“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” – Albert Pike
The quote read by Dale Lynch, Washington C.H. City Council chairman, during the 2016 United Way Hometown Hero Celebration Breakfast Tuesday morning was a perfect encapsulation of this annual event. Each of these hometown heroes – Kay Oughterson, the Miami Trace FFA, Tara Bivens, Jeff Conroy, Mary Dye, and Parrett Insurance – all exemplify selfless service to this community.
Or as Mike Pell, First State Bank president and CEO, put it, they all “serve our community with passion.”
The emcee of the event, Washington C.H. City Manager Joe Denen, also elegantly summarized what the celebration means to him: “The first Hometown Heroes Breakfast, I was skeptical. It was early, I was tired….then the program proceeded to honor Fulton Terry. Like everyone, I stood, smiled and clapped. But in my mind I remembered Fulton speaking at my grandfather’s funeral, I recalled the times I have visited Fulton’s church, I thought about the example of goodwill Fulton provides to our community. I thought about my connection to Fulton. I did not stand and clap that day for the abstract of a hero. I clapped for the flesh and blood in front of me. I suspect that with all of the people we honor today, their compassion for us has a great deal to do with why we need to honor them.”
Debbie Bryant, president of the United Way of Fayette County, spoke about the wonderful community in which we live.
“We at the United Way are here to honor our heroes, thank our sponsors and thank all of you who truly make Fayette County great,” she said.
With that, each of the 2016 heroes walked up to the podium in front of around 120 fellow citizens at the Mahan Building to be recognized.
– Kay Oughterson was honored as the Lifetime Achievement Hero, an award sponsored by Parrett Insurance. Few people have so many positive attributes, you just hope you can be like them in some way, reads Oughterson’s nomination. Kay Oughterson is one of those people. She was born and raised in Fayette County and has served this county her entire life.
After working for 32 years at Miami Trace High School as an English teacher, Oughterson joined the staff at Carnegie Public Library 15 years ago and continues to make wonderful contributions to the children of Fayette County. She is a lifelong member of the New Holland United Methodist Church and a member of United Methodist Women. As a certified lay speaker, she conducts church services when pastors are on vacation. Each year she organizes and conducts the Easter Sunrise Service and presents the Christmas and Mother’s Day programs for a local church.
Oughterson completed two terms on the board of the Fayette County Red Cross and she was the emcee for the Hometown Hero awards breakfast for two years. Currently she is serving her second five-year term on the Fayette Metropolitan Housing Authority board.
A longtime member of the Washington Kiwanis Club, she is chairman of the community services committee. Since her retirement, she has served not only as club president, but also lieutenant governor of Kiwanis Division 10-W of the Ohio District, a job which required overseeing 11 clubs.
As a member of Alpha Delta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society international (a professional teachers’ sorority), she has served on numerous committees and currently acts as library liaison of the DKG book club.
Many embrace Oughterson for her quieter examples as a devoted wife, supportive mother and involved grandmother. As with all families, adversity sometimes strikes with unavoidable force. She has been a witness to her faith, being a rock to her family and a role model for all of us.
“I’m very seldom at a loss for words,” Oughterson said after accepting the award from Vickey Leasure. “But when I got the call that I was going to be a hometown hero, all I could muster was an ‘Oh my.’ I don’t consider myself a hero. But I love being from a small community and it’s a warm feeling to be a part of this community.”
– The Miami Trace FFA (Future Farmers of America) organization was honored as the McDonald’s Youth Hero. This organization promotes agriculture education and participates in many community service activities. Their most recent endeavor was submitting and receiving a grant that created “The Panther Pantry.” This pantry is a resource to high school students by providing non-perishable food items, clothing and hygiene products. It is available to any and all students who may be in need.
Additional community service and educational activities that the FFA participates in include: Fall Harvest Days – an educational opportunity for Miami Trace Elementary students; Paint the Town Pink – last year the MT FFA donated $9,000 to Fayette County Memorial Hospital through this endeavor; and they also recently planted and raised garden beds for a local nursing home.
“All of the hard work of the Miami Trace FFA does not go unnoticed. It has been named as one of the top 10 FFA chapters in the nation,” said Dan Roberts, former Miami Trace superintendent.
At this year’s convention in October, the students will find out their final placing. Last year, the MT FFA chapter was recognized by the Ohio School Boards Association at their annual conference for all of their educational activities and community service.
– Jeff Conroy was honored as the Fayette County Travel and Tourism Education Hero. Conroy just entered his 37th year in education and this is his 27th year at Miami Trace Local Schools. He began his teaching and coaching career at Trimble Local in Athens County. After Trimble, he was a teacher and assistant coach at Waverly City.
In 1986, Conroy became a head football coach at Oak Hill Union Local in Jackson County. In 1990, he and his family relocated to Fayette County where he was named the head football coach and physical education and health teacher at the high school. In Conroy’s sixth year at Miami Trace, he became the principal at Eber Elementary.
After nine years at Eber, he became the principal at Jeffersonville. Following two years there, he returned to the high school as the assistant principal and during those 12 years, he was both the head football coach and a building administrator.
Upon leaving coaching, Conroy accepted the offer to be the principal at Miami Trace Middle School. At that time all sixth graders were added to the current junior high facility in Bloomingburg. Conroy was part of the new middle school building project. He is very proud of the fact that the middle school and staff were deemed “excellent with distinction” and MTMS was named a SOAR building for high academic progress by Batelle for two consecutive years. He also has had the opportunity to work beside educators who were recognized statewide as outstanding in their profession.
Conroy attributes his success to building strong interpersonal relationships with his staff and assisting them in attaining their fullest potential as educators. He said he feels the skills required to be successful as an administrator and coach are very similar: you put personnel where their strengths lie and it’s all about building a strong team.
Conroy has taught, coached and been an administrator at all levels. He truly has a passion for working with youth of all ages.
“I will always be appreciative of what Miami Trace has done for me and my family,” said Conroy, who received his award from Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean. “They took a chance on a real young football coach 27 years ago. I wanted to go someplace to raise our family and now my wife and my kids love it here. This is our home….Miami Trace and Fayette County is our home. I feel very blessed.”
– Tara Bivens was honored as the Fayette County Memorial Hospital Workplace Hero. She is a lifelong resident of Washington C.H. and is the daughter of Jack Knisley of Canal Winchester and Teresa Knisley of Washington C.H. She graduated from Washington C.H. in 1995 and attended Capital University. She accepted a position as a communications deputy with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office in 1999 and met her husband, Andy Bivens, who is now the FCSO chief deputy. They were married in 2002 and they have two children, Conner and Lauren.
Bivens transferred to the Washington C.H. Police Department in 2007, and after four years, decided to stay at home until their children were in school full-time. She is currently employed at Cherry Hill Elementary as an educational aide for reading intervention, grades K-2.
Last year, Bivens was approached about taking the role of cheerleading advisor for Washington Middle School and gladly accepted. She jumped at the opportunity to help share her love and passion for the sport and to instill values, such as hard work, dedication, integrity, honesty and kindness with these girls and their parents. She did such an amazing job with the seventh and eighth grade program that she was asked to coach the newly-created cheer squad for the city school students, grades 3-6.
Bivens holds herself to a high standard. She brightens the lives of those around her and is dedicated to making the community a better place to live. She is extremely dedicated to her profession in laying the foundation for the youth, the future of Fayette County. She strives to make this community a great place to live and raise a family.
“If I can make a difference in one life I encounter, I feel I’ve accomplished my goals,” said Bivens. Chelsie Hornsby from FCMH made the award presentation to Bivens.
– Mary Dye was honored as the Merchants National Bank Adult Hero. Dye, a caring nurse as well as the certified diabetic educator at FCMH, makes a huge difference in the lives of many people daily. She devotes countless hours of her “free time” giving back to diabetics and their family members in Fayette County and communities beyond.
She holds the role of director of the ambulatory care/outpatient surgery department at FCMH.
Dye was born in Greene County and moved to Fayette County in 1985. After raising her three children, she finally decided what she wanted to be “when she grew up” and with great courage, went back to school at age 38 to become a nurse. As an RN, she has spent her entire nursing career at FCMH.
Dye’s expertise and compassion don’t end there, as she is also the certified diabetic educator for the hospital. She provides teachings for those who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes, as well as for those who constantly deal with the daily struggles of being a diabetic. She offers the people of Fayette County information, monthly classes, and helpful resources that may not otherwise be available to them.
Dye has made a tremendous impact on her community and the schools – an impact that goes mostly unnoticed unless one has been affected by the disease of diabetes. However, through the compassionate reassurance and wealth of information that she provides, many times she helps to educate and provide comfort.
She provides multiple training sessions every year for both Washington City Schools and Miami Trace Local Schools. As required by law, all teachers and staff members must learn how to effectively monitor school children with diabetes. Her training sessions are specific as she has worked closely with classroom teachers and administrators, secretaries and bus drivers, giving information about blood sugar readings, how to administer insulin by mouth and injection, and overall diabetes care and management.
Dye has spent significant time with the food service personnel in both districts, giving tips and ideas about carb counting and healthy exchanges. More importantly, she is available and approachable at any time to answer questions or give encouragement or advice when school personnel have specific needs regarding diabetic students.
Barbara Duncan presented the award to Dye Tuesday morning.
– The final award of the event, the 2016 United Way Board of Directors Award, went to Parrett Insurance, which was founded in 1929 by Sam Parrett.
The agency was purchased in 1976 by current owner, Rowland D. LeMaster. It has continued to grow into a full service insurance agency offering a full line of insurance products to meet all of the community’s needs.
Today, Parrett employs a staff of six professionals offering a wide range of knowledge, backed by many hours of continuing education and years of experience. As an independent agency, they can offer the community a variety of choices and a full line of products from some of the best rated companies in the industry. The staff said that their primary objectives are: to be honest and fair in all their dealings, to help the community meet all of the insurance needs and to treat the clients’ needs as if they were their own.
They are committed to a high standard of excellence in all that they do and to establishing a relationship of mutual trust and service with each of their clients.
“It’s an honor to be the recipient of the United Way Board of Directors Hometown Hero Award this year,” LeMaster said recently. “We’ve always strived to support our city, county, schools, organizations and residents of our community.”
Although Parrett Insurance staff members could not be in attendance, Debbie Bryant accepted the award on their behalf from Stephen Farrens, the chair of the board of directors for United Way.
The presenting sponsor for this year’s banquet was First State Bank and the media sponsor was the Record-Herald. Award sponsors were FCMH, Fayette County Travel and Tourism, McDonald’s, Merchants National Bank, Parrett Insurance, and Quali-Tee. The corporate table sponsors were the City of Washington Court House, Gusweiler, Kiwanis, and the Miami Trace Local School District. The Willow provided the breakfast during the event.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica.