Aurora -- The first-ever Visioning In Portage awards honored businesses, school districts and community groups at a gala event Aug. 24, presenting awards for outstanding programs and people across the county.
And Aurora High School came away with the "most engaging high school initiative" award for its Independent Learning Experience, which "provides an experience that allows students to define and pursue learning according to their own interests and passion."
The VIPs were awarded during a dinner at the Bertram Inn and Conference Center in six categories: economic development projects, community service projects, health initiatives, most engaging high school initiative, high school or community heroes and art and cultural events.
About 170 people turned out for the inaugural event of what is hoped to become an annual celebration of good and unique things in Portage County.
Other winners were:
• Best economic development project: Catacel Corp., which renovated an older industrial space in Ravenna for its emission control product manufacturing. The Atrium at Anna Maria in Aurora also was a nominee.
• Best community service project: Root House, an addiction recovery program in Ravenna that grew out of the tragic loss of one couple's son to addition and their vision of a center so that others may have a future. The Aurora Farmers Market also was a nominee.
•Best health initiative: The Ravenna schools-based Personal Improvement Program that is done in partnership with West Main School, the Ravenna Board of Health, Ravenna Parks and Recreation, Kent State University and local businesses to improve students' health and performance.
• Best art / cultural event: Art on the Hill in Mantua, sponsored by the Downtown Mantua Revitalization Corp.
• Community hero: Kathleen Schuman, a longtime Streetsboro resident, wife, mother and grandmother who has been involved with the Streetsboro Community Pantry for many years. Last year she took over leadership when the director took a medical leave. Aurora One Fund Executive Director Joe Kotlin and former Aurora Police Chief Seth Riewaldt also were nominees.
The gala featured live music and entertainment. At the pre-dinner reception, artist Debbie Haylett started work on an oil painting that will be auctioned off at next year's event.
Steering committee member Terry Montz of Innovative Elegance & Designs said planning will start soon on next year's event. "Nomination forms for the awards will be going out soon," she noted.
The gala dinner and award ceremony is part of a series of five events for "Portage County Celebration Week" that started Aug. 20 with a high school band show in Kent and will end with the Aug. 30 kickoff of the Kent State University football season at Dix Stadium.
Events include Cruise-In Portage County today (Aug. 27) in Ravenna.
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Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier