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Kiwanis honors hometown heroes

July 3, 2013
SPECIAL?TO?THE?CITIZEN , Lehigh Acres Citizen

At a special community awards banquet the Kiwanis Club of Lehigh Acres recognized six Lehigh Acres residents as Home Town Heroes for 2013.

More than 120 guests shared the excitement at faith Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall as the names were announced. Special guest presenters each bestowed accolades upon the recipients.

They included Deputy Stephen Cart of the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Cart serves as the Lehigh community policing officer who most recently oversaw the cleanup of vacant property where vagrants were causing a public nuisance adjacent to a childcare center.

George and Sandy Szymanski were recognized for many years of service to the community as coordinators of cleanup programs, especially the Westminster Task Force. They worked with the County Code Enforcement Department to cleanup blight.

They were strong volunteers with the Lehigh Acres Community Initiative, where George Szymanski served as the chairman of the neighborhood Restoration and Beautification subcommittee.

Additionally, the two partnered with various neighborhood watch groups to canvas neighborhoods and report to the county on the areas in most need a street lighting and paving.

Larry Gutridge was recognized as a Home Town Hero.

Capt. Haberman, commander of the Lee County Sheriff's Office Bravo District, stated in his nomination that his duties as a crime practitioner and his work with civic and faith based organizations to make Lehigh a better place in which to live made him a standout nominee for the award.

Gutridge has been responsible for building the network of Community Watch groups throughout Lehigh, which have become an intricate part of the sheriff's office community policing project.

"In law-enforcement we tend to overlook the contributions of our civilian counterparts concentrating on the work of the certified deputies," Haberman said. "But Larry Gutridge deserves this award for his tireless and sometimes overlooked contributions to the safety and welfare of the Lehigh Acres community."

John Phelps of the Lehigh Acres Postal Service was also recognized.

Ray Nicely, executive director of Lehigh Community Services, said during the presentation that for years this unknown postman was not just delivering the mail to residents of Lehigh, but has been the driving force for the postal department's food drive for Community Services each year.

This year alone more than 40,000 pounds of food was gathered by Phelps, his fellow postal employees, and the many generous residents of Lehigh. John has truly been the backbone of the project.

The final recipient was Andrea Adams, with the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Adams' presenter, Lt. Tim Short, expounded upon the numerous activities that Adams has been a part of since 2007. All of which her efforts have gone to improve the quality of life in Lehigh Acres.

Dating back to the original Weed & Seed program and then the Lehigh Acres Community Initiative, she has been the coordinator and lifeblood of the organization. She has assisted organizing neighborhood cleanup drives and is the coordinator of make Lehigh's Make A Difference Day.

She works tirelessly each month putting together the teen dance at Veterans Park in partnership with County Parks, the Sheriff's Youth Activities League, Mission Church of God, and the Kiwanis club of Lehigh Acres. Nearly 300 teens participate in the monthly dance.



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