LAGRANGE – For the first time in its history, the LaGrange County Community Foundation presented two “Heart of Gold” awards at its annual meeting on Tuesday evening.
Dean Domer of Wolcottville and Shanon Statton, Mongo, were each named the foundation’s 2021 Heart of Gold recipients for their contributions to improving their communities for those who live there. The two winners received $ 1,000 which they can donate to the non-profit organization of their choice. The annual LCCF award was created to honor those who give of their time and energy by volunteering in their community to help others.
Domer was nominated for the annual Sherri Johnson Foundation Award from the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation. Domer dedicated his life to children and his community. According to Johnson, Domer “still works every day to help make Wolcottville a great place to raise a family.”
Johnson said Domer has always served his community, as a member of Wolcottville Lion’s Club for 46 years, 20 years on the Lakeland School Board and 20 years as a member of Wolcottville City Council. But perhaps his greatest gift is the 50+ years he has spent working with children through sport. Domer has spent over 30 years as a youth baseball coach and over fifty years as an official at various sporting events.
Domer was one of nine people nominated for this year’s award. As he stepped onto the podium to speak to the audience, Domer was slowly overwhelmed by his emotions.
“This award means a lot to me,” he said after the ceremony. “When I found out I was nominated I told my wife I was already a winner because I think every person nominated for it is a winner.”
Shanan Staton, the evening’s other Heart of Gold winner, was nominated by Cheri Bovee. Bovee told foundation staff that Staton volunteers and leads many initiatives in the communities of Mongo and Prairie Heights. She is also a founding organizer of LaGrange County Relay for Life, started the Mongo Food Pantry, and co-founded the Panther Pit Stop, an organization that provides teachers and staff at Prairie Heights with a space to have a snack, relax and unwind. gather. Staton volunteers at school, helps student council, in addition to volunteering for the Stroh Little League and the Veterans Day celebration at PHHS.
The Mongo community would be much worse without their heart, ”Bovee told the community foundation.
Staton said being recognized by the foundation for her work in the community touched her very much. She said her victory honors the lessons she learned from her parents about helping others.
Staton said she would donate her winnings to the Mongo Food Pantry.
Other nominees for this year’s award include Brett Bateman, Howe, nominated by Tony Bontrager for his work as an advocate in youth baseball. Bateman is also a member of the Lakeland School Board.
Melissa Bateman, Howe, was nominated by Desirae Bach for her supportive work at Lakeland High School and its staff. Bateman is the wife of Brett Bateman and also volunteers his time to help run the local Youth Baseball League.
Other nominees included were Linda Simmons, also of Howe, nominated by Karen Reinking. Simmons volunteers his time to run the nonprofit Paws and Claws Bookstore in Howe, which helps raise funds to support Ark Animal Rescue and Adoption.
Matt Gingerich of Shipshewana, the Shipshewana Chaplin Police Department, was appointed by Christine Yoder, member of the Shipshewana City Council, and by Shipshewana Marshal Tom Fitch. Gingerich was praised for his dedication to serving law enforcement officers by volunteering his time to provide them with advice when needed.
Jamelle Godlewski, LaGrange, was nominated by Deb Perrin. Godlewski is the co-founder of Reason 4 Hope, a local organization that provides children with school supplies, runs a youth summer camp, and teaches children about service and volunteering.
Laurie Couture, of Shipshewana, was nominated by Beth Sherman for her work as a key volunteer for the LaGrange County Chamber of Commerce. Sherman said Couture arranges room tours and is mobilizing to help with any local event.
Carolyn Hostetler, of LaGrange, was nominated by Rustin Krapfl. She serves her community by volunteering with the Brighton Chapel Women’s Department. Krapfl said she spends countless hours mentoring other people, launched a local mission to Ontario to care for families in that community and help start a local food distribution network that helps feed. families in difficulty.
Previous Heart of Gold recipients are Erica Cook, 2020; Richard Yoder, 2019; Larry Strayer, 2018; Kevin Lambright, 2017; Steve Sherck, 2016; Sue Keenan, 2015; Jack Miller, 2014; Randy Packer, 2013; Colton Strawser, 2012; Rhonda Bartlett, 2011; and Dave Clark, 2010.