The Community Connection will start the New Year the same way it finished the Old Year -- by saluting community good-deed doers and achievers with the editor’s annual Good Guys/Good Girls/Good Groups awards.

It’s my way of publicly recognizing some of the people and organizations who have contributed mightily during the past year (and beyond) to the public good with their selfless sense of service and good deeds. I would once again emphasize that the choices are completely my own and I realize there are many more who could be honored as well or instead.

Part One was published in last Wednesday’s edition with three organizations being honored: The Oak Hill Christmas Decorations Committee; the Wellston Main Street organization; and the Cultivating Our Future group in Jackson.

Part Two shines the light on five more honorees: Jackson Area YMCA Executive Director/CEO Shadra Jenkins; Oak Hill civic leader Brian Moore; Jackson County civic leader Sandy Borden; Make Wellston Beautiful leader Tami Phillips; and Invenergy, the Chicago-based company which plans to build a solar-power generating plant in Vinton County.

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SHADRA

One of the worst things about 2019 is that Shadra Jenkins is leaving her leadership position at the YMCA after a productive 8½-year run. She has been able to walk the difficult tightrope of business versus service while moving the YMCA to bigger and better things and a brighter future during her tenure.

With her in charge, the welcome mat was out front for everybody in the community, including those who could not easily pay to participate in programs or use the facilities. And the YMCA could not have had a more enthusiastic and positive ambassador out in the community. It is indeed a compliment to her and her leadership that she has become synonymous with the YMCA in recent years. Her smile may be the best one in Jackson County -- no wonder it wound up on a billboard.

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BRIAN

A lot of good things have been happening in the Oak Hill area the past several years and there’s a lot of good folks making that train run. One person who seems to be in the middle of all these positive community projects and activities is Brian Moore. He is one of Oak Hill’s most vocal and active boosters, who is proud of its past, highly invested in its present and working hard for its future.

He has been one of the founders and leaders of the Oak Hill Historical Society (OHS), which led the impressive, grassroots effort to preserve and renovate the old Liberty Theatre building in Oak Hill into a handsome community center. OHS has also functioned as a civic group as it has conducted the “Christmas in the Park” project in Central Memorial Park, helped lead the fund drive to purchase new lighted Christmas pole decorations, conducted and hosted community activities and is now working on establishing a new park in the village. Moore, who is also an active leader of the Oak Hill Festival of Flags, personally led the project in 2016 to rededicate the memorial monument at Aetna Park to Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Donald Long.

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SANDY

There are many people in our local area who could be labeled as a civic leader and even more who could be called a tireless volunteer. However, Jackson area resident Sandy Borden fits both descriptions to a tee. Seemingly, Sandy seems to be everywhere in Jackson County doing her good deeds with a smile on her face and with an unfailing spirit to serve and help others. She could aptly be labeled as the Energizer Bunny of civic service in Jackson County.

Professionally, Sandy has worked for both the Four Winds Community and Jenkins Care Community nursing home facilities in Jackson County and became known for her efforts to support the nursing home residents as well for her amazing outreach efforts in our local communities. Moreover, on a personal level, she has also dove into both leadership and worker-bee roles with such local organizations as the Jackson Rotary Club, the Jackson County United Fund, the Jackson Area YMCA, and the Oak Hill Area Chamber of Commerce. She has been president of Rotary Club and served as chair of such important service projects as the Rotary Pancake Supper which benefits the Senior Citizens program and the Hope Haven Picnic. She has served as the longtime secretary of the progressive Oak Hill Chamber and has served the United Fund as its president.

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TAMI

The Make Wellston Beautiful (MWB) organization has been a huge contributor in the city of Wellston and the woman who founded it seven years ago and has remained its leader, Tami Phillips, deserves a ton of credit for taking on these leadership responsibilities. She and other MWB volunteers can take pride in knowing their work has made a major difference in the community.

When the City of Wellston was facing tougher times and was in an official state of Financial Emergency several years ago, MWB stepped up to take over the city’s youth recreation programs. This was a huge undertaking for an all-volunteer organization and involved not only operating programs, but overseeing facilities and equipment as well. MWB’s work has proven to be highly successful and hundreds of Wellston area youth benefit from its efforts. Also, Phillips was a key cog in the city government’s successful efforts to secure Neighborhood Revitalization grant monies, which have helped to make physical improvements on the city’s south side.

In total, Make Wellston Beautiful has helped the City of Wellston secure $1.7 million in grants for the city and its programs, improving city softball and baseball fields, revitalizing the historic railroad depot for community use, and more. It’s no wonder that Phillips was chosen this past year as one of the recipients of the prestigious Jenco Foundation Awards, which are presented by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

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INVENERGY

It’s not often that a large metropolitan energy company with its headquarters hundreds of miles away Southeastern Ohio would be selected for an award such our Good Guys/Good Girls/Good Groups recognition. However, an exception is being made for the Chicago-based Invenergy, LLC, which soon will be building a new solar-power generation plant in Vinton County.

Invenergy develops, builds, owns and operates power generation and energy storage projects in North America and Europe. Its portfolio includes wind, solar, and natural gas-fueled power generation and energy storage facilities. It is one of the six largest owners of wind generation plants in the United States and is North America's largest independent wind power generation company.

The local plant will be built on a 2,200-acre tract near Zaleski. All regulatory approvals and taxing agreements with local governments are in place and construction is expected to start sometime in 2019. The project will bring hundreds of temporary construction jobs in the county and should boost business activity in the county, especially in the Zaleski area, which is already trying to capitalize on its tourism potential. However, the biggest benefit to the county is the 35-year contract through the Vinton County Commissioners, which will provide significant in-lieu-of-taxes funding to the Vinton County Local School District, and affected governmental entities at the county and townships levels. In demonstrations of its good will to Vinton County, Invenergy has already voluntarily made large donations for local projects and activities, including the Vinton County Junior Fair.

A “Tip of the Hat” to all of these outstanding recipients, and all others who strive to make their communities a better place to live.

That’s About It… Be Seeing You.