Rotary Club, Recorder honor residents at 25th annual Local Heroes Awards


Six local residents and one Ponte Vedra Beach family wealth office were honored last week, when the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach and the Ponte Vedra Recorder presented the 25th annual Local Heroes Awards.

Held May 25 at Sawgrass Country Club, the awards reception recognized individuals who go above and beyond, making a vital impact on the local community.

“The winners we honor this evening affirm a sage observation – the quality of your life will be determined by the quality of your contribution,” said Past President Chuck Day, who once again served as master of ceremonies. “Each one is the ‘somebody’ who responded to that old lament ‘Somebody ought to do something.’ Without prodding, and with a smile, they’ve done plenty.”

First presented in 1993, “Local Heroes” was created by former Rotary Club member Vic DiGenti. It honors individuals volunteer efforts in six categories, and special service by a local business. The “Local Heroes” Class of 2017 includes:

Mort and Jan Hanson – Environmental Heroes: Nominated by Neptune Beach resident Maureen Buik and Rotary Club President Michael Bruce, the Hansons were honored for their more than 30 years of dedication directing the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol.

“Their patrols started at Hanna Park and Mayport,” Day told attendees. “Before long, they expanded south and kept on expanding, recruiting volunteers as they trekked along.”

In accepting the award, Mort Hanson thanked the Rotary Club, the Recorder, and the many volunteers who have participated in the sea turtle patrol’s activities over the years.

“I didn’t realize we did all that,” Hanson quipped. “We were having so much fun along the way!”

Jim Marx – Education Hero: After retiring from a Wall Street banking career, Marx moved to Ponte Vedra Beach and soon began volunteering a math tutor for the PACE Center for Girls. Eighteen years later, at age 83, he continues to help at-risk middle and high school girls improve their academic skills and stay on track to a brighter future.

“The credit doesn’t belong to me,” said Marx, who was nominated by his daughter, longtime Rotarian Mary Marx. “The credit belongs to the girls.”

Andy McCauslin – Vocational Hero
: As Hurricane Matthew roared toward the First Coast and most residents heeded the mandatory evacuation order, Andy McCauslin stayed at his post, manning the pump house in Sawgrass Players Club to prevent residents’ homes from flooding during the storm. For four days and with little sleep, McCauslin kept the pumps running, switching to backup diesel engines when the pump house lost power and then to backup generators when the diesel engines failed.

“Thanks to his diligence, not one of 1,800 homes flooded from rising water,” Day said of McCauslin, who was nominated by Rotarian Sherry Mahoney. “Not one.”

Jack Schmidt – Volunteer Hero: “Review Jack’s background and his contributions and you may soon begin humming an old Beatles tune – ‘Here, There and Everywhere,’” Day said of this year’s Volunteer Hero. “There are so many community causes and organizations that have benefited from his time, talent and treasure.” Nominated by lifelong friend and Rotarian Clare Berry, Schmidt has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including Episcopal High School’s alumni association, the United Way’s de Tocqueville Society and the Winston Family YMCA. He is also credited with spearheading the initiative to relocate and restore an old Florida Cracker cabin that now is on display at the Beaches Museum and History Park.

Claire Fodor – Youth Hero: Nominated by Ocean Palms Elementary School Principal Jessica Richardson, Fodor has volunteered regularly at the school. Her numerous volunteer activities have included launching “Small Steps,” a student-led service group that has raised more than $20,000 for local community projects; and “Change for a Change,” which united youth sports teams to raise money to support music therapy programs in local schools.

Legacy Trust Family Wealth Offices – Corporate Hero: “The culture of your typical investment firm might well be described with ‘Just show me the money,’” Day observed. “But this firm isn’t typical. Oh, it can show us the money, rest assured. But it also shows another trait: its longstanding commitment to charitable giving and supporting our Beaches community.”

Nominated by Rotarian Mark Farrell, Legacy Trust donates thousands of dollars to local charities and causes each year. In addition to sponsoring the annual Legacy Trust Ponte Vedra Beach Home & Art Tour to benefit the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach, Legacy Trust staff members teaches local youth about finances through the “Money Matters” program. Employees also make and serve meals to patients staying at Gabriel House of Care while receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic, and support local athletic programs.

“We lead by example,” said CEO Kristin McLauchlan, who accepted the award along with Legacy Trust employees. “Not because we have to. But because it’s who we are.”

Rotary Club President Michael Bruce congratulated all of the award recipients, and thanked them for the contributions they make to the community.

“The Rotary motto is ‘Service Above Self,’” Bruce said. “It’s clear that you all exemplify that motto every day, and it’s our privilege to recognize you for your contributions.”