2023 Gems of the Community Award

Norwood Together is a spark for positive growth, but we’re just one organization in a community full of people and groups working together to get things done. YOU and other Norwood residents are our most important partners. We want to take time each year to celebrate our accomplishments and the Norwood residents dedicating time and energy to improving our city. They are the Gems of the Community. This award recognizes people making significant contributions to Norwood.

Special thanks to volunteers Sarah Allan and Cate Wetzel! Without them, the Gems of the Community Celebration would not have happened. Thanks, too, to our talented intern, Xavier University Student Mak Krivka who works hard for Norwood Together. Gratitude to Robin Cox for creating the Gem logo and programs. Appreciation to Dyah Miller Photography. Catering thanks to Indian Mound Cafe. Thank you to Red 5 Coffee and FOZbakery. Awards by Designs by Susan.

Our Partners
Ventura Builders Group | Norwood Police Association | Prolink Staffing | Matlock Electrical | School Outfitters | Duke Energy | Donna Laake | Dress for Success | Community Improvement | Norwood Business & Professional Women’s Club | Greene’s Flower Shop | Northwood Cider Co. | Queen City Clay | Stone Lanes

CLICK HERE or on the group image to view photos from the celebration.

The Business Award

The Business Award recognizes a business that has been a partner for positive growth in Norwood.

The Legacy Award

The Legacy Award recognizes a person who has served the community over decades, significantly improving the quality of life in Norwood.

Five generations of the Shepherd family have invested in the company and in the city of Norwood. Shepherd’s family values drive a culture in which every employee contributes towards their core purpose: creating value that brightens lives. Their willingness to go the extra mile for the sake of building trust, maintaining confidentiality, nurturing long-term investments, and relationships with employees and customers alike reflects the integrity, sincerity, and genuine kindness of John and Tom Shepherd. Meaningful work with and for people they care about is at the heart of their core purpose.

The Shepherd team has volunteered their time and participated in events for many worthy causes in our community in 2022, including Norwood Ready Kids, Crayons to Computers, Baby Bear, church support, United Way, the Gem of the Highlands 5K, and many more. They look forward to doing the same in 2023!

We are very proud to honor Shepherd Chemical tonight as our 2022 Business Gem of the Community!

If you know someone who is under the age of 30, then you have likely been impacted by Glenna Edwards. In her former role as the founder and president of the non-profit, Live It Like You Mean It, she could be found in Kindergarten classes with the puppets and songs of Mr. Emotions and Friends or working with high school students involved in the youth leadership program PIP (Positively Influencing People.) As a parent or trusted caregiver, you might have encountered Glenna in Great Start! Or in her current role as Supervisor of Family and Student Services, you may be engaging with Glenna as a teacher or community member who might be collaborating on one of many ongoing works such as ASAP Norwood, PAX, or Norwood Ready Kids. Her dedication to the children and families in Norwood is incomparable. Glenna has dedicated her whole life to the service of others and has never asked for anything in return. It is not an exaggeration to tell you that young people’s lives have been saved because of her care and compassion. She is a tenacious relationship-builder and public servant. Her success is because she quietly prioritizes people, not programs.

The Gems of the Community Award

This award recognizes people making significant contributions to Norwood.

FRANK AND NANCY PERRINO (nominated by Donna Laake)
Wherever there is a need in the community, the Perrinos are there to help: from organizing neighborhood get-togethers, donating money to the Waterworks basketball courts, becoming Community Partners, to caring medically and emotionally for patients and residents. I can think of no better people to receive this award. Frank served as Medical Director for the Norwood Health Department for over 30 years, at times as Acting Health Commissioner, and often without compensation, Nancy organized monthly neighborhood get-togethers as well as the Indian Mound Annual Block Party at their home. While hosting Christmas gatherings, guests are asked to bring non-perishable items to be given to Norwood families. They complement each other and work as a team in the community and at Holy Trinity Church. For many years, Nancy organized a committee of folks at church to plant and care for flowers on the church grounds. Frank has been a member of the Men’s Club at church and can be seen cooking or serving food at church functions. They do their work quietly and without fanfare. That’s why we are honored to recognize them publicly for all that they do for Norwood.

JEFF GIRTON (nominated by Tom Sullivan and Caren Harrison)
Jeff Girton is a stand up Norwood citizen and his commitment to the Norwood community is indubitably strong. From the Off Pike Markets to Trailer Joe’s local spot in Surrey Square, Jeff and “cup of joe” are notorious for bringing people together. Every stop to Trailer Joe was met with smiles from neighbors and the Mr. Coffee Man himself. His ability to implement a creative idea with a Norwood coffee truck has blossomed into a brick and mortar shop! He’s been known to donate Red 5 Coffee for community events; Gem of the Highlands 5K, Teacher Appreciation Week, and events like tonight’s Gem of the Community Awards. In addition to donating coffee, he donates his time: cheering for the Gem of the Highlands Race, representing Norwood at the Girls on the Run 5K downtown, and handing out pizza at the race after party. Jeff is highly educated in the academia world, but what they can’t grade in school is persistence, creativity, and generosity. That is what Jeff has brought to his business and our neighborhood. Jeff is a familiar, smiling face brightening our community and those he passes! Thank you, Jeff, for literally and figuratively filling up our cup. Norwood wouldn’t be the same without you.

ELIZABETH DeBrunner (nominated by Mayor Victor Schneider)
Elizabeth DeBrunner has been involved with Scouting since 2018, and has improved the lives of so many young people. She is committed to improving youth self-esteem and social skills to make the world a better place for all. Elizabeth knows that the key to success is seeing our kids blossom into the leaders of tomorrow, and she has been tirelessly working for them. It takes real commitment and dedication to share your free time in the evenings with other parent leaders to help develop not only your own children, but other youngpeople who need a positive role model in their lives. Scouting has made a positive impact on America’s youth – millions of them over the years to build character. Elizabeth is a part of this shared history and we have witnessed it firsthand. The Scouts of Norwood thank you!

JACOB DIETZ (nominated by Mayor Victor Schneider)
Jacob Dietz is a Scout leader that cares about the youth of the community and has stepped up to take on a leadership role to facilitate the growth of character and self esteem of youth. He works well with his fellow leaders and is very willing to give his time to help others. It takes real commitment and dedication to share your free time in the evenings with other parent leaders to help develop not only your own kids but other youths that need a positive role model. The service that Jacob does is not forgotten, as the many young people he has led grow up and share the same message of service and brotherhood with their communities. Jacob Dietz is a great example.

WALTER & MONICA RICE (nominated by Bishop Sonny James)
Walter & Monica Rice have lived on Cleneay Avenue for a number of years. They own and manufacture their own sports clothing line and sports equipment. Their greatest pride and joy comes from the accomplishments achieved by the young athletes they’ve mentored and trained over the years. They live by the idea of each one reaching one model. In spite of all the mental health stresses that have plagued African American communities all across the country, they have put their hearts and souls into each day, one person at a time. They have become volunteer moms and dads to many young people and their families. Walter and Monica have been and continue to be a force to be reckoned with in terms of setting a standard for others to follow. Because of their leadership, families are more confident in their own abilities to succeed, in spite of the struggles the world faces.

BRIDGITTE SLOAN (nominated Jason, Bailey, Sidney, and Jacob Sloan, Michael Gabbard, Carey Taylor, and Morgan Peters)
Bridgitte has been involved in Norwood Soccer for over twenty years. She is the president of Norwood Soccer and also volunteers as a board member of SAY soccer. Bridgitte has devoted herself to making sure that the youth of Norwood get an opportunity to play this great team sport. She also coaches at least two teams per season, once coaching three when there were no available coaches that season. She organizes all the roasters, helps prepare the fields, and mentors children and parents. She organizes teams to play indoor soccer throughout the winter. While living in Norwood for 30 years, she’s been soccer president, team mom, in PTA, Girl Scouts troop leader, and an avid volunteer. Her impact on the community can’t be measured, in fact, it’s generational. Former players still hug and tell her how much she is loved, and she remembers all their names and details. She encourages kids and parents about the game and life. Bridgitte has made sure that any child that wants to play, plays even if it comes out of her own pocket. She keeps a positive mindset when she runs into issues and always solves the issues at hand. The time she commits to this community is staggering, and I am so proud to be able to give her this award tonight.

JANICE DAUGHERTY (nominated by Sara Daugherty)
Sarah Daugherty describes her mother Janice as, “the strongest, most dedicated person I know.” Janice has never lived anywhere but Norwood and has been a servant leader in the community. What is a servant leader? Someone who helps by serving others because it is the right thing to do – not for recognition or awards. Sarah also explains, “When my siblings were growing up, she volunteered as a soccer coach when she knew nothing about the sport. She was PTA president at Norwood View when no one else stepped up. Now that my siblings and I are grown, and Janice is a grandma, she is serving on the PTA for her grandkids, so that the kids in Norwood can still have the best resources and advocates.” Within the last year, Janice joined the Norwood Business & Professional Women’s Club and was elected to the board. Her pride and joy is doing the Holy Trinity float for every Norwood Day parade, winning best float the last two years. Some of the notable organizations Janice has been a part of include: Norwood View PTA member/president, Norwood Rec soccer team parent and coach, volunteer for the Gem of the Highlands 5K, Board member for the Norwood Business & Professional Women’s Club, and parade committee for Holy Trinity Church. Sarah concludes, “My mom is always putting others first and this community first and is extremely deserving of this award.”

THE BRIAN AND CHERYL FERRY FAMILY (nominated by Tim Garry, Jr.)
Brian and Cheryl Ferry, and their teenage daughters Meka, Eden and Quinn improve our community by sharing themselves with the community. For example, on August 5, 2022, Brian and Cheryl produced the Porch Fest Music Festival, an all-day live music festival on the front porch of their home in hopes to make it an annual event. Unique events like this make the Ferry family special in their commitment to our community. They simply make it a better, more welcoming, place. Brian Ferry’s band, the W Montys, played at the Norwood International Art Festival on September 17, 2022, and at the Norwood Historic Homes Tour on October 15, 2022. Their eldest daughter, Meka, works at Queen City Clay, on Highland Avenue in Norwood, helping teach kids classes and summer classes. Middle daughter, Eden, performed live music for a Norwood Together dinner event at For the Life of the World Cafe. Brian and Cheryl are perfect examples of pillars of public service and they are sharing their love for it with a new generation, their daughters. We thank you!

TONY JAGODITZ (nominated by Tim Garry, Jr.)
Tony Jagoditz’s roots run deep in Norwood having been raised on Harris Avenue, graduating from Norwood High School, class of 1967, and having begun his business career at Steinberg’s Clothing at Smith and Montgomery. To give back to the Norwood community, for the last three years he has enthusiastically solicited and received major donations to the Gem of the Highlands 5k race, which has donated over $60,000 toward improvements to Norwood’s Parks. Tony has been a part of cleaning up and planting in the Norwood Parks, and removed invasive brush from the trails in Norwood’s Lindner Park/McCullough Estate Nature Preserve. Tony has worked tirelessly to build community within the City of Norwood, to support the efforts of others, and to repay our community for the many blessings he has received in Norwood. It would be impossible to not notice Tony’s commitment to Norwood, so thank you, Tony!

DAVID JOHNSON (nominated by Mary C. Miller)
I met David Johnson last summer at the Off-Pike Market. He stopped by and asked about Norwood Together. I showed him the “What’s Happening” handout and told him about the upcoming International Art Show. He instantly asked if we needed any music. At that time, given our limited budget, we had one time slot filled and no other ideas. He shared that he managed the Queen City Balladeers, and he would be glad to check with them and other contacts to see if he could find us some “free” music for the event. David became an active member of the planning committee, and with a bit of help from some friends, filled every missing music slot on the program for free – including belly dancers! He was at every planning meeting, and contributed great suggestions. David helped with set up and tear down for each group on the day of the art show. We had never met before the day at the market, and yet he took the music project on and did an amazing job! He reached out and found a variety of types of musical groups for the event. It was great to have his expertise and support. His work helped to make the day a huge success. He believed he could get it done and did. Thank you, David!

AILEEN KELLY (nominated by Mak Krivka)
For as long as I have known Aileen, both at home and here at Xavier University, she has been committed to serving her community in whatever way she can. With a can-do attitude and a smile that kills, Aileen has dedicated countless hours each week to serving her community through the Xavier X-Change club and recruited many students to help make the club thrive. As an active board member and site leader, she has dedicated to serving others, especially children. She has told me how much it means to her when the children she works with can finally read or pronounce words the way they are written; it gives her incentive to continue to do this difficult work. Service opportunities she has been involved in include tutoring, after-school clubs, and many fundraising and donation drives. Aileen knows what it means to be a servant, and she has demonstrated that, in front of my very eyes, more times than I could count. If there was anyone who deserves this award, it is Aileen Kelly.

MOLLY BABCOCK (nominated by Mak Krivka)
As Molly’s driver to service every week, I can attest to her commitment to the Jesuit values that come with an education at Xavier University. Molly’s kind soul and bright demeanor bring peace to the hearts of those that she serves. Molly will make a friend at any new place she goes. Not only is Molly an active student on Xavier’s campus, but she is also an intern at the Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, an officer of the Xavier University Chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project, a member of the Xavier University X-Change club, an active volunteer at Lydia’s House, and a fellow of the Xavier University Community-Engagement program.
Molly Babcock is the very definition of service unto others. She has shown a commitment to her community at Xavier with her work on the Innocence Project, X-Change, and being a community engagement fellow. Each of these commitments takes many hours out of an already incredibly busy schedule for Molly. However stressed or anxious she becomes after realizing how much she has on her plate, she will tell me, “Mak, someone else needs my service and I owe it to them to show up and do this.” Molly is truly a class act and an example of what a servant is.

OLIVIA McNAIR (nominated by Bishop Sonny James) Olivia McNair is a true trailblazer, not just for women of color but for women period. Her passion to see women have the courage to reach boundaries that traditionally have been dominated by men has become an infectious appetite for so many others. Her goal is to mentor girls (especially of color) and help them to achieve the greatest potential, in spite of whatever obstacles are in their way. Olivia’s nickname amongst her peers is “FIRE” and she most definitely has been and still is a ball of fire & a bundle of inspiration to others. She volunteers and inspires others to take pride in their community by setting out to beautify her surroundings without a team behind her. From helping with community advocacy to working with youth programs, she does it all. She has been an inspiration to the youth in the After School Program Elevations Enrichment. This award is fitting for this Community Gem.

AMANDA SINCLAIR (nominated by Tim Garry, Jr.)
Amanda Sinclair is a dynamo of philanthropy within Norwood. While she has been raising two young sons, Jude, and Josh, with her husband, Jonathan, she has founded and served as President, and has grown the Gem of the Highlands 5k. The race began five years ago in an effort to build community and raise money for Norwood’s parks. Including the year of COVID, 2020, when the race was virtual, the Gem of the Highlands 5k has netted over $60,000 toward city park improvements, including the new basketball court at Waterworks Park. This is a massive investment in the Norwood community. In addition to the Gem of the Highland 5k, Amanda Sinclair serves as Development Director of Changing Gears, a non-profit corporation which solicits and receives automobile donations, improves the cars as needed, then helps struggling families by selling the automobiles inexpensively. Amanda is a living example of a community member who never stops working for her neighbors.

NBPWC Christmas Town Committee Linda Brim, Sue Prues, Denise Prues, Jackie Osterman, Kay Stevens, Laura Hobbs, Carole Kassem, Virginia Patterson and Alice Rericha (nominated by Donna Laake)
Linda Brim had the original idea of starting Christmas Town in Norwood. Over the years, she and her committee have raised funds, hauled tables and chairs, and worked tirelessly to bring such joy to Norwood. Committee members are: Linda Brim, Sue Prues, Denise Prues, Jackie Osterman, Kay Stevens, Laura Hobbs, Carole Kassem, Virginia Patterson and Alice Rericha. These ladies deserve recognition from the community. They have done a great service to us, bringing the Christmas spirit to all corners of Norwood. This small but mighty group of ladies has organized, raised funds, begged for money, and done whatever it takes to bring this beloved event to the city. They volunteer their time literally all year to make Christmas Town the success that it has become. It’s about time that we all stand up and say, “Thank you!” for all of their hard work.

JILL STOXEN (nominated by Robert and Erin Lockridge)
Every Thursday, Jill Stoxen takes time out of her busy day to volunteer at For the Life of the World Cafe. Not only is she dependable and proficient at the work, she is a welcoming presence for all who visit. Her love for the people of our community makes her an excellent host, whether she is behind the counter at our cafe, or simply walking down the street chatting with neighbors. Jill takes the extra step to know and care for those around her. Jill and her husband Josh have lived in Norwood for 12 years, and have invested themselves into the life of this community in numerous ways. Not only has Jill given her time at For the Life of the World Cafe, she also volunteers at Baby Bear and Lydia’s House. She is a loving, welcoming presence to many, and is steady, and supportive to those leading the initiative. Jill has taken a special interest in meeting and getting to know the neighbors on her street, often stopping to talk with them and leaving them feeling seen and heard. She puts a great value on spending her spare time in ways that serve others and our community. She is an active reminder of what a phenomenal community member looks like.

LAURA & TOM SULLIVAN (nominated by Alisha Loch)
Last year, I met a new community hero. Laura Sullivan is generous, creative and uniquely fun. Whether she’s whimsically purchasing bubble machines and bulk sidewalk chalk for community use or planting woodland gnomes in Norwood’s parks, selflessly organizing toy drives for Baby Bear and diaper drives for flood victims or diligently fostering community in the Buy Nothing Norwood Facebook group, Laura emulates a community mentality. Right there next to Laura and her contributions to the community is her husband, Tom. I met Tom the morning of the Who Dey parade which Laura set into motion. Tom was tirelessly chopping up ice and salting the bike trail so paraders could safely walk to the highway as planned. They make a great team, and we’re lucky to have them! The Sullivans demonstrate a strong commitment to Norwood. They have a positive vision for the community, confident that good things will happen. The Sullivans have been a blessing for us, and we could not be more grateful for them.

LEMUEL JAMES (nominated by Bishop Sonny James)
Lemuel James grew up in Norwood. As a student at Norwood High School, he always radiated with kindness and eagerness to do well. He has shared his positive attitude and vision for the community through years of service. In pursuit of his goal to become one of the first African American Police Officers in the history of Norwood, Lemuel has successfully completed the Norwood Junior Police Explorers Program, Military Police training in the United States Marine Reserves, and has recently returned to his hometown. He has been a dependable volunteer in the Elevations Enrichment program and is becoming a great advocate for the advancement of others. He also leads positive and inclusive celebrations in honor of Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month. It is always special to see our youth embody the spirit of a community moving forward and develop into adults making a difference. Lemuel is truly a Gem of the Community and will be for years to come. We thank you, Lemuel!

RON MURPHY (nominated by the Gem of the Highlands Committee)
Ron Murphy’s life has been built around service unto others. While serving with the Norwood Police, Lt. Murphy was a community leader who actively sought to connect those in the Norwood community above and beyond what was asked of him and tried to make it a better place. Our Gem of the Highlands 5k committee, like many others, had the good fortune to have Ron help us in our inaugural race and every year since. Beyond connecting new residents to lifetime ones, organizing the Police & Fire Associations to be the presenting sponsors, Ron has shown up and worked every single race. Ron is a Leader, a Connector and a Doer. I’d guess hundreds, if not thousands have similar Ron Murphy stories. Have I mentioned how much we all miss the humor on the Norwood Police facebook page? How it humanized law enforcement by adding a laugh (typically at their expense)? Ron is a good man, and one who wants the best for everyone around him. The Norwood community is a better place with him in it.