For Hometown News
Deltona resident Felicia Benzo received the 2013 Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence at the Victoria Gardens Clubhouse in DeLand on April 18.
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 volunteers.
Ms. Benzo, like the other 11 nominees, was nominated 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 fill it.
Ms. 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 Ms. 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 the foundation 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. Olivia created Save the Earth Projects (S.T.E.P.) as a youth social entrepreneurship idea organizing social change, according to her nomination.
Olivia'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.
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.
The Johana Knox Award for Community Service Excellence has raised more than $30,000 for cancer since the event first began in 2009.