ELIDA — Children in the region have a friend in Ken Hall, even if they might not know who he is.
Hall has quietly worked behind the scenes on a pair of important projects, the day-to-day work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in the juvenile court system and also as the driving force behind the renovated Safety City project in Lima.
“With Safety City, the kids are going to enjoy that for the next 30 years hopefully,” Hall said. “… With CASA, I can help a child or family now, like right away.”
Hall is one of the 12 local Jefferson Awards winners. For the win, each received money to donate to a favorite cause. The Lima News will profile each of them between now and the streaming awards show the night of Thursday, April 22.
Hall got involved with both thanks to his involvement with the Lima Noon Optimists Club over the past 50 years. He was asked by former club president Charles Eichelberger to lead the renovation efforts on Safety City. He also learned about CASA when a speaker visited the club and shared its mission and goals.
“He deserves the Jefferson Award because of his help with youth over the many years,” Eichelberger wrote in his nomination letter. “His work with the Optimist Club has influenced thousands of young people over the years. His volunteering with CASA has been a help to many young people who are involved with the juvenile court system in Allen County.”
As a CASA, Hall’s tasked with speaking up for the juveniles affected by adults’ decisions.
“It’s a chance to represent children who are unrepresented in our system,” Hall said. “I get to be their advocate and be able to express their wards and needs to the court, the judge or the magistrate. Otherwise, they don’t have a voice.”
Hall served as de facto general contractor on the quarter-million dollar renovation of Safety City, including the building of a state-of-the-art “Survive Alive House,” which simulates fires, tornadoes and other safety threats.
“It became almost a 40-hour-a-week job during the intense building period,” Hall said.
While many other building renovations were donated, Hall supervised to be sure they all met the same baseline structural rules.
“It’s fantastic to have someone with a business background to help out with those issues,” current Optimist Club president Mike Reser said. “He met with the contractors and was there there to review the project. He kept it moving along.”
Hall also volunteers for the alumni association at Ohio Northern University and serves as a deacon at his church, Missionary Baptist Church.
Ultimately, all the work is worth it when he hears from children he’s helped.
“For the young man I’ve represented longest in court, in the last month and a half they asked him what he thought of me,” Hall recalled. “He told them, ‘I like him. He’s my friend.’”