The LaGrange County Community Foundation named Larry Strayer of LaGrange the recipient of the 2018 Heart of Gold award Saturday, Nov. 3.
Since 2010, the Community Foundation has honored an individual in the county who goes above and beyond the call and embraces a commitment to service.
Community Foundation Board of Directors Jordi Disler and Tony Bontrager made the surprise announcement at the breakfast celebration honoring all 2018 nominees at the Shipshewana Event Center.
Strayer, 84, continues to serve the LaGrange County community and has devoted much of his life to helping others behind the scenes.
A farmer for more than 30 years, Strayer served two years in the US Army during the Korean Conflict. He volunteers much of his time at his church, Plato United Methodist Church, and provides transportation for people who are homebound. A former Bloomfield Township Trustee, Strayer also served on the original building committee for Parkside Elementary School in LaGrange.
Strayer has helped build churches, parsonages and houses in LaGrange County and in other states. For many of those building projects, Strayer used his vacation time to complete the work.
In addition, Strayer has helped build handicap ramps, repair roofs and plumbing for people in need, and continues to grow produce for the Clothes and Food Basket of LaGrange County. Rochelle Olds of LaGrange nominated Strayer and said, “He’s always looking for ways to help others.”
The Community Foundation received nine nominations for the ninth annual award. Among the 2018 nominees are individuals who helped launch Relay for Life in LaGrange County, created an animal shelter, served as youth mentors, provided transportation to Shriner’s Hospital, counseled seniors on Medicare and insurance benefits, helped provide shelter for homeless families and brought new services to the senior community.
“Each one of you are making a difference in LaGrange County and for that we thank you,” Disler said. “We live in a special, caring and hardworking community and because of people like you, LaGrange County is a great place to call home,” she added.
The 2018 Heart of Gold nominees include: Cheri Perkins, LaGrange; Gerald Yoder, LaGrange; Jamelle Godlewski, LaGrange; Jay Smith, LaGrange; Margaret Malone, Howe; Rustin Krapfl, Orland; Shanan Staton, Mongo; and Trudy Manderfeld, Shipshewana.
Meet the nominees
Cheri Perkins: As the Executive Director of the Council on Aging, she is always going above and beyond for the senior community. She has brought new services to the community including the LaGrange County Area Transit program; she plans the senior activities at the Council on Aging and helped the organization move to a new building. She is the captain of the ship that keeps the Council on Aging afloat.
Gerald Yoder: Gerald Yoder joined Youth for Christ of Northern Indiana in 2004. Currently, he leads the Middle School Campus Life program at Westview Jr.- Sr. High School. He has a heart and passion for the next generation and has helped many teens navigate their youth as seek to find their purpose.
Jamelle Godlewski: A former teacher, Jamelle has dedicated her life to trying to reach out to youth in the community. Through her organization, Reason 4 Hope, she provides programs in local schools that address bullying, depression and suicide prevention.
Jay Smith: A retired educator, Jay Smith transports patients to Shriner’s Hospital, volunteers at the Clothes and Food Basket of LaGrange County, serves with Habitat for Humanity and assists with the Lighthouse Ministry. He will continue his role as scorekeeper for the Lakeland basketball program, a position where he’s served for more than 55 years.
Margaret Malone: Margaret pioneered Ark Animal Rescue and Adoption Center and assisted with the creation of the Howe Community Association. She is currently working on her most recent project – The Farm – which will provide support to area foster children through therapeutic animals.
Rustin Krapfl: Active in Feed My Starving Children, Rustin also serves at the Chaplain of the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department, President of the LaGrange Area Ministerial Association, President of LaGrange Communities Youth Centers and President of Agape Missions of LaGrange County.
Shanan Staton: A resident of Mongo, Shanan goes above and beyond for her small community. She serves with the Mongo Community Development Association and is an active supporter of events at Prairie Heights Community Schools. She helped launch Relay for Life in LaGrange County more than 11 years, and has been a part of raising more than $1 million to help support cancer research. Additionally, Shanan volunteers at Mongo United Methodist Church, helping organization activities for children and youth.
Trudy Manderfeld: As a SHIP Counselor, Trudy helps seniors navigate Medicare and understand their insurance benefits. She is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Color Guard and a board member of the LaGrange County Health Department and LaGrange County Council on Aging.