Northwest Indiana honored its future and its past at the first One Region awards luncheon Thursday, as eight award recipients were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the community.
Special Recognition Award winner Mark Reshkin summed up the meaning of the day when he described how the Quality of Life Council he and Lee Botts founded two decades ago has now been merged with the One Region initiative.
"We represent a time when no one was talking to one another in Northwest Indiana," Reshkin said. "And now that people are talking, it's time to start doing things."
One Region was founded by Times Media Co. Publisher Bill Masterson Jr. and now has 16 action initiatives, covering areas such as health care, environment, veterans issues and public safety. The organization has a nine-person board of directors and has hired former Calumet College of St. Joseph president Dennis Rittenmeyer as executive director.
Masterson told the 630 people attending the luncheon at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville that the One Region effort is breaking down barriers, stereotypes and borders.
"It's now up to each and every one of us to keep this going," Masterson said.
Botts also received a Special Recognition Award for her role in founding the Quality of Life Council and the broad range of environmental efforts she spearheaded and supported over the years.
The awards ceremony also looked to the future in bestowing its Promise of the Future Award on Portage High School senior Collin Czilli and Gary West Side High School senior David Lee King Jr.
Czilli said the award committee must have zeroed in on him when they saw how young people have many ways to get out the message when it comes to helping people. Czilli and a friend cofounded an online radio station before they were even in high school. Once there, they moved on to establishing a television station for the school and a sports magazine.
King said the awards committee seemed to notice the kind of confidence it took to be elected the first African-American to head up a State District Student Council representing schools in 13 counties. He has also served on the Gary Mayor's antiviolence task force and led the first antibullying campaign in Gary schools.
Other award winners Thursday were Carl and Lorrie Lisek, Outstanding Achievement Award; State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, Outstanding Achievement Award; Thomas Katsahnias, Lifetime Achievement; and Dharathula "Dolly" Milender, Lifetime Achievement.
The Liseks cofounded Legacy Environmental Services, an environmental sustainability company that works with companies throughout the region to increase their energy efficiency and conservation efforts. They also are coexecutive directors of South Shore Clean Cities, an organization dedicated to reducing fuel emissions and energy consumption across Northwest Indiana.
Charbonneau is an Indiana State Senator and former director of human resources at U.S. Steel. He has pitched in at a wide variety of local organizations including filling in as interim CEO at Methodist Hospitals and at the Northwest Indiana Forum, a private economic development organization.
Milender founded the Gary Historical and Cultural Society in 1976. She has dedicated her life to the preservation and appreciation of Gary's history. She is an educator, librarian, former city councilwoman, former library trustee and school trustee.
Thomas Katsahnias spent most of his professional career at Inland Steel, where he was general manager and chief operations officer. He then served as CEO at a number other companies. He is widely known for his interest in academia and has served on boards for the Illinois Institute of Technology, Purdue University Calumet and Calumet College of St. Joseph.