Now in its 33rd year, the WLKY Spirit of Louisville Foundation presented the 2010 WLKY Bell Awards to 10 individuals and the WLKY Bell Awards Youth Service Honor to two young people at a banquet on Wednesday, October 6 at the Galt House. A special one-hour telecast of ceremony will air on WLKY on Saturday, October 16, from 8-9 p.m.
The program recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the true “spirit of Louisville” through selfless volunteer service in our community. The recipients came from nearly one hundred nominations received from the Louisville and surrounding areas this year. Three members of the Jewish community, Blema Baer, Richard Schuster and Amy Trager, were among the honorees.
For more than 40 years, Blema Baer has provided comfort and support to patients at Jewish Hospital. Every Thursday morning, she greets newly admitted patients, visits their rooms to chat or assist with meals, delivers mail, and runs errands.
A young 96 years of age, Baer has accumulated more than 7,500 hours of sharing kindness, warm smiles, and lollipops she purchases at her own expense. Her presence and volunteer efforts at Jewish Hospital bring joy not only to the patients receiving care, but the physicians and staff who also benefit from her help and encouragement.
Baer finds it overwhelming to get so much recognition for doing what she loves to do.
Over the years, she’s worked in many parts of the hospital doing whatever she could. “I used to work in the intensive care waiting room,” she recalled, noting that this was something she particularly enjoyed. “I’d arrange for visits from the clergy, get the nurses to talk to the families, and help make them more comfortable.”
In 1990, Jewish Hospital recognized her as the volunteer of the year.
Volunteering has always been part of her life, and over the years, Baer has also volunteered at the Jewish Convalescent Home, the Arts and Crafts Gallery and the Jewish Hospital Ladies Guild. In addition, she helped with the Community Chest Drive, was a volunteer for the Jewish Community Federation’s Annual Campaign and worked on Super Sunday, and sold Israel Bonds.
She’s also a dedicated volunteer at National Council of Jewish Women’s Fashion Encore. “I began working for Fashion Encore when it was held at the Fairgrounds,” she recalled, “and I’m still doing it.”
Baer is a member of Congregation Anshei Sfard.
Her son, Gordon Baer, and his wife, Shirley, live in Cincinnati, where he is a freelance photographer.
Her husband, Ray Baer, a noted DuPont Manual High School coach, died in 1968; and her son, Perry Baer, who helped start street theater, died in 2000.
Richard H. Shuster
While maintaining a successful and busy law practice, Richard Shuster helps men and women in jails and prisons unlock their hidden potential. He assists with the intensive personal growth rehabilitation programs, Freedom 101: Dealing with Confinement, and Freedom 102: Dealing with Freedom. Shuster also implemented 45-minute weekly gatherings known as “The Breakfast Club” to provide additional support to those wanting to re-enter life successfully after their release. His commitment to gain their trust and teach hands-on life skills has resulted in many success stories.
“My idea of a great weekend is going to jail,” he quipped. “I’m delighted to get this award. It’s a testament to the students who do our class, to the courage of the men and women in the class who take a chance on themselves, and to the jail commanders who take a chance on us and allow us to present Freedom 101 in their jails.”
He also teaches a seminar on money in the jails. “The students have a surprising lack of knowledge about money and money issues. It is one of the reasons they have turned to crime. The course looks at the practical and emotional side [of finance]. It helps them stop being the victim of money and move toward prosperity.”
Professionally, Schuster is an attorney who represents people with financial problems and those who are disabled and applying for Social Security. He also works with parents who have neglected their responsibilities to their children and people who have been marginalized by society.
“People, no matter what their situation, want to be heard and seen for what they truly are,” he said. “They deserve respect, and that carries over to the jail environment.”
“I’ve been practicing law with my uncle, Harris Berman, for 30 years, who taught me early on the importance of treating people with dignity, no matter what their station in life. I also practiced law with Leon Shaikun until his death in 1999. He had a client base that could best be described as ‘shady.’ Leon impressed upon me the importance of being non-judgmental, not taking life too seriously and having a good time. I try to bring those attributes with me when working in the jail.”
Schuster also helps educate young people about money. He also participates with CARE (Credit Abuse Resistance Education) a program co-sponsored by the Kentucky Bar Foundation and the Jefferson County Public Schools. “We meet with high school seniors and discuss the legal obligations associated with credit, the way people abuse credit, and how bad decisions can impact their lives in years to come.”
In addition to his career and volunteer service in jails, Schuster is treasurer of the Upper Highlands Neighborhood Association and is a member of Congregation Adath Jeshurun.
He has an undergraduate degree in accounting from Indiana University and earned his law degree from the University of Louisville.
Amy Trager serves as a volunteer at West End School with a passion. A nonprofit boarding school for middle school boys with no governmental support, she sees to it that they have school and sports uniforms, helps out wherever needed and provides emotional and social support. She has introduced prominent and diverse members of the community to the students, and recruited volunteer assistance from among her friends, family and the community-at-large.
When Coach Charlie Strong came to this community, and she was able to connect with him, Trager told him about West End School and he invited the boys to meet the coaches and players and observe a workout. Coach Strong was so impressed with the school that he selected West End School as one of five charities the team supports as they give back to the community.
Trager also arranged for Fred Gross to come to the school to teach the boys about the Holocaust.
She also introduced Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport at The Temple to West End School, and after a visit, he brought information back to the congregation, which then adopted the school as an ongoing mitzvah project. Today, Temple members help the school in many areas. Trager sees herself as a connector, “bringing people to the West End School and getting them involved.”
Amy Trager started her volunteer work doing hands-on projects at the Home of the Innocents and working her way up over 17 years to a position on the Board, which she completed in 2008. She became a CASA volunteer in 2006, and over the next four years spent about 20 hours a week helping the organization ensure that children’s voices are heard when their families find themselves in the court system. She also served three years as a parent representative on North Oldham High School’s Site Based Decision-Making Council (SBDM).
“I am really honored,” she said about receiving the Bell Award. “I feel really blessed to be able to serve the community.”
Trager is active in the Jewish community as well. As a Lion of Judah, she hosted the dinner for that division at her home twice, and co-chaired a special event featuring Spanx CEO Laurie Ann Goldman for the Lions and all women in the community. She also co-chaired last year’s Major Gifts Dinner with guest speaker John Calipari.
Trager and her husband, Steve, have two children, Kevin and Emily. Steve Trager is Chairman and CEO of Republic Bank.
Amy Trager said she and her husband have a motto, “With privilege comes responsibility.” That is a message they learned from their parents and grandparents and are teaching to their children.
Other Bell Award Winners
Harold Baker, who can be found at the Franciscan Shelter House every Tuesday and Thursday, where he has volunteered for nearly 30 years. Serving an average of 400 meals per day, Baker is the chief cook, handling inventory, procurement of food, the planning and preparation of meals, and organizing fellow volunteers. He is a volunteer with the Knights of Columbus, a member of the Father Baden Assembly Honor Guard and devotes time to the Gibault Children Services, a school for troubled youth. In addition, Baker serves in various roles at Saint Mary’s Lanesville Church.
In response to the 1997 Heath High School shooting tragedy, Dr. Timir Banarjee founded the Society for the Prevention of Aggressiveness and Violence Among Adolescents (SPAVA), a non-profit organization to help teach students a non-violent approach to life. With the support of the JCPS, Catholic, public and private school systems, trained volunteers mentor students and present interactive programs to teach respect, integrity and self-control. He leads fund-raising efforts to maintain the operation of SPAVA as well as scholarship programs. In addition, Dr. Banarjee has been a volunteer neurosurgeon in third world countries.
Lea Fischbach has been a volunteer at The Cabbage Patch Settlement House since 1994. “Miss Fish” leads arts and crafts classes for the children, providing all the materials necessary for each class, serves as a tutor and mentor in their Homework Helper project and hosts on-site parties throughout the year. She received the President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Bush in 2007 and is serving her second term on the Patch’s board. In addition, Fischbach volunteers with Community Coordinated Child Care, Citizens Foster Care Review Board, Metro United Way’s Success by 6 and Anchorage Presbyterian Church.
Laura Gettelfinger has hosted a missionary couple from Costa Rica for the past eight months, providing them a loving place to live as they prepare for a new project in Columbia. She has spearheaded fund-raising events, helping raise nearly $30,000 to support the Latin American Discipleship & Outreach Ministry. You’ll often find Gettelfinger cutting yards, checking in on sick or elderly neighbors, transporting them to doctor appointments or helping with errands. In addition, she regularly prepares meals to serve families at the Ronald McDonald House.
Robert Haswell has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for more than 17 years, doing everything from swinging a hammer, drywall work, to serving as a crew leader. He is active at St. Matthews United Methodist Church, and his church has sponsored and built two of the more than 200 Habitat homes he’s been involved with. Haswell served on the first board for St. Matthews Area Ministries in the 1970’s and has remained active with them to this day. In addition, he was a member of the Disaster Relief Team, serving in Kentucky, Alabama and Missouri in the 90’s.
After retiring as an attorney, Susan Turner looked for a new direction in her volunteer efforts. She now devotes 30+ hours per week to Habitat for Humanity, working three days a week and supervising 8-20 volunteers each day. Through Anchorage Presbyterian Church, she has volunteered in relief efforts in Gautier and Guatemala, and made six trips to the Gulf to work on the Katrina Project. She was a member of the Jimmy Carter Work Projects in India following the tsunami, and Anniston, AL and Los Angeles, CA for Habitat, and Thailand in 2009, where 60 homes were built in a week.
Earl Wieting began volunteering at Kentucky Harvest in 1987. Twenty-three years later, this 91-year-old has driven more than 259,200 miles and transported 1,000,000+ pounds of food. Wieting has used his own van and purchased the gas needed to ensure food is delivered to The Lord’s Kitchen, Shively Area Ministries, Plymouth Community Center, Salvation Army, Sister Visitor Center and more. He has been a member of American Legion Post #229 for 55 years, served during World War II and attended the WWII Memorial in Washington.
The Bell Award Youth Service Honor Recipients
Danielle Collier Danielle earned the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts, by developing and organizing a monthly childcare service she called “Mom’s Night Out” for the spouses of soldiers in the 152nd Infantry serving in Iraq. On the fourth Friday of every month, children enjoyed pizza, activities and games, while mothers went to dinner to spend time together sharing experiences with one another. Danielle has served on mission teams with Graceland Baptist Church and was a volunteer at Floyd Memorial Hospital. She graduated from Floyd Central High School and entered the nursing program at the University of Louisville this fall.
Samuel Leist served as President of the Louisville Zoo Youth Board and a member of their Board of Directors. He volunteered more than 300 hours to the Louisville Zoo during high school, and was one of 17 teenagers worldwide selected to attend the 2008 Polar Bears International Leadership Camp, an international polar bear expedition. In addition, he is scheduled to travel to the Arctic Circle this fall to study bears and climate change. Samuel has also volunteered at Nazareth Home, Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross. He graduated from St. Xavier High School and entered DePauw University this fall to study Political Science.
The 2010 chairperson of the Spirit of Louisville Foundation is Karen Sherman with YUM! Brands. Carolle Jones Clay with Republic Bank and Judy Bidwell with Fifth Third Bank are serving as co-chairpersons. Glenn Haygood, President & GM of WLKY serves as the foundation’s president.