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The Rev. Donald Vettese, one of northwest Ohio's three Jefferson Award winners this year, has been invited to attend next week's national awards ceremonies sponsored by the American Institute for Public Service in Washington.
But the president of St. John's Jesuit High School said Thursday that - with all due respect to the institute - he isn't excited so much about the recognition as he is about the opportunity the trip gives him to seek federal help for the poorest of the poor in Central America.
"I want to go to connect with some people in Congress," said Father Vettese. "I'm looking for federal money for a number of projects in Honduras and Guatemala that I'm working on."
Margaret Nasta, a spokesman for the American Institute of Public Service, said Thursday in a phone interview from Washington that Father Vettese is one of about 70 Jefferson Award winners from regions that participated around the country, out of an original pool of about 150, who were selected to attend the national ceremonies. Five of them will be presented the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for "outstanding community service benefiting local communities."
At the same event, four national winners, chosen directly by an awards board, will be named. Previous winners have included Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Colin Powell, Bob Hope, and Sandra Day O'Connor.
Each of the nine will receive a gold medallion.
In northwest Ohio, the award program is organized by The Blade, toledoblade.com, Buckeye CableSystem, and WTVG-TV Channel 13. This year a total of 117 people were nominated locally, of which 13 were named as finalists by a panel of local judges. At a dinner in downtown Toledo in March, top honors went to Father Vettese, who created a scholarship program at St. John's for boys who have economic and social disadvantages; Dexter Phillips, who founded Christian Health Ministries, Toledo's only free medical clinic; and Larry Voltz, who established the Lucas County Sheriff's Office Auxiliary, which provides security services at no cost to charitable organizations. The names of all three were forwarded to the American Institute for Public Service.
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