Nine civic-minded Western New Yorkers have won the first Buffalo News Jefferson Awards, to be presented annually to outstanding volunteers.
Adult recipients are Ron and Margaret Talboys, president and secretary of Habitat for Humanity-Buffalo; Gilbert O. Bring, a retired physics professor who volunteers for several Amherst community groups; Coralia "Gigi" Hetzner, a leader of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy; Donald A. Johnson, a longtime Special Olympics coach; Berna Koren, an active volunteer in Williamsville for more than 50 years; and Elaine Powers, who volunteers for several programs for the blind and visually impaired.
Youth winners are Nathan Micon, a Niagara-Wheatfield High School student leader and volunteer, and Sara Jowsey, a Hutchinson-Central Technical High School student and junior volunteer at Erie County Medical Center.
Named for Thomas Jefferson, chief author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president, the awards were founded in 1973 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Sen. Robert Taft Jr. They are sponsored at the national level by the American Institute for Public Service. Buffalo this year joins more than 97 other cities presenting local Jefferson awards.
Nominations were collected from June through December 2005, and a panel of area leaders chose the winners based on their involvement in civic affairs, literacy, education, health and well-being, youth and families, or arts and cultural life. One of the local recipients will represent Western New York at the annual Jefferson Awards banquet in Washington, D.C. this June.
The Buffalo News will sponsor the awards locally to recognize the volunteer spirit "that makes our community so special," Publisher Stanford Lipsey said.
Despite the many challenges facing Western New York, "hundreds, if not thousands" of residents regularly "donate their time and energy to making our community a better place to live," Lipsey said.