home community.
On Sept. 10, Sheets was recognized for dedication to service with a 2019 Jenco Award, conferred by the Jenco Foundation Fund and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) during an event at Stuart’s Opera House.
The Jenco Awards recognize Appalachian Ohio’s unsung heroes, who have devoted themselves to direct, caring action that contributes to quality of life in Appalachian Ohio. The awards are named for Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest who committed his life to the service of others. Most notably, in the 1980s, Father Jenco served as the director of Catholic Relief Services in Lebanon, where he was kidnapped and spent 19 months in captivity. Even in captivity, Father Jenco continued to serve, providing a necessary listening ear for other detainees, including journalist Terry Anderson. Following Father Jenco’s death in 1996, Anderson wanted a way to honor Father Jenco’s legacy of compassion and giving, so he created the Jenco Foundation.
When Sheets, one of five Jenco Awardees in 2019, started work with the Meigs County Community Fund, it had only $6,000 in assets. In just two years, she has collaborated with others serving on the fund committee to grow the fund to $300,000 in assets. And in that time, the fund has granted over $30,000, helping high school students attend college visits, supporting the development of a splash pad in Racine, increasing the electrical capacity of Pomeroy’s historic riverfront, promoting the arts, developing a school-based health care clinic in the Eastern Local School District, and much more.
“I have such a passion for my community, and if I’m going to live in this community, then I want it to be a community that my children can be proud of, and that they want their children to live in too,” said Sheets. “I think the Meigs County Community Fund can play an important role in that, because it provides a way for people who care about Meigs County to support Meigs County, and there are so many people who care.”
Since 2002, the Jenco Awards have recognized visionary leadership in the service of others throughout Appalachian Ohio. Nominated by fellow community members who witness their service and leadership in action, Jenco Awardees are selected through a formal committee process and review. Jenco Awardees receive an individual cash award to use in the manner most appropriate to their leadership.
“I am consistently amazed by all the ways people devote themselves to others with the profound spirit of giving embodied by Father Jenco, and each of this year’s awardees has only reaffirmed that,” said Melody Sands, fund representative for The Jenco Foundation Fund. “By helping our communities become better connected, more inclusive, and more abundant in opportunity, each of this year’s awardees has made the region a brighter place to live.”
Other 2019 awardees include:
· Cathy Barney of Clermont County, who started ‘Artsy Fartsy Saturdays’ to provide 4th-6th grade kids in her neighborhood’s subsidized housing development with a safe and reliable environment to explore the arts and make their voices heard;
· Dottie Fromal of Athens County, who started Nelsonville’s Thursday Night Community Dinner to provide home-cooked meals and foster a sense of community for children and families;
· Dr. Theo Hutchinson of Athens County, who has offered education for Athens City Schools staff around LGBTQ+ issues and has helped shape the district’s sex education curriculum to be more inclusive; and
· Sam Jones of Athens County, who has operated Sam’s Gym in Glouster for decades to provide free training in boxing and kickboxing to the community’s youth and raise money for the local school district through special events.
If you know someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty in service of others, please nominate that individual for the 2020 Jenco Foundation Fund Awards. The nomination window opens annually in the spring; in the meantime, sign up for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s e-newsletter at www.AppalachianOhio.org or follow FAO on Facebook to hear when the call for 2020 nominations is released.
For additional information about the Jenco Foundation and the award that honors Father Lawrence Martin Jenco, please visit www.AppalachianOhio.org/Jenco or call 740.753.1111.
Information provided by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.