CAMBRIDGE — For publisher Darel LaPrade, “the Banner’s mission does everything in its power to promote and build a genuine sense of community. We want Hometown Heroes to be a centerpiece of this effort. Our goal is to raise the bar and push it to the next level and this year’s winners do that.”
On Feb. 4, the Hometown Heroes award ceremony honored a very special group of unsung heroes. Mr. LaPrade noted, “My guess is that each of you is probably in your own right already a hero to someone. But the people we are here to recognize are very special indeed. Each one is nominated by someone who knows them well and then they were selected for an award by a committee consisting of last year’s winners.”
Mr. LaPrade explained, “Each person is distinguished by long lists of accomplishments. The spirit of the program is to recognize those folks who, for no other reason than a desire to help, step forward and make the most of the occasion.”
The difficult job of a Selection Committee fell primarily to last year’s winners. They included: Calvin Stack, Juanita Weber, Tracy Tyler, the Rev. Charles Cephas, Buddy Mowbray, Wiley Gray, and Frances Bloodsworth.
Retired Judge Steve Rideout received the Business Volunteer Award for giving his time and talent to numerous causes, including: A public school reading program, tutorial program, CASA of Dorchester County, and work with Delmarva Community Services. “I’m grateful to Dr. Wagner for nominating me,” he said. “Volunteering has been in my blood for many years. I can’t help myself. It’s just something I’ve got to do. When I see problems I see solutions and I stick my nose in to try and help.” And help he does.
Retired Cambridge Police Chief Ken Malik accepted the Emergency Responder Award. His nominator said the chief “was a believer in community values.” Chief Malik was “Absolutely surprised and really honored and humbled that I was recognized in such a way. I certainly appreciate it.” Asked about his retirement, he laughed, “My wife has a big honey-do list so I’m pretty busy.”
Pastor George Ames, Faith and Spiritual Leader Award winner is a Dorchester County legend. His contributions are numerous and vital to the strength of his community. “I’ve always volunteered,” he says. At first he volunteered “just to help” the church but soon became part of the fabric of its community. His children join him for special occasions and attended the Hometown Heroes celebration. Rev. Ames pointed out his granddaughter and chuckled, “She’s the one who always tells me what to do.” Then he added, “We’ve got a great community.”
Dr. Oluwole Olusola received the Educator Award for his contributions to teaching the community about healthy eating and natural ways to cure the human body. “I’m very honored,” he said. “It’s not something I expected. I’ve always believed that the key to good health is good nutrition. Over the years I’ve noticed that when I can get people to change their eating habits, many diseases will stop and regress. People are more concerned about putting the right gasoline in their car than putting the right food in their bodies.” Dr. “O” offers seminars on nutrition and freely helps cancer patients who need his services. “It’s a ministry,” he says.
The Mentor-Coach Award went to Jake Coleman, varsity head coach at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School. He serves as a positive role model for students and makes a difference in their lives. He said receiving the award is “very humbling.” When he thinks about service he remembers his grandfather. “I feel he has been guiding me along the way. He passed away when I was 12 but I remember at his funeral the hundreds of people who he had touched as a coach and a teacher and I remember sitting there thinking ‘Wow, that’s a life when that many people want to say their goodbyes.’ It touched me. Leonard Coleman is the reason I do what I do.”
To say she goes “above and beyond” is an understatement. Pat Wilcox, founder of Kitty City Rescue, raises money to care for homeless cats. Starting with just a few felines, Pat now houses and/or finds foster homes for over 200 cats. Pat received the Community Volunteer Award. “In March we will be five years old. When we started it was ‘oh, we’ll just take 25 or 30.’ But we’ve found so many homeless cats it just grows. Sunday I was cleaning and I walked out and there was a little kitten sitting in front of our door. You can’t say ‘no.’ But, we need a larger facility. We have a good group (of volunteers),” said Ms. Wilcox, “and they enjoy doing it.”
Steve Bloodsworth is a hero to the youth who attend the Open Bible Academy. He has led the group for over 30 years and serves as mentor, leader, and educator for scores of young people. He says the award “is undeserved.” He views his contributions as “not complex” and notes “We make it easy to have fun and not break rules. We treat people the way they want to be treated; to be considerate of other people using old-fashioned virtues and standards and morals.” After four decades, Mr. Bloodsworth notes, “it works.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Lorraine Henry whose credentials in the education community are without peer. Her life has been dedicated to education in her native county and she has served on numerous boards. “I take this humbly because in all of my years of working I tried to make a difference for children. When I retired I had the same feeling. ‘What can I do to help?’ I’ve always felt if I could make a difference for someone, my living will not be in vain.”
Mr. LaPrade remarked that “True heroism is remarkably sober. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others whatever the cost.”
Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.