Community members focus on festival launch dinner | News, Sports, Jobs
FOLLANSBEE – As they prepare for the return of Follansbee Community Days, members of the festival’s volunteer committee and Mayor David Velegol Jr. honored several residents for their accomplishments and service to the community at a dinner launch Sunday at the St. Francis Center.
Following an interruption imposed by the pandemic, the festival will return to the parking lot of the Follansbee Community House on July 9, 10 and 11.
Among the Sunday winners was Debbie Puskarich, who received the Anthony Paesano Making a Difference Award.
Velegol noted that the award was created by former mayor Paesano, who always told the story of a girl saving dozens of starfish washed up on the beach by throwing them into the ocean.
In the tale, an observer asks, because there are so many of them, if she can really make a difference. Stopping to throw another starfish into the water, the girl replied: “It made a difference for that one.”
Velegol said Puskarich made a difference through her leadership and membership in several civic groups, including the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce, the 20th Century Woman’s Club and the Weirton Business and Professional Women.
In that capacity, she hosted a career fair to help laid-off steelworkers find jobs, recognize Vietnam War veterans, and educate women on the health issues that affect them.
In accepting the award, Puskarich reflected on her partnership with Paesano, noting that she served as the chamber’s executive director for 16 years while he was its president.
She said he had met her weekly for much of the year to chat “Things we could do to make a difference” for the community and he offered some advice.
This included avoiding negative people and surrounding yourself “With people smarter than you so you can learn something every day. “
Puskarich thanked those who have worked with her over the years and her family for their support.
Local businessman Scott Ewusiak received the Blue Wave Award, a further honor which Velegol says will be awarded for significant achievements in improving Follansbee.
Velegol noted Ewusiak’s efforts to reuse the town’s former industrial property as well as the former Follansbee Middle School and its Carlin Dodrill Field House, which has become a fitness center with specialist physiotherapy services.
The mayor thanked Ewusiak for preserving the name of the school mascot by renaming the facility the Bluewave Center.
Velegol added that when the town was flooded a few years ago, Ewusiak volunteered his services and equipment for the cleanup efforts.
Ewusiak will also serve as Grand Marshal of the Follansbee Community Days Parade.
The Mary Ruth Morris Humanitarian Award, named in honor of the late operator of the Anderson Children’s Home, was presented to Joe Mullenbach, owner of the Mullenbach Funeral Home.
Velegol noted that the longtime funeral director volunteered his time on the boards of directors overseeing Brooke Hills Park and the pantry of St. John’s Catholic Church, the Wellsburg Kiwanis Club, chairing his project among other things. Christmas lighting; and directing clean-up efforts along local roads and in other areas.
The mayor said he had recently learned that Mullenbach had quietly helped a fellow in need over the past year.
For his efforts in many veteran groups, Hartzel Brady received the Major Benjamin Follansbee Award created in honor of a late Army Special Forces Commander who served in Iraq whose grandfather was one of the four brothers who founded Follansbee Steel.
Velegol noted that Brady led the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Team, which presents military honors at funerals for area veterans and a rifle salute during Memorial Day and Veterans services. Day; and Follansbee American Legion Post 45 in addition to being a member of the Vietnam Veterans Support Group in Steubenville, Weirton Veterans of Foreign Wars and Pittsburgh Chapter of Disabled American Veterans.
Chris Manack-Stover was recognized for her efforts to raise funds for Community Days, including attending committee spaghetti dinners and a very successful shift auction; as well as his volunteer efforts with programs supported by Eastern Gateway Community College.
Manack-Stover spoke about his children who grew up in Follansbee and his happiness upon returning to the city in recent years, while noting the efforts of his fellow committee members and others.
“My success with this committee is due to the fact that we have a great team, great volunteers and a great community” she said.
Velegol and the committee continued a tradition of recognizing excellent local athletes by honoring Mara Pendergrast, a recent Brooke High School graduate who completed several years in the school district track and field program by winning the jumping event in height of girls at the state track and field championships, the bar at 5 feet 4 inches.
The mayor noted that Pendergrast had also been involved in cheering for nine years and planned to continue participating in track and field competitions while attending West LIberty University this fall.
Pendergrast thanked her teammates, coaches and family, including mother Carrie Ciccolella, for their support.
In recent years, the dinner has also included the presentation of the Lou Holtz Silver Spoon Award, created by the famous college football coach and native of Follansbee.
Holtz said that growing up in poverty he considered himself lucky because, through his Follansbee roots, he had learned the value of hard work, education and a commitment to excellence.
Velegol said it was appropriate that the award be given this year to all essential workers, from those in healthcare to those who have served the needs of citizens, during the pandemic.
He encouraged all of these workers to have their photos taken with the prize after dinner or at the municipal building afterwards.
Attendees also heard from West Virginia University’s 67th Mountaineer Mascot Colson Glover, who served as guest speaker.
Dressed in the deer hide buckskin and coon skin cap worn by many mountaineer mascots over the years, Glover described his experiences in the role since last year and explained how his musket, which is fired with black powder.
He said the appearance was one of more than 370 he has made since taking office last March, although many must have been made virtually because of COVID-19.
Glover noted that unlike many other college mascots, his face can be seen, and he and his predecessors see themselves as representatives of the state as well as the university.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])