ALPENA - Rev. Steven Hammond, who came to Alpena eight years ago to serve dual roles as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church and as a licensed physician assistant, became the 2012 Athena Award recipient Wednesday.
Hammond humbly accepted the award that traditionally recognizes a local individual for professional excellence, for service to their community, and for assisting women in attainment of their professional goals and leadership skills. This marked the 18th consecutive year that the honor was presented.
"I receive this not as an individual award, but as a reflection of who we are in this community," he said.
In addition to his service to his church, Hammond helped to establish the Alpena Free Clinic. Staffed by volunteers, the clinic has been able to provide free health care to 2,000 otherwise uninsured individuals.
He also serves on many boards and commissions, including Alpena Village, Alpena Optimist Club, Thunder Bay Theatre, Alpena County Human Services Coordinating Council, Shelter Inc., Project Connect and Free Clinics of Michigan.
"I'm very thankful to have been welcomed into the community and have worked at making a difference," Hammond said.
He told those gathered at the Holiday Inn for the annual Athena Award banquet that he also is thankful for his family for being so understanding of his time commitments, his church for being all-inclusive in reaching out to others and the volunteers at the free clinic for being so compassionate toward others who don't have the same advantages.
Besides Hammond, Beverly Bodem and Dorothy LaFleche were honored as this year's nominees.
In announcing the 2012 Athena Award recipient, 2011 recipient Carol Shafto said, "Alpena is truly blessed to have a wealth of talented, dedicated people who invest their time and energy in making this community thrive. As always, naming one as the Athena Award recipient is a difficult choice."
Shafto said each candidate is outstanding in their own field and has given countless hours of their time.
"Each has done this while raising a family balancing their work, home and service roles," she said. "Each is deserving of this award or they would not have had the honor of being nominated and considered."
A number of other past recipients participated in Wednesday's banquet, including 2010 recipient Marie Williams, who gave the welcome; 2008 recipient Marsha Hoppe, who gave the invocation; and 2007 recipient Barb Wilmot, who introduced the nominees.
Serving on the selection committee along with David Dziubinski of Lafarge Cement - Alpena Plant, Amy Essex of First Federal of Northern Michigan and Bernie Lamp of Straley, Ilsley & Lamp, were 2004 recipient Dr. Richard Bates and 1997 recipient Kathleen Stepaniak.
Guest speaker at the banquet was Deborah Fellows, founder/editor-in-chief of My North Media/Traverse Magazine. Serving as sponsors were Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, First Federal of Northern Michigan, Lafarge and the Zonta Club of Alpena, which originally brought the awards program to Alpena.
The overall program first began in Lansing in 1982, and has since been instituted in hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada.
Diane Speer can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5691.