Much to celebrate at Portage Environmental Conservation Awards dinner on April 22

David E. Dix
David E. Dix

If you are a person who takes heart from the inspiring examples of others, you will find much to celebrate in this year’s recipients of Environmental Conservation Awards that the Portage Park District Foundation and the Kent Environmental Council will bestow at a benefit dinner April 22.

This neighborly event at the American Legion Hall in Kent will briefly shine the spotlight on eight recipients. Not seeking the honor, but nominated for it, they represent communities throughout Portage County.

Honorees range from individuals who quietly work to benefit our environment to an outstanding corporation, the Davey Tree Expert Co., whose mission is “to make our world a greener, healthier, and more beautiful place to live.”

Recipients include a newly appointed trustee of the Portage Park District, the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Affiliated Community Minister of Kent’s Unitarian Universalist Church.  The volunteer president of the Kent Environmental Council, Ruchotzke chaired the Land Use Committee of the League of Women Voters, helps organize the Kent Environmental Council’s nature tours, co-chairs the Portage County NAACP’s Environmental Committee and has assisted in Kent’s South End Garden and the cleanup of Skeels Allotment Lake in Ravenna Township.

Gwen Rosenberg and her family, the owners of Popped, with stores in Kent and Ravenna, are honorees too.  Popped specializes in non-genetically modified corn for popping grown on a local family farm, nuts roasted locally, and honey gathered from honeybees in the Rosenbergs' backyard.

Kristen Pool will be recognized for the Seed Library she started in 2015 at the Kent Free Library.  This project has grown over the years and become an important resource for local gardeners.  She also runs a small farm, Black Dog Acres, in Freedom Township and follows conservation and regenerative practices on it.

Nancy Smith is being honored for teaching children’s programs and leading the Silver Sneakers on educational hikes in the parks and on the trails of Portage County.  She has authored the first Junior Ranger program guide for children ages 5 and up that promotes conservation and an appreciation of Portage County’s natural resources. She also volunteers in cleaning up our parks and trails and removing invasive species.

Ann Ellis will be honored for her Bilbury & Co., Mantua’s handsome and tasteful card and gift shop that goes out of its way to find environmentally friendly products to sell.  Her emphasis is on local production to reduce the carbon footprint.

The Davey Tree Expert Company is being recognized for the recent completion of its 38,000-square-foot addition to its corporate headquarters on North Mantua Street in Kent. The handsome addition incorporates energy saving sustainable features and technology. How fortunate we in Portage County are to host one of America’s largest employee-owned corporations whose mission is to make our world greener, healthier, and more beautiful.

Tom Franek of Hiram Township, teacher of Forestry and Landscape Management at Kent’s Theodore Roosevelt High School for the Six District Educational Compact, will be honored.  Collaborating with Davey Tree, Franek has increased the awareness of arboriculture as potential careers for students.  Franek has served the community as a board member for the Headwaters Land Trust, the Portage Park District, and the Hiram Historical Society.

The Kent Environmental Council is bestowing its Edith Chase Conservation Award on Beth Buchanan, the botanist, retired from The Davey Tree Expert Co. Buchanan has served as regional director of the American Lake Management Society and was a founder of the Ohio Lake Management Society.  She served 20 years in the International Society of Arboriculture, 10 years with its Ohio chapter, 10 years with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and 9 years as Team Ohio Captain for Tree Fund Tour des Trees fundraiser.  A trustee of the Portage Park District Foundation, Buchanan recently completed a term as its president.

Net proceeds from the $35 per person dinner go to the Portage Park District Foundation, whose mission is to benefit the Portage County Park system.  A silent auction beginning at 5:30 p.m. prior to the dinner, augments the fund-raising.

The Portage County Parks system under its executive director, Christine Craycroft, has grown from a gorgeous single park, the 234-scre Towner’s Woods between Kent and Ravenna, in 1996, into a nearly 3,000-acre system of recreational and conservation-oriented parks and trails.

Improving our quality of life, the Portage County Park system has become a marvel for all Portage County and beyond to behold, enjoy and celebrate.  What better way than to annually recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses whose principles and mission align with our Portage County parks. No wonder this event has become one of the best attended countywide gatherings of its kind.

You can register to attend or support the Environmental Conservation Awards celebration at  Information is available at: or at 330-678-9127.  I hope to see you there.

David E. Dix is a retired publisher of the Record-Courier.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: 8 to be honored at Portage Environmental Conservation Awards