Toledo locals honored at annual Jefferson Awards

WASHINGTON – Standing in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the heart of the city, stands a group of people who love to give back. One of those people is Toledo native Jay Mirrow.

“We have a mentoring program called ‘Mentors in Toledo Schools,’” Mirrow said. “We have 103 mentors and we mentor over 200 students.”

Mirrow represented those mentors at the Jefferson Awards for Public Service on Monday night. And he was in good company. Two local high schools were represented as well, for their service work in their surrounding communities and beyond.

“We do community service and help out our entire region,” said Springfield Senior Mackenzie Cupp. She’s part of a school program being recognized for its commitment to service. And her peer, Ashlee Balcerzak, from Maumee High School, is in a similar program.

“We have done a variety of domestic and international projects this year,” Balcerzak said, “aiding the community on multiple levels.”

Also in the group is recent University of Toledo graduate Jacob Keefe. He started a non-profit organization called “Save the Feet.” It is an organization that helps people across the globe.

“We collect shoes and get them to places in the world where people can’t afford them,” Keefe said. “So, new, used, broken-in, not broken-in; any kind of shoes you can imagine.”

Each person was recognized at the 42nd annual Jefferson Awards for Public Service ceremony. Something that the volunteers said, is an honor.

“It’s humbling,” Keefe said. “You’re with people who have done bigger and better things than you can ever dream of. It’s fun to see what they’ve done and what you can accomplish.”

“It’s fun for me, but the most important thing is it recognizes the mentors that are in the program,” Mirrow said. “They can’t all come, but I’m so pleased to represent them.”

The recipients have different talents, but, together, have helped thousands of people across the world. And the youngest honorees of the night, who have donated hundreds of hours giving back to their community, say they are happy to put them and their peers in a positive light.

“It’s really nice to be able to put our time into something special like this and also do something with what we have,” said Cupp.

“It’s nice to see that you can make a difference in people’s lives,” Balcerzak said. “And that one person, and one group, and one school can make a difference.”

It was an exciting night, giving recognition to those who have already given so much.

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