HOBART | “Leadership is not about popularity. It’s about being effective. Those we honor are those who are the founders, the risk takers and doers and the shakers.”

Keith Kirkpatrick, president/CEO of Leadership Northwest Indiana, brought that message to Friday’s second annual Leaders as Heroes South Shore Leadership Awards at Avalon Manor.

The event was also a fundraiser for LNI programs, including the newly initiated South Shore Leadership Youth for Community Engagement program.

“They do not seek recognition,” Kirkpatrick said of the 22 finalists nominated for the Leaders as Heroes leadership awards. “Leaders do a lot, risk a lot and never get thanks.”

Eleven “unsung heroes” were recipients of those awards:

• Keith Bruxvoort, vice president for finance for Strack & Van Til, is part of multiple community organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, the Wellness Council of NWI, the Quality of Life Council, Highland School Board, Highland Rotary, The Crisis Center and Highland Water Board.

• Steven Conger, senior pastor of Ridge United Methodist Church in Munster, was president of the Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery Initiative and is vice chairman of the Munster Chamber of Commerce, chaplain for the Munster Police Department and chairman of the United Methodist Church of Gary Task Force.

• Brad Hemingway, a licensed representative for PFS Investments, is founder of Planting Possibilities, an organization working to provide employment and job skills training and fulfilling volunteer opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities in Lake County.

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• Bill Jarvis is a successful longtime business owner and one of the longest-serving members of the Schererville Plan Commission and Schererville Board of Zoning Appeals. He was also instrumental in putting together a 20-year master plan for Schererville. In addition, he is executive director of the Tri-Town Safety Village in Schererville.

• David Lee King Jr. is a senior at Westside Leadership Academy in Gary and has fought for important causes such as an end to gun and gang violence. He serves as president of the student council, works with Jobs for America’s Graduates, is Gary’s first youth adviser and organized a Youth March for Change on March 23 in Gary.

• Kris Krouse is executive director of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, a post he’s held since 2005. He is also a member of the Michigan City Rotary and Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Advisory Board and other environmental boards, is a member of the Region One board of directors and the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association board.

• Tavetta Patterson created the Gary Life Education Initiative in 1998 at the age of 18. This nonprofit provides the region’s vulnerable youth with educational and mentoring services to help them excel through high school, college and a career path or business venture.

• Richard Reel is the catalyst and chief construction manager of the Pioneer Lane at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds. He is also known in LaPorte County for designing a LaPorte High School leadership training class.

• Rebecca Reiner has pulled together community support so that 137 students are enrolled this year at New Vistas High School, the charter school she founded and directs through her role as executive of Neighbors’ Educational Opportunities.

• Jamal Washington, director of community relations for Illinois Central, works to correct transportation issues within the communities he serves. He also has been involved in, or created, community service projects in the Gary/Merrillville area. These include the Gary Commission for Men, which is a youth mentoring organization, and the Kids That Santa Forgot group.

• Rondi Wightman has been involved with Great Lake Transplant Social Workers since 1996 and is a member of the Lupus Foundation of America-Indiana Chapter board of directors. She also serves as president of the town of Porter Parks Department and has organized for the Duneland Seniors group.

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