From Duane Gordon
Nancy Bender of Butler County has been selected as the Middletown area’s third annual Steel Magnolia Award honoree, the Middletown Community Foundation has announced.
The awards honor women who have overcome obstacles to positively impact the community. The program is administered by the Middletown Community Foundation and funded by the AK Steel Foundation.
Born into silence, Bender began using hearing aids at the age of 5. Even then, she had difficulty understanding words aurally and became dependent on lip-reading. She studied to become a registered nurse and was valedictorian of her class at Sinclair College. After graduation, she was instrumental in incorporating medical sign language into Sinclair’s curriculum, one of just three such programs in the state. She worked in Los Angeles, where her hospital named her Nurse of the Year in 1986. She has suffered from hypothyroidism, tumors, thyroid cancer, epilepsy, and radiation poisoning, illnesses that have prompted her to give up her nursing career. Locally, her love of animals moved her to lead the campaign to pass a levy to build a new animal shelter for the Animal Friends Humane Society in Butler County, even standing outside a polling place on election day in the rain wearing a Scooby Doo costume. The Fairfield Township resident who lives between Hamilton and Monroe serves as editor of the shelter’s newsletter and heads seminars to train staff and volunteers to cope with caregiver burn-out.
“Recently, Nancy’s persistence to bring an 8.4 ton memorial rock to the shelter from Trenton was rewarded with an extremely difficult and dangerous move by gentlemen with forklifts and a flatbed truck,” recalled her nominator, Carolyn Kramer of Middletown.
Each recipient is able to designate an eligible charity of her choice to receive a $1,000 donation in honor of her selection. Bender chose Animal Friends Humane Society’s PetMobile Adoption Program for homeless animals.
The Steel Magnolia Award honors women of all ages who face personal adversity and have shown exceptional strength, courage, compassion and leadership through their work in support of their communities. Nominations by essay were solicited over the summer from the public in each of the 10 communities where AK Steel operates a facility. Volunteer judges from the various communities reviewed the essays of those who agreed to be considered for the award, and no more than one honoree in each community was selected based on the judges’ combined scores.
"Despite personal challenges, each of the award recipients has inspired those around her and continues to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others," said AK Steel Chairman, President and CEO James L. Wainscott. "Through the company's foundation, we are proud to sponsor the Steel Magnolia Awards."
Middletown Community Foundation Executive Director T. Duane Gordon said that the award’s judges had a very difficult decision in selecting this year’s honorees.
“There were so many deserving and dedicated women having such tremendous impacts on their communities that I know they had a hard time choosing the allowed number of recipients,” he explained.
Nominees were required to live in the vicinity of an AK Steel facility. Nominators and nominees did not have to be associated in any way with employees of AK Steel.
Other honorees were:
Kathy Rowan Brantley of Zanesville
Vicki Laudick of Coshocton
Amy Monteleone of Butler, Pa.
Janet Reid of Cincinnati
Jayne Wangler of Rockport, Ind.