2013 Jefferson Award winners greeted by record crowd

Winners of the 2013 Toledo-area Jefferson Awards are, from left, Dean Ludwig, Joan Durgin, Laneta Goings, and Tony Siebeneck. The ceremony Thursday was attended by more than 500 people.
Winners of the 2013 Toledo-area Jefferson Awards are, from left, Dean Ludwig, Joan Durgin, Laneta Goings, and Tony Siebeneck. The ceremony Thursday was attended by more than 500 people.

More than a decade ago, one of this year’s Jefferson Awards winners, Tony Siebeneck, read a news article that would drive the focus of his service to Lucas County.

It said many children who are on the National School Lunch Program do not always have the opportunity to eat regular meals when school is out during the summer.

“The problem was a lot worse than what was stated,” Mr. Siebeneck said, in a video that was played during the Jefferson Awards ceremony Thursday. After discovering multiple facts, through what he calls “grassroots research,” he established Feed Lucas County Children Inc., in 2002. The program provides children in need, up to age 18, with free meals.

Mr. Siebeneck is the executive director of the nonprofit. When the program began 11 years ago, 7,200 meals were served annually, but now, more than 240,000 hot meals are given to students in need, every year. The effect Feed Lucas County Children has on the community was evident during the ceremony, as a loud applause erupted when Mr. Siebeneck was announced as one of four winners for the local Jefferson Awards.

The American Institute for Public Service has awarded the Jefferson Awards for Public Service nationally, since 1972. Dubbed the “Nobel Prize” for community service, the Jefferson Awards honors and recognizes volunteerism and public service.

At the biggest Toledo-area event ever, Mr. Siebeneck was honored alongside three other winners, including Joan Durgin, Laneta Goings, and Dean Ludwig. Ms. Durgin is the founder of the Polly Fox Academy for pregnant teenagers; Ms. Goings most recently helped launch Books 4 Buddies, which collects new and gently used books to be given to youth in the area, and Mr. Ludwig is the founder of the University of Toledo’s Center for Family Business.

The four winners were selected from 14 finalists, who were selected from 61 nominees. The nomination packets for the winners will be sent to a national committee to be judged and then one will be chosen to represent the region in the national competition. The national competition will take place in Washington later this year.

More than 500 people attended the event at Parkway Place in Maumee, which was a record turnout.

Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager of The Blade, said the event has expanded over the years.

“It has grown exponentially,” he said.

Mr. Zerbey said the award is a good way to be “able to salute ordinary Americans that have done special things.”

The event was sponsored by The Blade, Buckeye CableSystem, WGTV 13abc, Leadership Toledo, The Andersons, and Waterford Bank.

During the event, St. Ursula Academy was chosen to represent the Toledo region for the Youth Jefferson Awards/Students In Action program. Thirty-one high schools competed for the nomination this year. School representative Molly Layman, 17, said she was amazed that the academy was awarded.

“I was so surprised. Our school is very passionate about service,” she said.

Leadership Toledo’s director of community impact, Kristina White, said the students from the 31 schools that participated have all demonstrated levels of leadership.

“These kids are not waiting ...” Ms. White said. “They are taking charge and they are serving.”

Miss Layman and an adviser will travel to Washington for the national ceremony.

But while only a few nominees were ultimately named winners, 2012 Jefferson Awards Washington Representative James Taylor said all of the nominees should feel important.

“You’re already a winner by just being here today,” he said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522.