Spending an evening with the stars

If you check out page 8E of today’s Valley Life section, you’ll see a sampling of some of the pictures I took at the 2016 installment of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times Community Stars dinner — emphasis on “sampling” since I can only squeeze so many pictures on one page.

Believe me — if my camera could talk, it would probably request a day off. Picture that.

The dinner and recognition ceremony was held Sept. 26 at Hellenic Hall inside Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Steubenville, a new venue for the event and a very nice one at that with its cozy atmosphere and super food, courtesy of caterer Matt Parise.

The dinner was presented by Weirton Medical Center with support from the Fort Steuben Mall.

It’s hard to believe that this was the 19th year for this recognition event that annually singles out a group of people who are all special because they share a common denominator.

They have the heart of a servant and care about other people, and it shows. Period.

And they don’t do what they do because they want recognition, but they do deserve it.

And so we have this dinner — a simple gesture of appreciation in response to nominations people submit each year, recommending this or that person or a couple to be considered for such honors. A group of us read over the nominations that come from all corners of our circulation area and accept a major challenge — narrow down the field.

That is not easy.

This year’s batch of honorees who came out on top included the Rev. Larry Barkley of Weirton, who I discovered at the dinner had worked with Better Half and my brother-in-law Bud at Weirton Steel before he became a preacher later in life; Kitty Ferguson of Wintersville; Ed Gotschall of Stratton; Shirley Jenkins of Paris, Pa.; Gianna Lemal of Steubenville, at the ripe old age of 7, the youngest honoree to date; LaDonna Morris of Follansbee; Gray Nagy of Steubenville; David Rose of Scio; Irene and Dave Saho of East Springfield; and Tom Sweda of Mingo Junction.

The evening is pretty short and sweet. We eat; the honorees are introduced and presented a special medallion and gift card; and the recipients are given the opportunity to say a few words.

It used to be that honorees were reluctant to do that, but that’s changed a bit through the years. Some come with prepared comments to read; others wing it. All are humble and grateful.

Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the newspapers, served as master of ceremonies, asking for honorees from past years to stand and be recognized. They included Dee Ann Horstman of Scio, 2012; Sue Call of East Springfield, 2011; Jerry Boyd of Wintersville, 2000; and Diane Salsberry of East Springfield, 2012.

We also observed a moment of silence in memory of those who have passed away.

One thing I love about the event is meeting someone new or crossing paths with someone I haven’t seen in years.

And it’s great, of course, to be in the company of stars.

Congratulations to the honorees. Keep on shining!

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)