Chamber Announces Community Service Award Winners | News, Sports, Jobs

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Penny and Gary Lester received one of two 2021 Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry Community Service Awards for their involvement in numerous community events, projects and activities.

As the volunteers leave, there are differences between the two recipients of the 2021 Community Service Award from the Warren County Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ash Khare is a “Heavy hitter” among the volunteers. His knowledge of the government and its members has brought in millions of dollars to Warren County projects.

Penny and Gary Lester have “Enveloped the community in caring and loving arms”. Their “The hands are still working. “

They bring different things to the table, but they are all ambassadors for the community.

Over the years, Khare has participated in and advised many local projects, helping to provide millions of dollars in grants, tax credits and low interest loans.

“For over 40 years, without fail, Ash Khare has been Warren’s go-to person for projects requiring significant government funding or support,” Hank LeMeur said in his letter of support.

There was a $ 1.5 million match from Governor Tom Ridge’s administration towards the original renovation of War Memorial Field, a $ 1 million grant and $ 10 million in low-rate loans from interest in the Brokenstraw Township wastewater treatment plant, and more recently $ 500,000 for the purchase of the PNC Bank building.

“It was Ash Khare’s volunteerism, political acumen and diligence that enabled Struthers Library Theater to apply for and receive over $ 800,000 in funding from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth of Neighborhood Neighborhood Assistance Program,” Marcy O’Brien said in his letter of support. “This funding has been essential in supporting our business. We really applaud his dedication.

Ash reflected on his first big project in the community. “In life, the first project is always the memorable project”, he said.

Warren Sports Boosters described a $ 50,000 renovation of War Memorial Field. “I said, ‘Can you make it big? I can get you money from the state ‘” Ash said.

He later spoke with the boosters again. They had the project up to $ 75,000.

“Can you win $ 3 million?” “ He asked. “He literally fell from his chair. He said, ‘How are we going to get $ 3 million?’ “

Ash said not to worry about it. “I’m going to get you $ 1.5 million from the governor and I’ll help you collect the rest.” “

So he and the Boosters reached out to businesses, asking for pledges of $ 300,000 over three years, subject to receipt of $ 1.5 million in state dollars.

It was not difficult to get the companies to sign. It was a laudable project and no one thought the dollars would come, he said. They did it. Because Ash had connections.

“The simple thing is that this whole American system … works on relationships” Ash said. “When Tom Ridge was elected (governor), I was there in Erie. He said, “Ash, give me a CV, I want you in my administration. “

Ash worked at National Forge. He refused it. “I said, ‘Governor, I don’t need a job from you, but I’m going to bring you plans and you can’t say no. “”

When he approached Ridge about funding for War Memorial, he couldn’t say no.

In the end, Boosters and Ash gave Ridge a No.10 Warren Dragons jersey and took him to the field to play soccer before cutting the ribbon.

He has stories like this for every one of the projects he’s been on over the years.

Ash is not like the others on the list of Community Service Award winners, he said. “When Jim Decker and I spoke yesterday, I said, ‘Decker, you made a mistake. “

“If you take a look at all the previous winners, all of these people have worked on Warren County committees,” he said. “I didn’t do anything like that. If you take it back, I won’t feel bad about it.

“Gary and Penny Lester are the epitome of what a Warren County citizen should be”, according to the letter of appointment from Rev. Jeff Ewing. “They work tirelessly for the betterment of our community.

“Penny and Gary enveloped me, my family and the entire Warren community in their loving, caring arms,” Ewing said. “Together, they’ve put all their hearts into every task and organization they serve… and, most importantly, light up an entire room with their infectious humor. “

“There is no couple more dedicated to our social foundations, or to the kindness necessary to inspire a whole community”, he said. “If you ask one of the Lesters to volunteer, they’re usually the first to start the project. “

Penny and Gary have become much more involved in projects since their retirement.

“During my professional career, I have worked long days and traveled a lot, so I had to say ‘no’ to so many laudable projects and organizations.” said Penny. “I promised myself that when I had the chance to retire, I would start saying ‘yes’.”

“What motivates me has its roots in my work at the newspaper” Gary said. “I was able to cover so many interesting things, but the staff were discouraged from getting too involved lest it sound like favoritism.”

“When I left the newspaper, I got involved in a lot of things, too much, in fact, to allow adequate involvement. It took a long time to learn to pay attention to this ”, he said. “But along the way, it’s so interesting, exciting, engaging and fun to meet people who are passionate about what they do. It’s great to get carried away by the enthusiasm of others and help and encourage them a bit.

“My favorite project is the one I’m immersed in right now because that’s where my heart and my goal is. “ she said. “I actually like projects that I can work on quietly, behind the scenes, and help move them forward.”

The price of community service is not exactly “In the wings.”

“The price is humiliating and a little embarrassing and uncomfortable”, Gary said. “Better to do what you do ‘under the radar’. “

From the Women’s Outdoor Workshops (WOW), Second Harvest Food Bank Handouts, Free Small Libraries, Turkey Trotting, Front Porch Days, to their efforts at the First Lutheran Church, including with Origins from the Warren County School District backpacking program, the Friends of the Rouse, documenting local events, and Moments on Target, the Lesters “Fingerprints are on a lot of what makes Warren County such a special place,” Ewing said.

“For over 40 years, Ash has dedicated his time and great energy to his community. “ Gray said. “I know there are many stellar volunteers working for Warren who would deserve the WCCBI Community Service Award, but I don’t know of anyone who has served – and continues to serve – Warren in such a lasting and impactful way during such an important event. time frame as Ash Khare.

“Ash Khare tops my list of Warren County residents who have fully lived the American Dream,” Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said in his letter of support. “He started from nothing and achieved great stature – in the Commonwealth as a political leader and as a voter in the presidential elections. He has orchestrated many community projects helping the residents of Warren County in a number of ways.

“Beneath Ash’s sometimes noisy and hyperbolic exterior hides a strong but loving man, energetic but caring, full of advice – whether asked or not – who throws himself in when he sees a need”, Kafferlin said.

“I hope your committee sees that the Lesters are truly an irreplaceable gem in this county,” Jessica Arnold said in her letter of support. “They promote everything: churches, the regional community college, Leadership Warren, fairs, the arts, music and more. They really are two of the most selfless people I know.

“See, it’s not the big things that make Gary and Penny worthy of the Community Service Award,” Ewing said. “These are the so-called ‘little’ things: treating others with respect, kindness, reaching out to improve people’s lives and the life of the community. They are Warren County’s greatest ambassadors.

“I think anyone can find things rewarding, useful and fun if they look around a bit”

Gary said. “We hear: ‘There is nothing to do here.’ Truly?”

Regarding his reasons for helping, Ash cited philanthropist Lewis Katz.

“There is never a perfect day until you do something for someone knowing full well that they can’t pay you back. “ he said. “This is what I believe in. As I pass the War Memorial Field, the Struthers Library Theater, the PNC Bank building, the Brokenstraw Sewer Plant, I have a perfect day. ”

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Norma P. Rex

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