ORANGE CITY – On Thursday, April 18, Deltona resident Felicia Benzo received the 2013 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence at the Victoria Gardens Clubhouse in DeLand.
The Johana Knox Award, named for one of West Volusia’s best-known volunteers, began in 2009 to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of like-minded volunteers in the community.
Benzo, like the other 11 nominees, was nominated for this year’s award by individuals in West Volusia who paid homage to the countless hours of unpaid work done by those who see a pressing need and then find a way to fix it.
Benzo was nominated for her C.A.T.A.L.Y.S.T. program which stands for “Children and Adults Together Achieving Leadership. The program was created by Benzo just three years ago with only a handful of volunteers at one school. It has now grown to reach children at 10 area schools and comprises more than 200 volunteers.
This year, in honor of the late Johana Knox’s love and commitment to children, the Florida Hospital Fish Memorial Foundation also presented its first-ever youth award to 11-year-old Deltona resident Olivia Rene Russo-Hood. Her passion to improve her community may have been ignited in 2009, after her family’s home was destroyed by a flood. Toward this end, Russo-Hood created Save the Earth Projects (S.T.E.P.) as a youth social entrepreneurship idea organizing social change, according to her nomination.
Russo-Hood’s first project was a used-shoe collection and fundraising partnership with Volusia-Flagler Family YMCAs called “Leave a Good Footprint.” She organized a drive that collected more than 1,500 pairs of shoes to be distributed globally, and raised more than $700 for area scholarships to help needy children participate in YMCA activities.
“People like Felicia Benzo, Olivia Rene Russo-Hood, and our other outstanding Johana Knox Award nominees have blazed a trail of goodness and leadership to help strengthen our community,” said Ed Noseworthy, President and CEO of Florida Hospital Fish Memorial. “It is our humble pleasure to bring recognition to those who do not seek it so that others may be inspired to follow in their footsteps.”
Benzo and Russo-Hood were just two of the 12 nominees for the 2013 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence and were selected by a panel of judges who are not affiliated with Florida Hospital Fish Memorial.
The other nominees for this year’s award were: Shawn-Marie Batchelder of Deltona; Jewel Dickson of DeLand; Sharon Freeman of DeBary; Debbie Gormley of Daytona Beach; Barbara Helwig of Deltona; Trey Himes of Deltona; Michelle Jenkins of Deltona; Joan LaFleur of Orange City; Marsha Royle of DeBary; and Judy Semler of Deltona.
Previous recipients of the award include Sandra Wilson, executive director of the Gateway Center for the Arts; Ida Jane Wegrzyn, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial Auxiliary; and Brenda Gormley, Haven Hospice.
The Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence has raised more than $30,000 for cancer since the event first began in 2009. This year’s event was attended by 180 area residents and community leaders, raising approximately $12,000 to benefit cancer patients in the community.
About Florida Hospital Fish Memorial
Florida Hospital Fish Memorial is a 175-bed full-service hospital providing inpatient and outpatient services in addition to 24-hour emergency and critical care. The hospital is a member of Adventist Health System, the largest Protestant not-for-profit hospital system in the nation and works to provide exceptional, patient-focused care to the DeBary, Deltona, Orange City and Sanford communities. Florida Hospital Fish Memorial is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and is Chest Pain Accredited by the Society of Chest Pain Centers. For more information about Florida Hospital Fish Memorial, visit www.fhfishmemorial.org.
The Johana Knox Award, named for one of West Volusia’s best-known volunteers, began in 2009 to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of like-minded volunteers in the community. (From Left to Right): Nominee Michelle Jenkins of Deltona; Nominee Marsha Royal of DeBary; Nominee Sharon Freeman of DeBary; Nominee Debbie Gormley of Daytona Beach; Nominee Joan Lafleur of Orange City; 2013 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence Recipient Felicia Benzo of Deltona; Florida Hospital Fish Memorial President and CEO Ed Noseworthy; Nominee Barbara Helwig of Deltona; Nominee Trey Himes of Deltona; 2013 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence Youth Award Recipient Olivia Rene Russo-Hood of Deltona; Nominee Shawn-Marie Batchelder of Deltona; Nominee Jewel Dickson of DeLand; and Nominee Judy Semler of Deltona.