Memorial Opera House and United Way of Porter County Team Up to Honor Excellent Community Members

On Thursday night, the United Way of Porter County and the Memorial Opera House teamed up to honor individuals and organizations for their support and generosity in helping the United Way reach their goals.

To see more photos from the event, click here!

"Tonight's a night where we celebrate all the hard work that our employees and volunteers do as well as announce the amount that our campaign raised,” said Director of Community Impact Mackenna Schon. “A lot of us have annual campaigns and we're really the only ones who doesn't run our own services so the work that we do here is for us, but rather for Porter County.

"The Memorial Opera House is a great building of history It's wonderful that we can go to a historic building to celebrate our past, present and future community achievements," said Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.

This year, the celebration took place at the Memorial Opera House, a location filled with prominence and a rich legacy within the Valparaiso community.

"This year we worked incredibly close with the United Way,” said Memorial Opera House Business Director Trinidad Snider. “The United Way does so much for so many people and is such a key element to the community. It's such a good thing to represent the people who work so hard to make this community so great.

Special Guest Congressman Pete Visclosky expressed the importance of different community outlets to cooperate and of locations like the Memorial Opera House to Northwest Indiana.

"I think its a key asset to have in the Valparaiso community and I also feel the continuity of places like this is important. It's imperative that we maintain this continuity of places like the Memorial Opera House to ensure that future generations can benefit as well”

Many people and organizations were recognized at the awards ceremony for their support of the United Way. Here is the list of who won each award:

Shining Star Awards- Both Gerry Scheff and Marilyn Lindner were honored with this year's Shining Star Award. Gerry served as Loaned Executive as well as a Board Member in previous years and spent the previous year reviewing and updating the United Way's Personal Policies and Procedures. Marylin Lindner has served on the Volunteer Engagement Committee for several years and has taken photographs for the United Way's Golf Classic.

Outstanding Achievement in Service to Children – This award was given to Dr. Deb Dudek, Assistant Superintendent who supervised and guided the AmeriCorps tutors in Portage Schools and as well as bringing the pilot program of giving kindergartners a head start through their Kinder Kamps in Portage Schools.

Outstanding Achievement in Leadership – This was awarded to JoElla DePra for her commitment, service and leadership to Young Leaders United who not only served as chairperson, but also is credited for acting as the reason for Young Leaders United's growth.

Outstanding Performance in Promoting United Wa
y –This year, three organizations walked away with this award. The Times was awarded for their publicizing of the United Way as well as promoting special events. Ideas in Motion Media was also given an award for spreading good news through the community and covering any and all of the United Way's various stories and events. Finally, Lakeshore Public Media was awarded for creating a 30 second commercial to promote the Reading Buddies Program.

Outstanding Achievement in Campaign Direction – Dr. Larry McAfee and his daughter Dr. Brooke McAfee-Clements were awarded for their hard work and dedication while providing strong leadership for the United Way.

Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role - Campaign Ambassadors: George Carberry of Burke, Costanza & Carberry, Melissa Culbertson of Culbertson Financial Inc., Bob Gregg of ArcelorMittal, Scott Kleppe of Sensit Technologies, Dr. Hector Marchland of Northwest Indiana Cardiovascular Physicians, Tony Peuquet of Chester Inc.,Arman Sarkisian of Sarkisian, Sarkisian & Associates, Dean Schroeder of Valparaiso University, Aco Sikoski of Ivy Tech Community College, Dr. Anton Thompkins of Lakeshore Bone & Joint and Matt Welter of RE/MAX Pace Reality.

Loaned Executives and their Sponsors- Brandi Anstine and Eleather Baker of HealthLinc, Tracy Bergstrom of Teacher's Credit Union, Betsy Cuellar of Visiting Nurse Association, Donna Demko of Valparaiso Family YMCA, Liz Depew of Purdue North Central, Kacie ensign of Opportunity Enterprises, Kaye Frataccia of Empower Porter County, Bill Hanna a retired United Way Executive, Nick Hoyt of Chester Inc, aaron Kochar of Porter-Starke Services, Chris Kostbade of Family House, Alison Martin of Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, Kathleen McClure of Housing Opportunities, Melissa McLindon of NIPSCO, Caressa Ropierski of 1st Source Bank and Lisa Sharp of Dunebrook.

Outstanding Achievement in Campaign Leadership- ArcelorMittal, Lakeside Wealth Management, Porter Regional Hospital and the John W. Anderson Foundation led in corporate support by contributing more than $100,000 to this year's campaign

The family of Mark and Kim Abbett and Dr. Jerry and Linda Rodenbarger were also given special recognition by United Way's Worldwide National Tocqueville Society for donating $10,000 or more.

Company of the Year – CSI Computer Services Inc. was awarded based on their support of the United Way's Day of Caring with Vice President Larry Moore retiring this year, leaving behind a legacy of strong support and assistance for the organization.

Recognition of Board Chair – Todd Wagenblast, CFO for Indiana Beverage and Board Chair on the United Way of Porter County's Executive Board. Todd 's term is over in June and his hard work and many hours were recognized.

Outstanding Professional Award- Joyce Bolin, retiring RSVP Director from Porter County Aging and Community Services received the award for encouraging hundreds of volunteers 55 and up to remain active and engaged in the community.

Dorothy M. Porter Award– This was awarded to George Carberry whose leadership skills on the United Way, the Rotary Veteran's Day celebration and Valparaiso YMCA Foundation are an incredible asset to the community.

As the program closed, Group 7even was recognized for their marketing work for the "Be The One Campaign" and the McMillan Family was introduced as next year's campaign chairs.

The total amount raised during this Campaign was $1,908,546. These funds will be used to benefit the organization and community in their future plans and projects.

“Tonight was all about giving back. Valparaiso and Porter County has been so incredibly good to me,” said Chair member Dr. Larry McAfee. “Can you imagine how high on life I feel now? To have the community support and United Way to support things like this is incredibly touching. They touch all of us in the community and that's a wonderful thing.”