LIMA — Helping out. Giving back. Building the future. It goes by a lot of names, but volunteerism is big in our region.To honor those who give of their time and energy, the 2012 Jefferson Awards for Public Service kicked off the nomination period on Thursday. Volunteers from Allen, Auglaize, Putnam, Hardin, Hancock, and Van Wert counties are eligible for the local awards. Nominations can be submitted until Feb. 22.Eight local Jefferson Award winners will be selected. The eight local winners will each receive $350 for the nonprofit organization for which they volunteer. One of the eight local winners will advance to national competition and will receive an additional $700 for the organization for which they volunteer.The $3,500 for those awards this year, as in the past dozen or so years, comes from Alberta Lee.The quiet, former Allen County commissioner is a longtime advocate of public service and volunteerism.“I do this, I guess, because the community has done a lot for me and I want to continue the payback,” Lee said. “I think the Jefferson Awards, and volunteerism as such, is such a positive part of people’s lives.” A banquet to honor the local winners will be held March 27.The local awards are sponsored by Your Hometown Lima Stations, United Way of Greater Lima and The Lima News. The awards were founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Sen. Robert Taft Jr., and Sam Beard to honor outstanding volunteers at the local and national levels.Nominations can be submitted online at http://limaohio.com/jeffersonawards. Nomination forms will also be printed in The Lima News and are available at Your Hometown Lima Stations, 1424 Rice Ave.; United Way of Greater Lima, 616 S. Collett St.; The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road; and the Lima Public Library. Forms are also available online at http://wlio.com, and http://unitedwaylima.org. Nominations can be submitted online or mailed to The Jefferson Awards, United Way of Greater Lima, 616 S. Collett St., Lima, 45805.