The East Toledo Family Center created an award on behalf of its first senior director, Nancy Gernheuser, who retired in 1997.
Qualities listed for the Senior Director Award include “being creative, vision, advocacy for others, dedicated to own sense of values, personable, approachable, caring, passionate, and having a true sense of humor,” which are said to exemplify Gernheuser’s qualities.
At its Annual Meeting Recognition Night, the center gave this year’s award to retired Toledo Public Schools teacher and administrator Richard Fisher and his wife Sandy.
|Richard Fisher with his daughter Kelly and wife Sandy
Both remain active on the ETFC’s Senior Center fundraising committee, which organizes a chili cook-off held every October along with other fundraising activities.
Richard’s former work at TPS as director of curriculum for East Toledo schools brought him to this side of town. Richard first became involved when Tim Yenrick was director of the family center.
“He (Yenrick) invited me to be a part of the fundraising efforts, and so basically, the family center in the past had a banquet. Tim thought, ‘Could we turn this banquet into a fundraising operation to support the center?’
“I told him I had some organizational skills that I thought I could help him with that transition, so 15 years ago we began this gala and it’s been supported by St. Charles Mercy Hospital and Toledo Refining, and Mercy Partners — we have a bunch of other wonderful corporate sponsors that equally recognize the quality of what is being done.”
Richard and Sandy have been co-chairpersons of the annual ETFC gala fundraiser for nearly a decade.
“While we live in West Toledo, we recognize that this center is unlike any other. Unfortunately, it would be nice if every other city had a program of this quality. The center celebrated its 110th anniversary last year, which is pretty phenomenal when you think about a community-supported program lasting over a century,” Richard said.
The family center, now located in Varland Avenue, began in 1901 as the Neighborhood Association but soon became fondly known in the community as simply the "Neighborhood House."
Perhaps the oldest such community organization in this area, it provided aid to many immigrant families who arrived in the early 1900s and it survived the Depression in the 1930s when services were needed all the more and it continued to grow during the post-World War II boom years until a new building was needed in the early 1970s.
Now in a new century, it serves more people and provides more programs than at any other time in its long history.
“I’m retired, my wife is also retired, but we remain committed to the center because we visit the center frequently, and we actually see the programs in action and we are impressed with the quality of the employees and services that they provide at any level. It’s truly a phenomenal place,” Richard said.
Richard served on the ETFC board for one six-year term and is a lifetime member, while Nancy served on the board of the senior center.
“I think it’s because city-wide, people recognize the quality of what happens at the East Toledo Family Center,” Richard said. “It really is a stellar program that provides support to small children and begins with pre-school care, and the services go throughout the community to providing home repair and all kinds of wonderful programs for seniors. So, it’s truly a family center experience in terms of how they reach out into the community.
“(U.S. Rep.) Marcy Kaptur came to a meeting not long ago and said that the family center should really have internships where people from other community centers can come and spend time seeing how this organization operates. I’m very proud of it.”
This year’s 15th Annual Gala is “Disco Fever” on Apr. 28 from 6:30-11 p.m. at the Glass City Boardwalk on East Broadway, Moline. This year’s gala will benefit ETFC’s child care programs.
“Each year we choose a different program to benefit. We raise around $20,000 each year, and the number changes depending on the economy and the number of people that attend,” Richard said.
“Usually, about 250 to 350 people come to this event, and many of them are people who grew up in the East Toledo community and benefitted from the family center’s existence sometime in the past and they are very loyal supporters of this event.”
At the gala, more awards will be handed out to deserving volunteers along with three Richard J. Fisher Educator Awards honoring East Toledo teachers. Teachers and administrators nominate deserving colleagues, and Richard serves on the committee that chooses the recipients.
“We give awards to volunteers who also have done exceptional things. I’m proud to tell this, they have recognized East Toledo educators by giving them an award in my name. Each year two or three outstanding East Toledo educators are given an award at this gala, and I’m alive to actually hand them the trophy and a plaque hangs on the wall of the family center with a picture and a bio of each of these teachers. It’s really a celebration of excellence,” Richard said.