PIQUA — The Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce’s popular Order of George award honored a recipient known for his work enriching the lives of local youth Thursday evening, surprising a longtime volunteer in the community and leader in Key Club.
“This person has done things for two different age groups. There was an older age group, or adult as I would say, and then there was the younger age group,” Jim Hemmert, 2011 Order of George recipient, said during the chamber’s annual meeting and awards ceremony.
Hemmert spoke of Mark Wion, noted for his leadership in Key Club — a service organization for students sponsored by the Piqua Kiwanis Club — along with his other volunteerism.
Wion was honored for much of his work with the local youth as well as for volunteering for a number of organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Wion is also active with Grace Methodist Church. Hemmert also noted Wion’s 20 years of participation with the Jaycees.
“To hold a Science Olympiad, you have to secure sites at Piqua High School, Piqua Junior High, Upper Valley Career Center, and Edison State Community College. You have to get judges, ribbons, trophies, food, and monitor the flow of activities throughout the day,” Hemmert said. “Tonight’s nominee was there for 17 years.
“You can’t have a football game or band festival without a concession stand,” Hemmert went on to say. “(He) was the one who probably served you your Coke. He was behind the counter.
“You can’t have youth soccer without a coach, board member, and referee. He was there for 22 years.
“You can’t have Peewee baseball without a coach and umpire. He was there for six years.
“You can’t have a Sunday school without a teacher. He was at the front of the room teaching.”
Wion is also a champion of safety, being in charge of the Young Children’s Priority One Committee, which helps provide infant car seats to mothers who do not have one. He also helped bring local law enforcement and other agencies together for bike rodeos to teach bike safety.
Hemmert also referenced “a serious, life-changing fall” from which Wion suffered and recovered. One of Wion’s nomination letters said that Wion never felt like a victim after that fall, even during months of hospital visits and rehabilitation. Wion’s attitude made doctors and nurses want him as their patient, the letter said.
“After Mark was dismissed from the hospital and visited his neurosurgeon’s office for a follow-up visit, the doctor said, ‘You’re not supposed to be walking,’” Hemmert said.
“I want to thank you for this,” Wion said after receiving the Order of George Award along with a standing ovation.
Wion recalled his time with Hemmert in the Jaycees, working on projects together. “Jim, you’re the reason I’m here,” Wion said.
Wion also recognized his wife, Yvonne, who, with the help of Gretchen Roeth of the YWCA, helped make sure Wion attended the annual meeting by telling him that the Key Club was going to get a special award. When they got there and the event’s program did not mention an award for the club, they said that it must have been an accident.
“It’s been real fun working with the kids,” Wion said. “I greatly appreciate this.”
Cheryl Stiefel Francis remembered
The night did not pass without recognizing an absence in the room felt by many as the chamber honored longtime volunteer and the first executive director of the Miami County Foundation Cheryl Stiefel-Francis, who passed away Sunday.
“It has been a difficult week for all of us,” Chamber President Scott Miller said. “Cheryl was a good friend, a positive voice, and a huge community supporter.”
The chamber honored Stiefel-Francis posthumously with the Chamber Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding volunteers in the community.
Stiefel-Francis served as the executive director of the Piqua Area United Way for over five years before being selected in 2002 as the charter executive director of the Miami County Foundation.
“Her commitment and dedication to the Piqua community and various organizations is exemplary. There isn’t a person in this room that has not been touched in some positive way by our award winner,” Miller said. “She always had an optimistic outlook on life, a good word to share, and an eternal ‘God bless’ at the end of a conversation or correspondence.”
She was also a member of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce for over 25 years, serving on a number of committees and as chamber president in 2000. As a Piqua Rotarian for many years, she served as its first female president. She became a member of the YWCA Piqua in 1980 and served on many committees.
Stiefel-Francis also served on committees and boards for a number of other community events and organizations. Additionally, she volunteered for Meals on Wheels, the Rehabilitation Center for Neurological Development, and the Piqua Salvation Army Corps.
Lorna Swisher, Mainstreet Piqua executive director and Stiefel-Francis’ longtime friend, accepted the award on Stiefel-Francis’ behalf.
The chamber did not stop there in honoring Stiefel-Francis, as Stephanie Gunter, the 2018 chairperson of the board, announced a new award in her name.
“We are proud to be announcing a new award for 2018: the Cheryl Stiefel-Francis Award for Non-Profit Excellence,” Gunter said. “This award is in honor of the work that Cheryl did personally and through the Miami County Foundation to assist non-profit organizations.”
The first award will be presented at next year’s annual meeting.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336