On Thursday, May 3, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial awarded DeBary resident Rani Merens with the 2012 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence at the DeBary Golf and Country Club. Named for West Volusia’s best-known volunteer, Johana Knox, this award recognizes outstanding persons for their volunteer and philanthropy efforts.
Merens has lived with multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, for the past 16 years, but doesn’t let her illness prevent her from helping others.
Despite being wheelchair-bound, Merens has focused on what she can do to help others, whether teaching English through the Volusia Literacy Council, or serving as a representative for the City of DeBary as a member of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC).
A talented artist, Merens paints portraits for people who have lost a loved one. She also paints portraits of dogs and donates 50 percent of the proceeds to an organization that trains dogs to assist those with special needs.
“Rani shows us what can be accomplished when we think of others and have the courage to make a difference,” according to her nomination.
Merens was one of 11 people nominated for the 2012 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence and was selected by a panel of judges who are not affiliated with Florida Hospital.
The other nominees for this year’s award were: Norma Adamczyk of Enterprise; Kimberly Cline of DeLand; Leonard and Erin Maciejewski of DeBary; Gloria Micelli of Deltona; Tami Moffett of Orange City; Lynda Moncrief of Sanford; Loie Polinsky of DeBary; Sharon Stafford of Orange City; and Bob Wetton of DeLand.
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 over $30,000 for cancer since the event first began in 2009. This year’s event was attended by 107 area residents and community leaders, raising approximately $12,000 to benefit cancer patients in the community.
Ed Noseworthy, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial CEO, poses for a photo with Rani Merens, the 2012 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence.