Walden presents annual leadership awards


Several community members were recognized for their leadership and service to the community at the Walden Leadership Conference last Thursday.

Kristie Hall, a local volunteer firefighter, received the Midge Norman Volunteer of the Year award for her service with the Walden Fire Department and as an organizer for the annual Walden St. Baldrick’s event.

Walden Mayor Susan Rumbold introduced Hall, commending her for her tireless effort coordinating the annual event that raises money for childhood cancer research.

“Coordinating the food, entertainment, set-up, clean-up and the volunteers for this event is no easy task, but it is done with dedication and with compassion for those children and their families who deal with cancer every day,” Rumbold said.

Hall first joined the Walden Fire Department as a member of the Ladies’ Auxiliary.

“That wasn’t good enough. Through hard work and determination, she became a firefighter in 2013, and serves in that capacity today,” Rumbold said.

The Ronald I. Jacobowitz Youth of the Year award was presented to Julian Aviles for his service in the Valley Central Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Valley Central Honor Society and the Eagle Scouts.

A member of the Jacobowitz family said a leader is someone who takes a position, takes risks, listens and uses their voice for the betterment of their community, school or the lives of others.

“Julian, you have engaged in the activities and have stepped up to the challenges which have demonstrated you’re a leader,” a member of the Jacobowitz family said.

Walden Savings Bank received the Community Business of the Year for its service to the community, which includes its support of fundraisers, grants and community events.

Current president Derrik Wynkoop and past president David Cocks were founding members of the Walden Community Council, an organization that has helped improve the quality of life for Walden residents. Wynkoop said the bank’s leaders and employees have a history of giving back to the community. Service is a core philosophy of the mutual savings bank, which donates not just financial support but volunteer hours for various causes and community events.

Mary Ellen Matise received the Sam Phelps Service Award for her service to the greater Walden community with a focus on historical preservation and environmental protection.

Matise has served as a past Village of Walden trustee and on the village comprehensive plan committee. She has also served on the Town of Montgomery steering committee, senior independence project, affordable housing committee, sustainability committee, National Night Out and Harvest Fest.

Matise is an active member of the town community garden and was appointed to the town historical preservation committee last year. She also participates in the Walden Elementary history club, has been the acting village historian since 2010, and has received the Martha Washington Woman of History award.

“Her purpose is to preserve history for our children and to make sure they will have a wonderful Walden in the future,” member of the Phelps family Becky Pearson said. “Thank you, Mary Ellen, for your kindness, your love of community, service above self and being Walden’s watchdog.”

Richie Lay, keynote speaker and chairman of the board of directors for the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, Inc, said the three most important qualities of leadership are to have an important vision for your organization, to believe in your organization’s mission statement and to surround yourself with good people.


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