Washington Twp. honored several residents with awards recently, including the mother of a teen killed in a triple-fatal automobile accident in Bellbrook several years ago.
In 2012, Jesse Whitaker was driving a truck carrying multiple passengers, including Julianna Hawk, 14, Skylar Kooken, 16, and Sophie Kerrigan, 17. Whitaker veered off Wagner Road in Sugarcreek Twp. and struck a tree. The three teens died at the scene, and two other passengers were injured.
Kerrigan’s mother, Jan Carpenter, did not want the memory of her daughter to fade, so she started Sophie’s Foundation in her honor. The township trustees recognized the organization with the Eclipse Integrity Award as selected by the Better Business Bureau.
The award honors a nonprofit that demonstrates superior commitment to ethics and integrity.
Sophie’s Foundation is dedicated to rescuing animals in need by placing them in loving homes, and the foundation’s dream has grown to include Sophie’s Companions for Veterans, a program that assists veterans by providing them with the special companionship of rescued animals.
Carpenter said the foundation is a tribute to her daughter, who had “a life-long passion for animals.”
Hannah’s Treasure Chest also received an Eclipse Integrity Award. The effort, founded in 2001, is a nonprofit that provides needy families with care packages of clothes, shoes, books, safety equipment, diapers and hygiene items distributed through a network of nearly 50 partner agencies in four counties and through its Giving Angels program.
Executive Director Sarah Williams noted how the agency has grown to serve more families.
Recent Centerville High School graduate Sanjana Yerubandi was presented with the 16th annual Community Service Award Monday night, it came with a $500 scholarship, presented along with a proclamation from Washington Township trustees honoring her service.
Trustee President Scott Paulson noted that it was the first time a scholarship has accompanied the award.
“The township is paying it forward by establishing a scholarship that is awarded annually to the Community Service Award winner,” Paulson said. “We want to not only recognize these outstanding students, but assist them on their path.”
While attending Centerville High School, Yerubandi logged more than 700 volunteer hours in a wide variety of settings – including two hospitals, a food bank, Environmental Club and the library.
“She also has mentored freshmen and tutored students in violin, chemistry and other subjects. Of particular note is Sanjana’s work with economically disadvantage populations,” Paulson said.
Paulson added that this year’s award winner has packed boxes of food for Second Harvest Food Bank in Springfield, participated in a fundraiser for St. Vincent DePaul and produced hand-made hats, scarves, ponchos, bags and blankets for homeless people in coordination with the Youth Group for Indian Culture.
The daughter of Venugopal and Sheela Yerubandi, Sanjana plans to study medical sciences at the University of Cincinnati.
Trustees established the Community Service Award to recognize student volunteers and in the process, draw attention to the importance of public service.
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