First ever televised 25th Annual Celebration of Leadership spotlights community servant leaders

Leadership Everyone’s Celebration of Leadership Awards (COL) – title sponsored by Fifth Third Bank – held their annual event on WNIN this year to celebrate inspiring examples of servant leadership by individuals, projects and organizations. The event, originally scheduled in March, was postponed due to the Covid-19 challenge. Leadership Everyone, partnering with WNIN, chose to adapt to the challenge by broadcasting the event.

Leadership Everyone’s Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Miller Pease, believes, “This year our celebration could not have been more important to lift the hopes and the spirits of our community. For 25 years, Celebration of Leadership has brought together servant leaders of every age, race, ethnicity, religion, and background. We have recognized and celebrated and felt inspired by the amazing work that our nominees have accomplished. Even though we could not meet in person, the ability to have our celebration on WNIN has brought our effort to a new and even more inclusive level. Rather than reaching just 1700 people in attendance, the celebration was available to thousands of people to watch, to celebrate and to embrace the LE mission-Diverse Servant Leaders Transforming Our Community.”

At this year’s televised 25th Annual Celebration of Leadership, hundreds of nominees were recognized and 44 awards were presented to recipients. All demonstrated outstanding selfless community service in the following categories: Arts; Community & Neighborhood; Environment; Government, Public Service, & Environment; and Health & Social Service.

The Celebration of Leadership will be reaired on WNIN on Sunday, 7/5 at 4:00pm and Wednesday, 7/8 at 11:00pm.



Individual – Division Recipient – Philip Smith

Officer Philip Smith currently serves as the Special Projects Coordinator with the Evansville Police Department. Officer Smith schedules the community interactions for the department’s special projects. Officer Smith strongly believes in the integration of community. He is a true servant leader that takes a smile and positive vibe everywhere he goes. His personality and good humor has helped many citizens in Evansville build trust in the EPD.

Project/Program – Division Recipient – BRIDGE

BRIDGE is and acronym for Building Respect & Integrity in Diverse Greater Evansville and that is exactlly what they have done. Working with EVPL, they conducted a series of presentations called Understanding Privilege and Bias, that investigated White Privilege. BRIDGE brought these difficult conversations to a safe place in order to foster positive relationships, understanding, and dialogue across the diverse Evansville community.

Business/Organization – Division Recipient – United Caring Services

United Caring Services is a nonprofit homeless shelter and services agency who provides a much needed resource for our homeless population, through their 6 stabilization services. Their mission is to provide values-based, low barrier, sustainable, and high- quality homeless shelters, services, and solutions for people in need.


The Spirit Award – Jana Green and Dexter

Jana has a love for people and dogs. She and Dexter have been the guiding force in implementing the Therapy Dog Program at The Women’s Hospital. She continues to spread awareness about the healing qualities of dogs to ensure that all patients feel comfortable during their stay. Her goal is to educate through providing compassionate Therapy Dog interactions that are a positive experience for patient and dog.

Sam Featherstone Youth Award – Individual – Xavier Davidson

Xavier is kind and helps others in need no matter who they may be. His core belief is that everyone is different and important. There is not a better example of this principle than when he went out of his way to comfort a boy with Tourette’s Syndrome when he had been subjected to bullying. He has been there for any child he has seen suffering from depression and anxiety, as well as those with disabilities. Xavier even encourages others to pick up litter. No matter who you are, Xavier will be your ally.

Sam Featherstone Youth Award – Individual – Noah Nellis

Noah is a west side entrepreneur and a student at Reitz High School. He began Nellis Lawn Care Service a couple of years ago. His business now reaches all over the Tri-State and so does his desire to help the community. Noah also contacted the 911 Gives Hope Board about helping with their annual toy drive–he made an incredible donation of toys and plans on helping every year. He is a true future leader who is making a difference in his community one lawn at a time.

Sam Featherstone Youth Award – Individual – Blake Podewils

Blake Podwils (POD-wells) is not.a typical eighth grader–he’s a hard working philanthropist. Tasked with a project at school to help improve the community, he discovered how many barriers can be overcome by improving literacy levels. He went above and beyond expectations when he started a GoFundMe account to raise money to purchase items on The Literacy Center’s wish list. He even put them together himself. He is an invaluable community leader who continues to stay involved in his mission.

Sam Featherstone Youth Award – Project/Program – Piggies for Presents

Piggies for Presents began in 2018 with first grader Orhan (or-hahn) Sarol (ryhmes with Carol), who wanted to use money from his piggy bank to buy toys for kids in our community. He invited his classmates to join him, then it grew to the class below him. Together, they bought around 220 toys that were donated to Young and Established’s Toy Drive. Each year the project grows and impacts more local children.

Sportsmanship Award – Evansville Junior Football League Colts

EJFL enables disabled children to achieve their dream of playing football. They were approached by the family of Andrew Marsh, a special needs child who wanted to join. His dream became a reality. Andrew was an honorary captain for the team, assisted with practice, and even scored a touchdown. It inspired our community by showing that if kids are able to see through perceived differences, anyone can.

Sportsmanship Award – Reitz Memorial High School Football Team

Reitz Memorial Football coaches, players and student managers have created a tremendous team culture of servant leadership. Selflessness, genuine concern for others, the importance of family, brotherhood, and love for one another is best represented by the team’s connection with freshman Sam Schulz who battles epidermylosis bullosa and team videographer Aaron Coomer who lives with cerebral palsy.

Bryce Jordan Servant Leader Award – “Fresh Fruit Friday & Power Protein Peanutbutter”

This program was developed and started this past summer by 16-year-olds Amanda Deutsch and Emily English. They went on a trip to Heifer International Ranch to learn about food insecurity and were inspired to help Fulton Square Boys & Girls Club with supplying take-home food bags for weekends with fresh fruit and jars of peanut butter, since the weekend food backpack program is not available during the summer.

Susan Kelley Jordan Courage Award – Summer El-Khodary

Summer is a senior at the University of Evansville and an advocate for women who wear hijabs and headscarves. She shares the stories of amazing women who break barriers all over the world proudly with their hijabs on! Summer has gone above and beyond by planning events for the Evansville community to spread the message of diversity, including hosting a series of panels on diversity and the experiences of others.

Lt. Col. Reginald Gibson Award – Steve Reffett

Steve dedicates a huge part of his life to students. When he graduated from Bosse High School he went on to serve in the Navy. After his time in the military, Steve pursued his career path and became a partner at an accounting firm. Today, he stays active by volunteering his time as a tutor, substitute teacher, and with various community boards. He talks to students about their future goals, helps them find jobs, and takes them on college visits. Steve is forever giving of his time and energy to help our inner city kids as well as all people who need a positive role model.

Willie Effie Thomas Diversity Award – cMoe’s Children’s March on Evansville

The Children’s March on Evansville was created as a platform to amplify the voices of youth on social justice issues. A rally is held before the march where students share their hopes that embody the slogan, “Love, Not Hate,” and art supplies are provided in order to make signs to help promote individual messages of equality. Because of the success of the march, cMoe is the first organization in the state to be granted access into the Cultural Competency Learning Institute, which aims to generate organizational change in the arenas of equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.

Shirley James “Greening the Community” Award – Morton Solar & Electric

Morton Solar & Electric is more than just the oldest solar company in Indiana. In 2019, Morton Solar became the first Certified B Corporation in Southern Indiana. Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit, driving a global movement using business as a force for good. Morton Solar, among other things, donates solar arrays to organizations like CAPE, Mickey’s Kingdom, and Howell Wetlands to educate and provide energy. In one year alone, Morton was able to offset over 9 million lbs of CO2.

Nancy Sieben Koehler Sustainability Award – Kirsten Wagmeister for HeartSaver Kirsten is the chair of HeartSaver, an all-volunteer organization that raises money to place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in area churches, schools, community centers, nonprofit organizations, and first responder vehicles. Under her leadership, HeartSaver has raised funds to distribute 400 AEDs throughout the Tri-State area. At least eight lives have been saved by AEDs placed through HeartSaver.

Sara B. Davies Award – Florintine Dawn

Through storytelling, singing, and dancing, Florintine Dawn delivered a message celebrating what it means to be different. Dawn’s message of inclusion, despite her many personal obstacles and threats, succeeded in amplifying a message sorely needed in most communities.

Darrell Ragland Award – DeAndre Wilson

DeAndre is that guy you see rolling the “Cancer Sucks” tire around town. Through the Keep Rolling Campaign and in memory of his father, he is collaborating with the community on a documentary while cross-promoting organizations. With virtually no budget, DeAndre is finding new partners, making new collaborative relationships with existing organizations, and reminding thousands of people to improve their health outcomes and perseverance.

Transformational Inclusion Award – Fifth Third Bank

Fifth Third Bank is a diversified financial services company with a dedication to its employees, community, and environment. This year, Fifth Third raised its minimum wage to $18 per hour–a 50% increase in two years. They support employees in their efforts to actively engage and participate in local nonprofit and other community efforts. In addition, Fifth Third has taken substantial action to become greener, reducing energy use and waste and purchasing 100% renewable power. They are an example to the community of what a company should be.

Inspiration Award – Indiana Ambition Basketball

Indiana Ambition Basketball, begun by Mitch Lewis, is dedicated to helping kids pursue their basketball interests. This organization takes kids of all shapes and sizes and builds confidence and other social skills. IAB instills character lessons into every single aspect of the game, from playing time, to training, to team selection. Mitch moved his company to Trinity United Methodist Church so that gym rental income could be used to help families in need with heating bills.

Regional Impact Award – Albion’s Primary Prevention Program

Albion’s Primary Prevention program provides education and training for youth and adults to prevent first-time perpetration and victimization while implementing evidence-based strategies that begin on the personal level. Albion utilizes Safe Dates, Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM), and Athletes as Leaders curricula in middle/high schools. These curricula teach skills to develop healthy dating, positive communication, anger management, and conflict resolution. Participants of all programs learn how to increase awareness of abuse, improve bystander intervention skills, resolve conflict, use calming strategies, participate in the prevention of community violence, and equip youth with the skills and resources to help themselves or friends in abusive relationships.

Civic Engagement Award – Delaware/Dream Center Partnership

In June 2017, the Dream Center partnered with Delaware Elementary School to personally tutor students, as well as come into the school to create lasting relationships with the students they’re tutoring. They work with small groups, interacting with students during lunch and recess and in after-school programs. By creating these relationships, the Dream Center is able to address any obstacles students may face, in the classroom or otherwise.

Outstanding Innovation Award – DNA Lab

Evansville African American Museum’s DNA Lab is a Saturday leadership academy for middle school students promoting a greater probability of personal success and a collective sense of community through cultural, educational, and social enrichment. The Lab has identified a gap in cultural educational experiences for young people and has taken steps to ensure that students have the opportunity to learn and experience those missing pieces. Spearheaded by local young leaders, they facilitate the program with activities, speakers, and community outings.

Philanthropy Award – High Score Saloon

High Score Saloon gives more to this community than just a fun place to play games. This past year, they brought together local businesses to pay off EVSC student lunch debt for students. Their philanthropic efforts don’t end there, as they have also raised thousands of dollars for local animal shelters, cancer support groups, schools, and women’s shelters through give-backs.

Visionary Award – Southern Indiana Mentoring Academy (SIMA)

SIMA is a mentoring program that has partnered with Lincoln School in order to support and empower young men within the community to make positive life choices and enable them to maximize their personal potential. This year, they raised money to purchase Christmas gifts for each young man at Lincoln. They volunteer their time during lunch/recess, events and participate in their Site Council Advisory Meetings. SIMA is committed to making a difference in the lives of young men.

Community Collaboration Award – Aurora Homeless Outreach Team

The Aurora Homeless Outreach Team goes out of their way to care for the homeless population in Evansville. They go as far as to seek out those experiencing homelessness by visiting abandoned homes, parks, bridges, and garages in order to service those in need who may not know how to reach out. They help navigate the processes to obtain identification, Social Security cards, and housing, and provide for their immediate basic needs.

Lifetime Award – Carol Abrams

Carol has called Evansville her hometown for the past 36 years and during that time, she has impacted thousands of teachers, students and community members. She dedicates her time to activities both at Temple Adath B’nai Israel and the broader community including Evansville Philharmonic, Evansville Museum, UE Theatre Society, Indiana Arts Commissioner, Committee to Restore Victory and Friends of Victory. While her main passion is the arts, she is also fiercely interested in equity for all. This is demonstrated by her founding of CYPRESS (Committee to Promote Respect in Schools) in order to promote respect and appreciation for diversity in our schools and community.

Lifetime Award – Bettye Poole

Bettye is a servant leader, vital to our community. Through her work with EVSC, UE’s African American Alumni Association, and being elected Conference Chair of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, she engages families across different cultures, works with students who exhibit destructive behaviors, and reaches disconnected parents. Bettye does not allow homeless and at- risk youth of our community to disappear under the radar.

Lifetime Award – Dave Schutte

Dave has dedicated his life to the children of Evansville. After fourteen years of service in the EVSC, Dave retired to quickly become the Director of the EVSC Foundation’s Hangers program, a clothing resource for students. Each year, Hangers serves approximately 2,500 EVSC students, giving them the basic necessities of hygiene products and clothing. Dave is always there to welcome students who come to Hangers. Through his leadership and caring attitude, he inspires students and reminds them that people do care and want them to succeed no matter their home situation.


Individual – Community & Neighborhood – Jerry and Kimberly Lewis

The Lewises have lived their life in servant leadership and helping others, personally donating their time, muscle, resources and heart to delivering furniture to families who recently left dangerous situations. After they both work their shifts at Toyota and AK Steel during the week, then spend their weekends picking up furniture and delivering it to families with Albion Fellows Bacon Center. Their beautiful commitment to others is an inspiration.

Individual – Education – Jacque Barnette

Jacque a leader in inclusion and diversity in education. She has led the EVSC’s English as a Second Language program, which has grown from fewer than 100 students in 2000, to more than 700 this school year. Through her leadership, Jacque’s team of ESL teachers and coaches works to ensure students and their families are successful and feel welcome. More than 50 different languages are spoken in the ESL program; they are proving to international families that Evansville is a welcoming place to live, bringing diversity to our community that we may not otherwise have.

Individual – Government, Public Service, & Environment – Tanisha Carothers Tanisha is an Evansville native who came to love her city through YMCA’s Diamonds program, where she later felt compelled to give back and be the kind of mentor that once inspired her to be the woman she is today. She currently has a growing law practice and an exploding startup company. Now, she is changing lives for the better for other children in our community.

Individual – Health & Social Services – Tracey Titus

Tracey is always impartial and willing to help anyone. She is an RN and serves as Vice President of Accreditation for the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare. She has worked for 19 years at the Vanderburgh County Jail Medical Department. She makes certain that jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities provide proper medical care. Tracey works with all races, nationalities, and genders regardless of their past, because it is her duty to provide quality care.

Individual – Arts – Brittany Samsil

Brittney is a mother of two with a passion for painting and philanthropy. Having once lived in a homeless shelter, she understands the vitality of art. She painted in her time of need and now uses that skill to help others. Brittany now sells her artwork, with the majority of proceeds going to a nonprofit organization she has chosen for the year. In addition to her own charitable efforts, her two young children spend their holidays delivering meals and gifts to those less fortunate. Brittany makes a constant effort to know and help those in her community.


Project/Program – Arts – Rogue & Peasant Aces ChangeLab

The Rogue & Peasant Aces is a mobile Shakespeare company that toured eight schools in the Tri-State performing Shakespeare for over 1,500 students this semester. They made high quality performance art more accessible those who might not have been otherwise exposed to it or have the chance to experience it.

Project/Program – Community & Neighborhood – Junior League of Evansville Lunch Program

The Junior League of Evansville provides free bag lunches to children during the summer. We often assume children look forward to summer break, but for some children it is a difficult 2 months. The school year children always have access to lunch 5 days out of the week, but in the Summer there was no guarentee. JLE looks to extinguish this. In 2019, JLE prepared 900 lunches, served 650 children, and the remaining were donated.

Project/Program – Education – “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” Refugee Camp Simulation

Students from Harrison and Bosse participated in a simulation where they had to “flee a country” and “cross a border” to get to a refugee camp. Students encounter border guards, immigration judges, and then go to jail where they have to bribe their way out. Registration to the camp was coded and the people spoke a “foreign language.” Emotions were powerful, and most importantly, empathy was developed for families who are going through this worldwide.

Project/Program – Government, Public Service, & Environment – Victim Assistance Unit

The Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office is dedicated to providing assistance to minimize the pain of difficult situations; it is crucial to the well-being of victims. The Victim Assistance Unit never turns anyone away, and services are free. Advocates build relationships with victims and have a duty to represent their best interests, but more importantly they lend a shoulder to cry on when it’s needed most. No matter your gender, skin color, or economic status, the Victim Assistance Program sees you as a human that will conquer this difficult situation.

Project/Program – Health & Social Services – Mobile Food Pantry

This project was started with a goal that “no child goes to bed hungry.” MFP supplies non-perishable food that requires minimal cooking to families in need. The Islamic Society Of Evansville and Muslim Association Of Southern Indiana For Health Advancement collaborated with MFP to provide nourishment to those who would otherwise be affected by hunger, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.


Business/Organization – Arts – ParksFest Music Festival

ParksFest is a world-class music entertainment and experiences, provided to the public for free. The event takes place in Garvin Park in the heart of Jacobsville and features national and regional touring musicians and local artists. ParksFest is driven to bettering our community by promoting equal access to exciting and enriching experiences.

Business/Organization – Community & Neighborhood – Churches Embracing Offenders

Churches Embracing Offenders is dedicated to giving former inmates a new lease on life. They are a nonprofit agency dedicated to ministering to the spiritual, physical, emotional, and social needs of non-violent offenders living in and returning to the community from incarceration. Since June of 2000, Churches Embracing Offenders has been helping area men, women, and youth avoid recidivism and reenter society.

Business/Organization – Education – Jacob Ball Wish Fund

The admirable mission of the Jacob Ball Wish Fund is to assist teachers and caregivers of children with special needs by providing exceptional teaching tools and developmental opportunities to enrich the children’s experiences. The Jacob Ball Wish Fund was established with the sole purpose of funding wishes to teachers and caregivers who work with our special friends.

Business/Organization – Government, Public Service, & Environment – Hangers

Hangers is a clothing resource committed to serving EVSC students in need by providing them everyday living essentials that would otherwise be unaffordable. By providing clothing, school supplies, and hygiene products, Hangers strives to improve the self- esteem and confidence of each student served, and in turn, ensures greater student success and fulfillment. Hangers gives all EVSC students the ability to look and feel their best, every day.

Business/Organization – Health & Social Services – Tribe

The mission of Tribe is to create a space where survivors can rebuild confidence, self- esteem and personality after abuse. It is a peer-led adventure and challenge-based support group for female-identifying survivors of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Tribe conducts sessions throughout the year and utilizes rock climbing, yoga, hiking, kayaking, and art to suit the individual members.