Meet our 2020 community champions

Last month, WeTHRIVE!℠ held its first-ever Facebook Live event to announce the winners of the 2020 WeTHRIVE! Community Champion Awards. (If you missed it, you can view the 10-minute video here.)

WeTHRIVE! Community Champions are nominated by their peers. Congratulations to the 2020 nominees: Liz Aumann, Betty Bollas, Bob Brown, Mark Docter, Carole Donnellon, Matthew Gordon, Annie Hess, Debbie Kindle, Pam McComas, Shirley Mesley, Cheryl Sieve, Donna Wiggins, and the Zander Family.

Now let’s meet our winners!

three girls with parents outside
Zander Family of Reading

The 2020 WeTHRIVE! Champion for Family Engagement is the Zander family of Reading. Chris and Mary Zander make WeTHRIVE! in Reading a family activity with daughters Lorena (12), Grace (9), and Dorothy (3).

The girls join their parents at WeTHRIVE! team meetings, visit the Reading Farmer’s Market every week during the season, and participate in the summer Park Passport program. Chris says they want to start a community garden this year.

Last year, Chris worked with Ohio State University Extension-Hamilton County (a WeTHRIVE! partner) to bring the Eating Smart, Being Active series of cooking and nutrition classes to the Reading branch library. The pandemic interrupted the classes, but it didn’t stop the Zanders from helping out their community.

With the Reading Municipal Building shut down because of COVID, Mary and Chris worried that residents wouldn’t know how to get absentee ballot applications or know where to register to vote. “The girls helped Mary make some posters,” Chris said. “We placed them with absentee ballot and voter registration paperwork outside the municipal building.”

Chris says his family is just a small part of WeTHRIVE! in Reading, noting the time and effort put in by team members like Donna Wiggins and Sabrina Smith. He encourages other residents to get involved by attending Reading WeTHRIVE! team meetings and sharing their ideas.

“We were happy to have received the award, but certainly didn’t do things expecting to be recognized,” Chris said. “We’re just doing what we do.”

picture of Carole Donnellon
Carole Donnellon, Amberley Village

The 2020 WeTHRIVE! Champion for Leadership & Initiative is Amberley Village resident Carole Donnellon.

Carole brought together a diverse group of residents and representatives from village council and community organizations to form a new health and wellness team for WeTHRIVE! in Amberley.

She also fostered the WeTHRIVE! team’s partnership with Mayerson JCC to bring free outdoor yoga classes to Amberley Green and launched the new WeTHRIVE! Amberley Village Facebook group.

“We were on a big roll last year,” Carole said. “In January and February, we had all these plans … Then bam, COVID shut it all down. So we just did our best to plow through.”

Carole led an effort to make the new health and wellness team an official part of the village structure. “We’ll be an advisory group to village council on health and wellness issues,” she said. “This will also help us attract more members.”

This year, her team plans to collaborate with the neighboring WeTHRIVE! communities of Deer Park and Golf Manor. They also hope to do more outdoor programs. “Amberley has so many spaces where people can gather outdoors,” Carole said. “We want to encourage people to get outside, because so many are feeling isolated now.”

picture of Betty Bollas with black and white goats
Betty Bollas, Mt. Healthy

The 2020 WeTHRIVE! Champion for Community Spirit is Betty Bollas, a resident of Mt. Healthy. She and her husband, Bob, own Fibonacci Brewing Company and urban farm in Mt. Healthy.

Betty has been a member of the WeTHRIVE! Mt. Healthy team for the past five years. She started a farmer’s market at Fibonacci in 2019.

Last year, Betty completed the process of getting the market approved to accept SNAP benefits and to participate in the Produce Perks program. “That was one of our big successes in 2020,” she said. “The other was keeping the market running, and running safely through COVID. We had a lot of returning vendors and even some new vendors.”

Betty was surprised and honored to win the Champion award. “To me, it’s something that’s very close to my heart,” she said. “I choose to live in this community, to be a part of it, to work toward positive change. And I feel like the award recognizes this.”

headshot of Mark Docter
Mark Docter, Winton Woods City Schools

The 2020 WeTHRIVE! Champion for Health Equity is Mark Docter, director of dining services in the department of child nutrition at Winton Woods City Schools (WWCS).

Mark finds creative ways to ensure that all the district’s students and families have access to healthy food, including an award-winning school breakfast program, the Nutrition is the Mission food bus, and the Warrior Pantry Outreach (WPO).

“The food bus acknowledges the lack of transportation some of our families struggle with, while the food pantry acknowledges that both students and family members as a whole often need nutritious meals as well,” Mark said. The WPO serves an average of 170 families each month.

Mark also created Kids in the Kitchens (KIK), a program for students with significant special needs. “KIK is an engaging and interactive way for kids to learn basic kitchen skills and provides an opportunity for me and my staff to teach children,” Mark said.

Mark is proud of his department’s efforts to increase food security in the community. “This is especially true because of all the changes and challenges associated with COVID-19 that we needed to address.”

Since March 2020, Mark and his staff have distributed 308,723 breakfasts; 308,054 lunches; and 22,890 dinners out-of-school due to the pandemic.

“Personally, it’s gratifying that I am able to provide students and families with a solid foundation of healthy meals to ensure that they thrive personally and academically,” Mark said. “As a child, I grew up experiencing food insecurity and am well aware of how this can negatively impact a student’s academic performance and overall well-being.”

Jenna and Matthew Gordon smiling
Matthew Gordon, Lockland

The 2020 WeTHRIVE! Champion for Service to the Community is Matthew Gordon of Lockland (pictured at left with his wife, Jenna).

Matthew was nominated for this award for the time and effort he spends giving back to his community.

On Wednesdays in Lockland, you’re likely to find Matthew and Jenna handing out snacks to students walking home from school. They do this as a ministry of Lockland Church of the Nazarene.

Matthew is also on the board of directors at the Metonoia Center, a new non-profit ministry in Lockland. “Its focus is to provide resources, education and tools to help people in poverty find their way out,” Matthew said. “We do this by providing ESL classes, computer literacy class, and personal finance classes, just to name a few. The Metanoia Center is also working on starting a medical clinic and a laundromat.”

Matthew is humbled to be chosen as a WeTHRIVE! champion. “There are so many people who do more than me serving the community who often go unrecognized,” he said. “I feel very grateful for this award and I will try my best to live up to this honor!”