Five longtime community leaders are being recognized for their philanthropic service. 

Wayne County Foundation normally names one winner each year for the Charles A. Rodefeld Award for Leadership in Philanthropy and Community, and the Ruth J. Wickemeyer Award for Nonprofit Excellence. 

However, to celebrate the foundation’s 45th anniversary, more honorees were chosen. The winners were surprised at events over the past week and will be honored at the foundation’s Summer Celebration in July.   

Those awards are the highest recognition the foundation bestows on Wayne County individuals and/or companies.

“It is a privilege to recognize individuals who have given time, talent and treasure to many organizations across Wayne County,” said Rebecca Gilliam, Wayne County Foundation’s executive director, in a news release. “Each recipient is an example of a true servant leader.” 

Sam Witherby and Tom and Chris Hilkert are being honored with the Rodefeld award as philanthropists who move quietly and steadily to address community needs. 

The Wickemeyer Award, given this year to Tom Alberts and Jenie Lahmann, recognizes paid or volunteer nonprofit leaders who personify exceptional service to others in the name of community progress. 

Rodefeld awardees 

Sam Witherby has been instrumental in advocating for local youth for several years. 

He joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County’s board in 1988 and helped raise thousands in funds for the organization. 

One of Witherby’s notable achievements is establishing the First Tee Summer Golf Program in Wayne County, which teaches kids the basics of golf. Richmond Columbian Properties nominated Witherby.

Tom and Chris Hilkert also are passionate advocates for local youth. 

The Hilkerts were instrumental in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County’s capital campaign to build the Richard E. Jeffers Unit by contributing and encouraging others to invest in the project. 

Chris is involved with the clubs’ board. Tom is noted for his work with Reid Health as the Governing Board Chair, Reid Health Foundation, and for his involvement with several committees. Boys & Girls Clubs nominated the Hilkerts. 

Wickemeyer awardees

Jenie Lahmann worked at Morrisson-Reeves Library for 41 years, retiring in December as the marketing and communications manager. One of her largest impacts was building the library’s volunteer and donor base while assisting Friends of Morrisson-Reeves Library. 

Lahmann currently serves as president of Civic Hall Associates and is a member of the Richmond Redevelopment Commission. She was nominated by Friends of MRL.   

Tom Alberts has served on numerous local boards, including Richmond Art Museum, Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Reid Health Foundation, IU East, Wayne County Foundation and Wayne County Historical Museum. 

His fundraising expertise has served numerous organizations and has led to millions of dollars in gifts. His philanthropic spirit has guided several local nonprofits towards financial sustainability. Richmond Art Museum nominated Alberts. 

 “The individuals selected as recipients of the Rodefeld and Wickemeyer awards have all lived exemplary lives as servant leaders,” said Avis Stewart, chair of the foundation’s Nominating & Governance Committee, in the release. 

Stewart said the committee was “thrilled” to recommend the five nominees to the foundation’s board of directors for final approval. 

“Given the significance of our anniversary and the qualities of the nominees, the board enthusiastically approved our recommendation,” Stewart said.

Share this:

A version of this article appeared in the April 17 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.