Heart and Hands awards presented

STANTON TOWNSHIP – Two people who have made the Keweenaw better through accomplishments such as mobilizing attention against bullying and bringing 9-1-1 service to the north end of the Keweenaw were recognized for their work Friday.

Keweenaw County Sheriff Ron Lahti received the adult Heart and the Hands award, while the youth award went to recent Houghton High School graduate Rachel Chard.

The Heart and Hands Society gives the award each year to a Copper Country resident who has “given of their heart and hands in the service of peace, justice and the environment.”

Also nominated in the adult division were Donica Dravilas, who raises funds for the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter through her annual Keweenaw Path bike/walk/rollerskate; Lori Hauswirth, who has helped grow non-motorized transportation in the area as executive director of the Copper Harbor Trails Club and in other roles; and Michigan Technological University associate provost of academic affairs Christa Walck, who as past president of the Keweenaw Land Trust helped develop the Common Ground Initiative to bring stakeholders together around the goals of land-use planning and land conservation.

This is the 17th year for the award, which is presented each Fourth of July after the conclusion of the Horsetail Scramble. After being held at the home of Terry Kinzel and Sue Ellen Kingsley, it moved this year to the Keweenaw Land Trust’s Marsin Nature Center in Stanton Township.

Lahti was nominated by Richard and Mary Tuisku of Hancock, who praised Lahti for going beyond his job as sheriff with projects such as “No Keweenaw Kid Without a Christmas” toy drive, which he began 16 years ago.

“It’s an honor, that’s for sure,” Lahti said. “I didn’t expect anything like this. There’s a lot of people that help me to do what we do up there. … On behalf of all these folks, I’m glad to accept this.”

As “The Singing Sheriff,” Lahti has also performed for seniors and at numerous local fundraisers. He picked up guitar from a talented inmate who had a nine-month stay at the county jail, Dick Tuisku said. He is also U.P. coordinator for the Torch Run, a law enforcement fundraiser for the Special Olympics in which officers run from Copper Harbor to Lansing.

“He has the heart to go beyond what it takes to be a sheriff, what it takes to be just an ordinary citizen, to get involved,” Tuisku said. “He’s always striving for the safety of people in the county.”

Winners receive a cash award they donate to the charity of their choice. Lahti gave his $1,250 prize to Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly.

“We have a lot of elderly people up our way, and they have dinners at Christmas and they help people get to and from doctors’ appointments,” he said. “They constantly do things, and they volunteer to do this.”

Chard was nominated by Lois Jambekar, co-advisor of the Keweenaw Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council, which Chard joined as a freshman. Chard’s accomplishments included creating Bully Backfire, an anti-bullying game presented to area fourth-graders, and developing a youth needs survey for area middle- and high-school students.

“I think it’s really great to be recognized,” she said. “I’d never heard of it before, but once I looked into it I think this is a really great event, and hearing all these people who are nominated, there’s a lot of really great people out there who are working to help the community.”

Jambekar called Chard “one of the most motivated and responsible young people I have ever worked with over the years.”

“She is a young lady of action and is always striving to make her community a positive place for people to live, particularly the youth,” Jambekar wrote.

Chard donated her $350 prize to Simple Kindness for Youth. The local charity provides needy students with items such as sports equipment and prom dresses.

“I think they’re really reaching out to youth, and my main motto is ‘Youth helping youth,'” she said.