LIMA — Finalists for the Lima/Allen County’s Young Leader of the Year award include a career consultant, an elementary school music teacher and neighborhood specialist for the City of Lima.
Here are the finalists:
Tova Brunk, 25, of Zanesville, moved with her husband to Lima not long after graduating from college. She now considers the city home, regularly volunteering with her church, the Lima Community Church of the Nazarene.
“It’s been the greatest few years,” Brunk said, “being able to serve the members of the community and build relationships with those around.”
Brunk has dedicated her career to helping others too. When she first arrived in Lima, Brunk worked as a program coordinator for the West Ohio Food Bank. She’s now a career counselor for Ohio Means Jobs, helping Ohioans find work.
“I wanted to end up somewhere where I was able to serve whatever community I was in,” Brunk said.
Crystal Miller, 39, has taught music at Lima schools for the past 17 years, most recently with Heritage Elementary.
There, Miller founded the school’s show choir, recorder ensemble and ukulele ensemble, dedicating her own time to pursue grant funding and donations to buy a sound system and performance attire. The students have since performed during the Mercy Health-St. Rita’s street fair and on WoofBoom radio.
Miller, who also directs a Veterans Day performance and the second grade musical at Heritage each year, is proud to offer her students experiences that are often reserved for high school students.
“I work through my lunches most days to give the kids these experiences,” she said. “The kids have to give up some of their recess time. I just give up my lunch.”
Autumn Swanson, 40, has dedicated her life and career to service: organizing community events as the neighborhood specialist for the City of Lima’s Community Development Department; volunteering at her church, In Faith Ministries; and serving on numerous boards for the American Red Cross, Kiwanis club, Bradfield Center and more.
“It’s a calling I have on my life,” she said. “I was told a while ago, it was placed on my heart in college, that I needed to do service.”
But Swanson, who has worked in nonprofit settings throughout her career, says learning to love Lima is her greatest accomplishment.
“My thought process was, I would always be in a larger city in Ohio,” she said. “But I realized I’m actually a small-town girl. I grew to love this place.”
The Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual awards gala from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, in the Lima Community Church parking lot, 2945 N. Cole St. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Awards and dinner will be served drive-in style.