Knights honor community members

by Bob Gaetjens | Editor Published:

The Streetsboro Knights of Columbus celebrated their 56 birthday earlier this spring with a Founder's Day Feast at Our Lady of Perpetual Help's Parish Center in Aurora.

Keeping with tradition, they also awarded the firefighter, dispatcher and police officer of the year awards for the city of Streetsboro. This year's recipients were Streetsboro Firefighter Jim Prasek, Streetsboro Dispatcher Sara Newpher and Streetsboro Police Officer Christopher Petro, respectively.

Also receiving awards were brothers Leon and Stanley Jankowski, who each received the Knights of the Year Award, Man of the Year Rick Squier, Woman of the Year Donna Rinehart, Outstanding Service Award winner Paul Nowak and Dr. Sam and Laura Lewis, who won Family of the Year.

Locally, the Streetsboro Knights of Columbus has contributed about $54,000 and provided 23,890 hours of community service during the past three years.

Firefighter

of the Year

Prasek was nominated by his peers on his shift and chosen by Streetsboro Fire Chief Robert Reinholz from a pool for the honor. Each shift nominated one candidate for firefighter of the year, explained Reinholz.

Prasek has distinguished himself by stepping up as an officer in command for about 18 months when his lieutenant went on disability, said Reinholz. Since January, he's served as a fire prevention officer.

"Jim did a great job not only running the shift and making sure things were accomplished, but also maintaining a team atmosphere," said Reinholz. "I couldn't have been more pleased."

Prasek called the award "an honor" and said his fellow firefighters on C Shift made the abrupt transition from firefighter to officer in command easy.

"I enjoyed it very much," he said. "C shift is a great group of guys. I couldn't ask for a better shift."

Reinholz said not all firefighters are fit to take command of a shift. He said Prasek's 16 or 17 years with the department and management skills helped make the transition work. He also was in the position of having to discipline his co-workers, which Reinholz said is not easy.

Man of the Year

Man of the Year Rick Squier has been involved with St. Joan of Arc Church for several years, according to Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Ralph Cross.

"Rick has been very instrumental in doing things at the church," said Cross. "He quit his job … to take on the responsibility of [director of faith formation]. He puts in more hours than what he technically gets paid for."

Squier heads up the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults team, is a member of the Men's Renewal Team and also is a Eucharistic minister, added Cross.

Woman of the Year

Woman of the Year Rinehart is another St. Joan of Arc member who has devoted herself wholly to the church and its congregation, said Cross.

"She and her husband are very strong in the pro-life movement," he said. "They are also the ones who send out cards to the sick and needy."

Rinehart said she also sends birthday cards to residents at Gardens of the Western Reserve and Maplewood Care Centre.

"It's just something I do that doesn't take a whole lot of time," she said.

She also serves as an usher, a Eucharistic minister, takes Communion to the home-bound and is a member of both Elizabeth Ministry and the Altar & Rosary Society.

"It's very humbling to be recognized in some way," she said. "It was very nice. I have to admit I shed a few tears."

Outstanding Service Award Winner

Outstanding Service Award Winner Nowak said he was taken by surprise by winning his award, despite being intimately involved with all the Knights of Columbus' initiatives as the chapter's financial secretary.

"It's something that we didn't normally do," he said of winning the service award.

Cross said it's an award that's never, in his 40-plus years with the Knights, been bestowed on anyone.

Cross said Nowak has served the Knights with notable distinction for years.

"Paul has been a big supporter," said Cross. "He's very, very good. He is the one who does the most and the best things for our organization, the community and the church."

Cross said he and Nowak work closely together to run the Knight of Columbus chapter.

"Nobody knew I was going to give this award … I wanted it to be a surprise, and it was," he said.

Knights of the Year

The Knight of the Year Award typically goes to one individual, but Cross said it was impossible to consider the Jankowski brothers, Stan and Ron, separately. They live together, and they've worked hard together for several years to help plan activities for the Knights of Columbus, said Cross.

"I couldn't give it to one without giving it to both," he said. "Both the brothers have done a lot of good things for us."

Some of that work includes working out logistics of events and organizing and soliciting items for raffles and silent auctions.

Nowak called them the "movers and shakers behind getting projects organized."

"They have spent an tremendous amount of hours in the last two or three years helping us and supporting us," said Nowak. "They do almost everything together; they're as close as brothers can be."

Family of the Year

The Family of the Year this year has been deeply involved in the community for years, said Cross.

Dr. Sam Lewis, his wife Laura, and their children Connor, 16, Rafe, 14, Michael Lewis, 7, Marina Lewis, 9, Gianna Lewis, 5 and Gabrielle Lewis, 10 and Genevieve, 6 months won the award this year.

"Dr. Sam does a lot of work with kids in baseball and other things," said Cross, who said both Sam and Laura are very involved in the community and in raising their children, who include two with special needs.

"I was excited," said Sam. "It's nothing you sign up for or strive for, but it was nice to recognized as a Catholic family and a big Catholic family."

Logistics are among the challenges the family copes with regularly.

"We'll have a baseball game every night for the next 21 days," said Sam, who has helped coach teams for years and led the Gridiron Club, which is the booster organization for Streetsboro's youth football program.

Laura and her mother also run Our Lady's Gifts, a Catholic gift store, located on Route 43 next to Lewis Family Chiropractic, which Sam owns.

Police Officer

of the Year

Mosley said Petro distinguished himself with his arrests for operating a vehicle under the influence.

"We, as a department, had 209 arrests for [OVI] and Chris was responsible for 70 of those," said Streetsboro Police Chief Roy Mosley III. "Chris was just off the charts this year with his drug busts and OVIs."

Petro said he was "surprised" to receive the Officer of the Year Award.

"We have numerous officers in our department who had an exceptional year in 2013, so I'm very honored to receive this award," he said.

Dispatcher

of the Year

Newpher, said Mosley, distinguished herself with her poise on emergency calls.

"She was able to multi-task really well," he said. "She was able to handle herself really well under pressure."

She also organized a police fundraiser at Stringz & Wingz during the fall, he added.

"Sara put a lot of time and effort into that event," said Mosley. "Everybody took note of that."

A member of the Streetsboro Police Department since 2011 with prior experience with the Lake County Sheriff's Department, Newpher said she was "pleasantly surprised" to receive the Dispatcher of the Year Award for 2013.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

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