Winners of the 67th Boyertown Citizen of the Year Awards have been announced with the Citizen of the Year Award going to Kim Slonaker.
Also, First Responder of the Year has been awarded to Andrew Duncan; Mentor of the Year is Donnie Ellixson, Senior Student of the Year Co-Winners are Jake Dawson and Kelsey Brinckman, and the Special Recognition Award goes to the Optimist Club of Boyertown.
“The purpose of the Citizen of the Year Awards is to honor and recognize people that are contributing to our community in big ways,” said Lindsey Mason of the Citizen of the Year board. “This year's winners are phenomenal additions to the decades of Citizen of the Year winners. We are very proud of them and we are so appreciative of the work they have done for our community. We are very excited to honor them!”
The Citizen of the Year Board — comprised of past Citizen of the Year winners — accepted nominations from Dec. 1 to Jan. 22 for Citizen of the Year, Mentor of the Year, First Responder of the Year, Student of the Year, and Special Recognition which is usually presented to an organization that has done a lot for the community.
“There is a different number for each category, but we have quite a bit for each category. It is very competitive and it is a very tough decision,” said Mason.
Last year’s awards gala was posted until September 2020 and awards were presented to winners during a limited gathering, socially distanced, at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, as well as virtually via Facebook LIVE. The committee is considering doing something similar for the 67th Gala.
“As of right now, we are planning on having a gala,” said Mason. “It will also be streamed on Facebook LIVE for all to see. If we don't have the gala, we will still be streaming it. Everything is dependent upon COVID.”
Citizen of the Year — Kim Slonaker
Slonaker currently works part-time for Abilities in Motion, working with a special young woman who is diagnosed with autism and down syndrome.
Previously, she worked at Boyertown YMCA for 32 years in a variety of positions, starting as a part-time program coordinator and executive director her last five years. While executive director, she coordinated collaboration with the United Way of the Boyertown Area, Boyertown Area Multi-Service, and the Borough of Boyertown securing grants for improvements of the Boyertown Community Pool. She also was the organizer for the Annual Dutch Auction for over 20 years.
Always involved with many local organizations, she was on many committees and volunteered at Saint Columbkill Church, served on the board of the Boyertown Community Ambulance Service as treasurer, and is a member of the Human Concerns Ministry, an organization that collaborates with community partners. She also volunteered with Boyertown Little League Baseball, the Boyertown Soccer Club, the Boyertown swim team as an official and swim parent volunteer, and also with the Optimist Club of Boyertown when her husband was the coordinator of the Biddy Basketball program.
First Responder of the Year — Andrew Duncan
Having served 18 years with the company, Duncan has been the Chief of Gilbertsville Fire and Rescue for more than a year. Amid the pandemic, he initiated new training procedures, secured appropriate PPE and converted meetings to Zoom. He encouraged his crew to bring new ideas to the company, which inspired the creation and implementation of both a Junior and Explorer Fire Fighting program. He began a rotation of the Chief’s vehicle with his line officers, giving them leadership experience. He worked to secure funding to enable the construction of a new firehouse in 2021 and support fire and rescue operations in the future. He has helped to organize and implement safe fundraising ventures since the main source of funding (Bingo) had to close during the pandemic. Also he recently coordinated efforts to help a firefighter family recover after losing their home to a fire.
Mentor of the Year — Donnie Ellixson Jr.
Ellixson opened his martial arts studio, Ellixson’s Tae Kwon Do Academy in Boyertown in 1994, at age 19. As a champion of the martial arts, he finds pride in educating youth and adult community members on fitness, personal defense and giving them tools to be the best they can be at life. He became involved in The Project Action Foundation (1995-2001), which provided scholarships to “at risk” youth in the community. He also founded and executed Ellixson’s Team Elite Golf Outing (1999-2017), as well as chaired many other fundraisers with the proceeds enabling his students to compete nationally and regionally.
As part of his students’ requirements to achieve Black Belt, they must complete 25 hours of community service and 20 random acts of kindness for Ellixson’s Pay It Forward Project. Each year the project is responsible for over 250 hours of community service and over 400 random acts of kindness in and around the Boyertown community. With some grant assistance from Building a Better Boyertown and volunteers from the project, he organized and executed the installation of the 150th Boyertown Gardens in 2016 and received The Safe Clean & Green Award as part of Pennsylvania’s Downtown Center’s Anniversary Gala in Harrisburg.
As a motivational speaker, Ellixson shares with the youth that a positive, focused, drug-free mind can accomplish anything. He volunteers his time life-coaching to those that have fallen on hard times or have succumbed to substance abuse. He also donates his time with youth groups, scout troops, day care centers, and various churches to teach martial arts for free. He has run Personal Safety Courses for Women donating all proceeds to Safe Berks.
Senior Student of the Year — Jake Dawson and Kelsey Brinckman
As a lifelong Boy Scout having earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 2019, Dawson takes pride in mentoring younger scouts, one of his favorite parts of the Boy Scout program. Described as a kid with integrity, kindness, extreme positivity and willingness to take care of his community, he also volunteers at the Boyertown Community Library and with In Ian’s Boots. He is a member of the Boyertown Area High School Marching Band. After working as an intern for the BASH IT department this year and having achieved a perfect score on the ACT, he plans to attend an accredited Polytech school as a computer science major next year.
A member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, and Health Occupations Students of America, Brinckman attends Berks Career and Technology Center for Sports Medicine and Boyertown Area Senior High. For her senior project, she collected over 700 pounds of pet food and other supplies for the Berks County Animal Rescue League. After graduation in 2021, she will be attending Alvernia University for Occupational Therapy.
Very involved in drag racing, where she has won two Division 1 Championships along with many other races and distinctions, she is also a mentor to many young racers who are just getting started and need guidance in the sport.
Special Recognition Award — Optimist Club of Boyertown
Founded on March 21, 1954, the club — operated completely by adults in the Boyertown community — currently serves over 1,750 children in the Boyertown Area, and provides opportunities to all children to participate in recreational athletic programs including basketball (boys and girls), cheerleading, football, lacrosse (boys and girls), and softball. The guiding principles aim to instill lessons in youth: Optimism, Perseverance, Teamwork, Integrity, Maturity, Intellect, Sportsmanship, Trust.