First Jefferson Awards honoree exemplifies student volunteerismBy Kim Goodin : February 24th, 2009
Even after she had the medallion in her hand, Emily Stinehart could scarcely believe it.
UT President Lloyd Jacobs had presented her with the University’s first Jefferson Award for community service in front of family, friends and fellow volunteers. She’d posed for photos and been interviewed by a member of UT’s student media corps.
As she sat for her last interview during an eventful day, Stinehart smiled with wonder and said, “I still can’t believe it. I’m so glad my colleagues thought I was deserving of this.”
Stinehart, a junior, was lauded with UT’s inaugural Jefferson Award for her outstanding acts of volunteerism through the Circle K organization. Circle K is part of the local Kiwanis group that fosters community service in partnership with several local programs, including the Josina Lott Center, the Ronald McDonald House, Read Around the World and more.
Stinehart’s nomination cited her activities at the Josina Lott Center, Toledo Head Start Program, Cherry Street Mission and Six Cent Initiative, among others, stating, “She seems to simply relish the fact that she has created a nurturing and warming relationship in a world that can be distant and cold at times. Her mentality of pure selflessness, ambition and optimism has rejuvenated and even inspired me and countless others to think less of self and more of goodwill and compassion.”
Part of Stinehart’s motivation to give, she said, can be traced back to generosity her family received during challenging times. When both of her parents lost their jobs a few years ago, she said the kindness of the Weston community helped keep them afloat.
As a student at Otsego High School, she joined the Otsego Book and Media Club.
“We’d go out and buy materials to make hats and scarves for kids who needed them,” Stinehart remembered, adding she volunteered at local coat checks, recycling events, bake sales and library programs.
“I wanted to give back to those who had helped my family.”
The history major juggles class work, two part-time jobs, and volunteer and leadership roles within Circle K. She is current district secretary and is running for lieutenant governor in the northwest Ohio district.
“Emily has really stepped up in leadership,” said Julia Martin, business and economics librarian in Carlson Library and faculty adviser for Circle K. “I see it in how she interacts with the other students. She’s a leader in both word and deed.”
Stinehart enjoys spending time with people at the Josina Lott Center, a home for those with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, where she has established meaningful relationships.
“I went there once after I’d had a really bad day,” Stinehart recalled. “Some residents don’t have a lot of visitors and look forward to our visits. They totally brightened my day. I left with a completely different outlook.”
After earning her baccalaureate degree, Stinehart will pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice, English or history. She’d like to join a community service organization once she establishes her career so she can continue to serve.
When asked why volunteerism has become such an important part of her life, Stinehart had a simple answer: “I love seeing people smile.”