By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green gave its most cherished awards Saturday to a woman whose students became part of her extended family, and to a man who extended his family to many in need.
Dolores Black and Tim Harris were named Citizens of the Year at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner in BGSU’s grand ballroom Saturday evening.
Black was recognized as a true advocate for equity in education for all – at all levels of public schools and higher education.
Black approaches life with zest – from teaching, to competitive dancing, to sending postcards from around the world to former students.
She was one of the founders of the library set up for inmates at the Wood County jail, and was fundamental in the operation of Wood Lane Special Olympics. She was volunteered with the Wood County Historical Society, the Wood County Humane Society, the Wood County Task Force on Battered Women, the Bowling Green Community Foundation and the Save the Woods organization.
“Her legacy is lasting,” Shirley Woessner, last year’s recipient of the citizens award, said as she introduced Black.
“What a surprise,” Black said as she accepted her award, surrounded by her family on the stage.
She thanked Wood Lane and the community for giving her opportunities to give back.
“I’d like to thank the teachers I had,” Black said. And she extended that appreciation to her students as well. “They taught me everything.”
Black urged those in the audience to open their eyes to the needs of others. She invited them to stop by the jail library. “Visit your community. Go see the other half,” she said.
Much like Black, Harris was awarded for reaching out to those in need, especially people with disabilities. Harris helped establish the Leadership BG Program for the chamber, and is a past president of the library foundation. He has served as a volunteer with the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Wood County Department of Human Services, BG Optimists, Jaycees, youth hockey and the chamber. He and some buddies from the former Jaycees have created their own group called the “Wild Hogs.”
Harris and his wife, Margie, have been foster parents to eight children.
“He is a person we are proud to know,” said last year’s award winner, Chet Marcin, as he introduced Harris.
Harris was joined on stage by many family members.
“These guys behind me – my family – they make it all possible,” Harris said. And they didn’t give away the surprise, he said after he left the stage. “They were home dressed in sloppy clothes when I left.”
And as for those “Wild Hogs,” well they are much tamer than the movie version, Harris admitted.
The chamber of commerce also bestowed awards for local residents who have helped women succeed. Janet Parks was given the Athena Award, and Jeff Orlowski was given the Zeus Award.
Parks was recognized as being a feminist from a very early age. Throughout her career in education, she taught vital leadership skills and spoke on gender equality. She dedicated volunteer time to Bowling Green Parks and Recreation, the Cocoon, voting rights and Save the Woods.
Parks, known for her gentle southern accent, has proven to be a force to reckon with on women’s issues.
She used her skills as a producer and author to show that women’s athletics are just as important as men’s athletics. She spent her career working to level the playing field.
Parks taught for 39 years at BGSU, wrote a book on women’s athletics at BGSU, and served on the library leadership council.
As she accepted the award, Parks said when she came to Bowling Green in 1965, there was a two-year waiting list for a private phone line. She initially said “don’t bother,” since she had no intention of staying here that long.
That was 53 years ago. “This means a lot to me,” Parks said as she held the award. “I love Bowling Green.”
Orlowski, the administrator at Wood Haven Health Care, was given the award for creating a culture of support for diversity in the workforce. He encourages continuing education for department heads, and gives employees control over new programs.
Orlowski was recognized for urging new employees to submit new ideas. At the same time, his focus is providing the best care for residents at the facility, said Dan Craig as he introduced Orlowski.
“The staff at Wood Haven are excellent people. They make me who I am,” he said.
Also at the chamber dinner, Ambassador of the Year awards were presented to Jason Hines and Christina Stearns.
Pam Fahle, the 2017 chamber president, introduced Jerid Friar as the 2018 president. Friar, an investment executive with Fifth Third Securities, talked about the evening’s theme of “There’s No Place Like Our Best Hometown,” referencing the city being chosen by Ohio Magazine as one of the best hometowns in the state.
“Bowling Green earned this award because of the people who live, work and chose to put down roots here,” Friar said.