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Citizens of Character to be honored in Belleville

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The BASIC, or Belleville Achieves Strength in Character, Initiative seeks to recognize residents who strive to make “a positive difference in the community and enhance the quality of life in Belleville.”

And on Tuesday night, 13 people will be honored as part the 11th annual Mary McHugh Citizens of Character celebration dinner.

The 2018 Citizens of Character award winners are Sue Barsaloux, Thomas Birkner, Ally Dyer, Marlene Frazer, Joe Hubbard, Crystal Nesbit, Jason Poole, Phil Silsby, Sally Stephens, Jesse Swift, Jack Weck and Linda Williams.

McKenna Rafferty will receive the Steve Suess award given to a Lindenwood University-Belleville student.

The dinner will be at the 4204 Main Street Brewing Co. at 6435 W. Main St. in Belleville. For ticket availability, contact Erika Eckert at 618-233-5877.

The BASIC Initiative compiled biographical information about the award winners. Here are highlights about the winners:

Sue Barsaloux is a 27 year veteran of the Chiro-Med organization. She has been involved with the board of the Downtown YMCA, Get Up & Go, and the Get Up & Go Biathlon. Sue is a member of the Belleville Running Club and founded the Belleville Walking Club. Sue also created and directs the Chiro-Med 5K Winter to raise money for Special Olympics.

Thomas “Doc” Birkner retired from 23 years of service through his work directing bands at Belleville West High School. He remains active as a professional trumpet player and singer as well as a faculty member in the music department at SWIC. Many of his former students are now professional musicians and educators across the country.

Ally Dyer is the youngest recipient in the history of the awards. She established herself as a citizen of character through her work as a fourth-grader in Mount Vernon, where she developed a fundraiser for a homeless shelter that raised over $12,000 over several years. As a sophomore at Belleville East High School, Ally created the Blessing Belleville Banquet. This event has raised over $27,000 divided among Project Compassion, Caritas Family Solutions and Beacon Ministries over a three-year period. Now a senior, Ally has mentored others in her age group so the banquet can carry on in the future.

Marlene Frazer is active on the Evangelism Team and serves as the lead usher at Union UMC. She volunteers at the Belleville marathon and Tour de Belleville. Marlene serves a treasurer for the Turkey Hill Grange and is one of the first to volunteer for Grange events. She is dedicated to activities that support youth and individuals with disabilities.

Joe Hubbard has a tireless dedication to those who need food, medical attention, transportation, housing or any other basic need at any hour of the day or night. Joe spent 40 years with Catholic Urban Programs where he still volunteers and is director of Mount Carmel Cemetery.

Crystal Nesbit is a special education teacher at Belleville East High School. Recognizing the need for improved fitness among individuals with disabilities, she worked to become a certified fitness instructor and establish the POPS, or People of Possibilities, fitness class at Belleville Health and Sports Center.

Jason Poole is the director of Public Works for Belleville. He works behind the scenes to support events like Art on the Square, the Belleville Marathon and BASIC’s Keep Belleville Beautiful and Belleville Helping Belleville community service days.

Phil Silsby served as principal of Belleville West for 12 years and demonstrated respect of every student, teacher, and staff member on campus. He served as alderman for Ward 5 for over 12 years and currently, he provides leadership as the seniors pastor at Grace Church for those 55 or older.

Sally Stephens is the leader of the STAR Team at the Belleville West High School. In this role, she leads a team of teachers devoted to supporting at-risk students by helping to build their confidence and support positive decision-making.

Jesse Swift is an integral part of the athletic program at Belleville West High School, particularly working on the boys basketball coaching staff for the past 23 years.

Jack Weck serves on the Foundation Leadership Council for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. He lends his talents to the Cathedral of St. Peter as parish trustee, Cathedral Men’s Choir, eucharistic minister and volunteers weekly at Althoff Father and Friends Bingo and Notre Dame Academy bingo.

Linda Williams worked with a dedicated group of volunteers in 2000 to create and open the Children’s Dyslexia Center at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. The Center opened in 2002 and provides one-on-one tutoring for students with dyslexia.

Steve Suess Student of Character: McKenna Rafferty is a top swimmer with Lindenwood University-Belleville. Also, she plans to student teach this spring and seek a full-time teaching position in the fall.

Mike Koziatek: 618-239-2502, @MikeKoziatekBND