HANCOCK -- Keweenaw County Sheriff Ron Lahti is the winner of the 2014 Heart and Hands of the Keweenaw Award. In the youth category, Rachel Chard of Atlantic Mine, a 2014 Houghton High School graduate, received an award. Both were presented at the annual Horsetail Scramble on July 4, which was held at the Keweenaw Land Trust's Marsin Nature Retreat Center.
The Heart and Hands Award, from the estate of Martha and Floyd Kinzel, is given to persons who have had a significant impact on the Keweenaw community -- giving of themselves in a caring, committed, or heartfelt way in the area of peace, justice, human needs and/or environmental stewardship. Each winner designates a local nonprofit organization to be the recipient of the cash award. Sheriff Lahti has chosen Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly to receive his $1200 award. Rachel designated SKY (Simple Kindness for Youth) as the recipient of her $350 Heart and Hands Youth Award.
About Ron Lahti
Noting Sheriff Lahti is "a man of few words but of many great deeds," Richard and Mary Tuisku of Hancock nominated him for the award, citing a long list of Lahti's generous giving of his time and caring efforts for the community. Here are some excerpts from their nomination letter:
Ron has been Sheriff of Keweenaw County for 22 years. He is also in charge of the jail. In fact, he lives at the jail! He has positively impacted many lives through his actions related to his job, but more so through actions not related to his job. Seeing the high poverty rate in the county, Ron started a project called "No Keweenaw Kid Without a Christmas" -- a toy drive especially for children in his county. He visits news media throughout the area before Christmas to ask for donations to be dropped off at several locations. And with the money donated, he goes out and buys toys. He's like a kid at Christmas himself when he goes out to buy the toys....
In his office in Eagle River, Mich., Keweenaw County Sheriff Ron Lahti collects toys for his "No Keweenaw Kid Without a Christmas" annual toy drive. (Keweenaw Now file photo by Carissa Pavolich)
Then he collects donated toys from other locations and delivers all of them. He has operated the program for the past 16 years, and it brings a happy Christmas to 80-100 children each year. And this is separate from another toy drive he is involved in with the Houghton County Sheriff's Department.
Always a fan of traditional country music, he learned to play guitar about ten years ago. Now he is known as "the singing sheriff" and consistently donates his time to play for senior citizens ... At gigs where he is paid, he donates his share to other musicians who play with him. He also donates his time for fund-raisers each year ....
Each year, Ron is the U.P. coordinator for the Torch Run, where law enforcement officers run from Copper Harbor to Lansing to raise money for Special Olympics. And he leads his "posse" (as he calls his fellow runners) for the first 5 miles of the journey.
He was instrumental in bringing 9-1-1 service to Michigan's smallest and most remote county .... In addition, Ron has been active in a number of civic organizations and is presently the President of the Lions Club and is an active member of the Keweenaw County Historical Society, co-chairing the county Sesquicentennial a couple of years ago.
And as an example of his one-on-one personal caring, while a Mohawk woman was hospitalized with a serious illness, her husband needed emergency brain surgery in Wausau. Ron took time off work to take the man to Wausau, stayed with him until he was stabilized, came back home and when the man was ready to come back to Mohawk, went to Wausau again to pick him up.
Ron Lahti truly exemplifies the Heart and Hands award. He is a humble man, who seeks no fame or fortune. We are sure he would cherish the award because it would help "his kids."
About Rachel Chard
Lois Jambekar of Houghton nominated Rachel Chard for the Heart and Hands Youth Award. Here are some excerpts from her nomination letter:
Rachel is one of the most motivated and responsible young people I have ever worked with over the years. I’ve known her since she was in the fourth grade when she served as a student council of her class for Houghton Elementary School, and I was the Houghton Elementary Student Council Advisor. The elementary student council did some community projects besides projects for the school. That particular year they collected food and pet supplies for the CC Humane Society and participated in the Channel TV6 Can Drive. Rachel was helpful in planning and carrying out these projects at the age of 9.
I got to know Rachel much better and work with her more closely when she joined the Keweenaw Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council (YAC) ....
Rachel has been involved in and responsible for many YAC activities the past four years, including these:
- Helped develop and create the Bully Backfire Game which is presented to fourth grade classes in the area each year. She also has been involved and very much a leader in presenting the game to fourth grade students.
- Helped develop and conduct a youth needs survey of 1300 middle and high school students in Houghton County the fall of 2011.
- Participated in the Great Lake Shoreline clean-up with YAC the fall of 2012 and 2013.
- Helped plan, publicize, and coordinate the youth grant program that takes place twice a year to disperse $25,000 for Community organizations for projects that will benefit local youth....
- Helped develop and advertise an annual video contest for local youth in which students create videos on important youth concerns.
Learn more about the Heart and Hands Award by visiting the Heart and Hands Society Web site.