The 66th Annual Boyertown Area Citizen of the Year Awards Gala honored community members for making a difference in Boyertown.
Held at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles on Sept. 26, the event was limited to 25 people. The citizen gala was recorded live and shared on the Boyertown Citizen of Year Facebook page and website.
Jim Davidheiser and Mark Malizzi, Citizen of the Year board members, said the Gala normally has 250 attendees, but this year thousands watched thanks to technology.
“This is just such a crazy year with COVID and all of the new parameters that we’ve had to deal with, we want to make sure that these extraordinary people get as many people to be able to see them and thank them,” said Malizzi.
As of Sept. 30, the video has been viewed more than 5,100 times.
“I think using technology we’re able to reach more people with this great event and hopefully that’ll open the door for even more great nominations for next year,” said Malizzi. “I think it’s spreading like wildfire and I think people are happy to see we’re taking the time to honor these winners. We hear so much negative right now so I think it’s nice to hear something positive.”
New this year, community members submitted nominations via the website and email. Winners were selected for doing extraordinary things that make Boyertown a better place, each outstanding in the category that they were chosen based not only by the number of nominations but also on merit and valor, said Malizzi.
“The winner is chosen based on the merit of what they have accomplished to make Boyertown a better place.”
When receiving their award, each winner was allowed up to 25 people in the building at a time.
“We were trying to follow the guidelines while still adding the personal touch by having each of the award winner’s family there,” said Malizzi.
“It is a celebration of people who are willing to step up and make a difference in their community despite what’s going on around us,” said Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach.
“If there is a time that we need to celebrate the good people in our community, this is it,” he continued. “It’s easy to look around and be completely stressed out … Tonight, I’d like us to realize that there are good people right here in the Boyertown community that are making a difference in the lives of people every day.”
Leinbach noted that these winners didn’t do what they did and are doing to be recognized.
“So why do we recognize these types of people? We do it to let people know that this is the standard, that these are the kinds of people that really make a difference in a community. Twenty, 30, 40 years from now, people may not remember me, they may not remember you, but the difference you made in a community will define the future.”
Rep. David Maloney, R-130th Dist., presented a House of Representatives Citation to each winner.
“Many things that we take for granted today are services that are supplied by volunteers or made better by their contributions. The very definition of the word explains that this is a person who willingly gives of themselves or resources without any compensation,” said Maloney. “These folks, as we know from generations in this community, give of themselves for the betterment of others.”
“Every one of these recipients is somebody very worthy and somebody who takes what they do very seriously,” he said.
Citizen of the Year
Lindsey Reigner Mason received the Citizen of the Year Award. At Boyertown Community Library, she is a former director, a member of the Board of Directors and was instrumental in the formation of the fundraising committee The Page Turners. She was also involved in the formation of Preston’s Pantry, as well as participates in Relay for Life.
“Lindsey just gives and gives,” said Davidheiser. “She is a remarkable young lady and we are very proud this evening to honor her.”
To the other winners, Mason said, “What an incredible group of ladies. It’s amazing. I’m all about the girl power with this because we have four amazing women who have done so much for the community. I am grateful for all three of you.”
Born and raised in Boyertown, she said, “Everybody knows that I am 100 percent a Boyertownian … I truly believe in my town and I believe that it is a special place.”
She shared inspiring quotes to live by, including work toward a solution, focus on what you can control, you are responsible for your own reactions, work hard, do something you love, you matter, life is a journey, and stay gold, to name a few.
“Stay gold, be well and always be kind,” said Mason.
Outstanding First Responder
Amy Guldin of Boyertown Community Ambulance received the Outstanding First Responder Award.
“What a privilege and honor it is to be among these amazing women tonight,” said Guldin. “I feel very humbled to be here. There are so many of my colleagues that deserve this award so I am very humbled to accept this.”
Thanking those who nominated her, Guldin said, “This is a very special moment.”
Her involvement with Boyertown Ambulance began through a youth explorer program. After high school, she became an EMT. She paid it forward as a youth advisor.
“I’ve seen a lot but not everything. The bad things my eyes see I wish on no one. The good things I cherish. I hope through the years I’ve made a small impact on someone’s life. I work with some amazing people. EMS is a knitted family of misfits and I wouldn’t trade this profession for anything,” said Guldin.
Ursula Gamler, a fourth-grade teacher at Gilbertsville Elementary, received the Outstanding Mentor Award. In addition to teaching at Boyertown Area School District for 27 years, she has been volunteering on the Boyertown Area Community Youth Aid Panel (a diversionary program for first-time juvenile offenders) for 17 years, 15 of those years as chairperson.
“Her commitment to the program through nearly two decades, in addition to her 27 years as a teacher, shows and truly exhibits her extraordinary overall commitment to the youth of our community. She continues day in and day out to make an immeasurable difference in the future of the greater Boyertown region and we thank her for that,” said Davidheiser.
In 2019, the Berks County Community Youth Aid Panel Program received 293 referrals from participating police departments. Generally, 90 percent of participants successfully complete the program, of which about 95 percent have no further contact with the Berks County Juvenile Probation Office, said Gamler.
“I do believe this program works and it is worthwhile,” she said.
Quoting the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” Gamler said, “Boyertown is our village. The children at our schools, the children that come through this program, are the ones that I get to mentor and I am thankful for the opportunity. Thank you very much for this honor.”
Congratulating her fellow award recipients, Gamler said, “The town and world is a much better place because of you. I am truly honored to stand among you.”
Outstanding High School Senior
Recent Boyertown Area Senior High School graduate Mariellen Kehler, known by her friends as “Mayor Mellon,” received Outstanding High School Senior. She volunteers in the community, including at the State Theatre, Boyertown Historical Society, Colebrookdale Railroad, ASPCA, Building a Better Boyertown, Berks-Mont Business Association, ROTC, Salvation Army, 4-H and Boyertown Community Ambulance, to name a few. She is currently earning her EMT certification.
“She does have amazing leadership skills. She has the passion to accomplish almost anything. What makes it outstanding is she’s a high school senior who just graduated,” said Davidheiser.
Thanking those who nominated her, Kehler said, “It’s been just a little over five years since I started getting involved in the community and that was the best decision of my school career.”
She thanked her Mom for encouraging her to volunteer, “Boyertown is such a great place to grow up. The community is always there for you… When the community comes together it really creates a unified feeling.”
The Special Recognition Award was presented to Preston’s Pantry Project, named in memory of Preston Dray, who organized a food drive for the Boyertown Area Multi-Service pantry in May 2018.
“Onlookers were indeed inspired as an 8-year-old taught an entire community a lesson on charity and caring for others, but at a devastating blow to the community Preston’s life was cut short in a flash flood incident along with his pregnant mother Pamela Vera Snyder and unborn sister Evelynn ... many remember that sad day, July 11, 2019,” said Davidheiser.
In memory of Preston, a group of volunteers formed Preston’s Pantry Project to carry on Preston’s legacy and support the needs of the Multi-Service pantry, he said.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable what has been accomplished by Preston’s Pantry Project. The results have been nothing less than spectacular,” said Davidheiser.
“The mission of Preston’s Pantry is to help those who are forced with food insecurities, essentially to make sure that no one goes hungry,” said Joshua Knarr, speaking on behalf of the pantry. “It holds a special place in my heart as it honors the memory of my family, Pamela, Preston and Evelynn. I’d like to thank the community for all their ongoing support and donations which makes all this possible.”
Proceeds from ticket sales will be split between Preston’s Pantry and the Boyertown Community Library.
Davidheiser expressed “a very special thank you” to the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles for once again allowing the Gala to be held there, also thanking this year’s event sponsors.
Nominations begin in November for the next Citizen of the Year Awards. For more information, go to the awards Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/boyertowncitizenoftheyear/.