FOLLANSBEE - As the guest speaker for the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce's Christmas dinner, attorney David B. Cross noted humorist Leo Rosten once said, "The purpose of life is not to be happy at all. It is to be useful, to be honorable. It is to be compassionate. It is to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived."
And Chamber President Tony Paesano and other chamber leaders recognized many local people for the various ways they have made a difference in the community.
Among them was Mary Ruth Morris, who was presented the Citizen of the Year award for caring for many children with special needs for more than 60 years as the director of the Anderson Children's Home.
CITIZEN OF THE YEAR — Mary Ruth Morris was presented the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award Thursday in recognition of the many years she has operated the Anderson Children’s Home, where she has cared for many children with mental and physical impairments. With her are Chamber President Tony Paesano, left, and John D’Aurora, the chamber’s vice president. -- Warren Scott
Paesano noted Morris came to the orphanage following the death of her mother when she was 5. It wasn't strictly for children with special needs until the late 1960s.
Morris had lived there up to her graduation from Follansbee High School in 1946 and was prepared to accept a job at her alma mater when the orphanage's owners, Charles and Blodwyn Anderson, asked her to stay on and help.
"She did and she's been there ever since," Paesano said, adding, 'She's been doing this a long, long time. She's an angel."
Upon receiving the award, Morris said, "From when I was a tiny girl, I always said I wanted a lot of children."
Those who have visited the home on Hooverson Heights know Morris as a loving surrogate mother for children with mental and physical impairments, sometimes severe.
Currently the home is occupied by 12, whom Anderson oversees with the help of staff member Barbara Williams.
Anderson said the community has been very supportive over the years. She recalled how former Follansbee mayor Vince Curtis, who also was vice president of Weirton Steel, arranged for the steel company to build a new home when the original had become dilapidated and the men of St. Anthony Catholic Church put on the roof.
"Follansbee has been true blue to the home all the time. From when we were children, they were great," she said.
Paesano presented to Morris $300 on behalf of the chamber. When Rex Lancaster of Lyle's Auto won a 50-50 drawing during the dinner, he donated his winnings of $190 to the home.
Also honored by the chamber were:
Cross, who was presented the Humanitarian of the Year award. Paesano noted in addition to his many years of public service as Brooke County prosecutor, Cross has volunteered his legal expertise to such causes as the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center for more than 30 years, the Brooke County Schools Education Foundation, which has generated nearly $800,000 in scholarships for Brooke High School graduates in the last 23 years; and the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation.
Betty Rea, recipient of the Community Service Award, for her efforts as a member of the Follansbee park board for many years, during which she played a key role in fundraising for the city pool and Community House; and as a member of the American Legion Post 45 Auxiliary for 67 years.
She also served as counselor for the Girls State youth leadership program for more than 25 years and as its director for nine.
Vito's 2 Restaurant and the Follansbee Pharmacy, who shared Business of the Year honors. Paesano said Vito "Skip" Cutrone, the restaurant's owner, held, with the help of many volunteers, a free Thanksgiving Day dinner there that fed 540, with meals delivered to 160 shut-ins in Brooke and Jefferson counties.
Cutrone also collected donations of money and food for the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program at the restaurant and his other businesses, K&J Skip 'n" Go and the Java Shoppe, and presented $2,400 raised through the effort to volunteers with the food pantry at the dinner.
Paesano said since it opened in 1996, the pharmacy has extended its services beyond prescription medications and expanded to two sister businesses, the Tri-State Pharmacy and Tri-State Medical.
He noted it has offered a variety of free screenings through health fairs held first at the Follansbee Community House and later the Serbian American Cultural Center when participation demanded more space.
The Tri-State Medical Group also is a corporate sponsor of A Child's Place Court-Appointed Special Advocate program, which represents the interests of local children involved in abuse and neglect cases.
J.J. Bernabei, Aldo Crisante and Curt Virtue, co-owners of the Tri-State Medical Group, accepted the award.
WesBanco and Lyle's Auto, which shared the Corporate Business of the Year award.
Paesano noted WesBanco's long history, starting as Dollar Savings Bank of Wheeling in 1870 and expanding to include 119 locations in the Tri-State Area. Its direct connection to Follansbee began with its acquisition of Citizens National Bank of Follansbee in 1984. Its present location was built in 1991.
The bank has participated in Follansbee Make a Difference Day and supported Follansbee Community Days and other city events. It was represented by Don Sheller, executive vice president- sales for the Upper Ohio Valley region; Olive McGee, assistant vice president and banking center manager; Charlotte Kolenc, Follansbee branch office manager.
Dave Lyle established Lyle's Auto in 1988, opened its expanded location in the city in 2001 and has sold more than 9,000 vehicles since, Paesano said. A long-time sponsor of Follansbee Community Days, the dealership also has hosted a classic car show benefiting Children's Diabetes Research.
The Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad, which received special recognition for honoring all veterans living and dead, through its appearances at local Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, where it delivers rifle salutes; and the funerals of deceased veterans, where it conducts military honors.
Paesano said since it was formed in 2006, the group has attended the funerals for 571 area veterans. He presented $300 from the chamber to defray its travel expenses.
Paesano also presented four $300 grants from the chamber for projects undertaken by teachers at local schools. They were: Suzanne Davidson of Hooverson Heights Primary School, for Emerging Engineers, a program designed at developing critical thinking; Scott Abercrombie of Follansbee Middle School, for a scientific literacy center; Chris Weiler, for a media center at the middle school; and Stephanie Turner, for a sensory integration room for mentally impaired pupils.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)