United Way of Greater Stark County honors Helen Syrios, Mary Beddell and Joel Daniel Harris with special awards as new 2017 campaign co-chairs are introduced.

JACKSON TWP.  The United Way of Greater Stark County held its annual meeting and awards breakfast Thursday morning to celebrate raising $6.3 million during its 2016 campaign and to honor community members and businesses for their work.

Honored with special awards were Helen Syrios, one of three founding mothers of the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. in Stark County, and Mary Beddell, founder and volunteer president of the Josette Beddell Memorial Foundation. Both were Gold Key award recipients.

"I am very grateful," Syrios said Thursday at the Kent State University at Stark Conference Center. "I don't know that I've done anything super, but I know my husband got tired of sheltering women in our home before we got a shelter for them. The poor guy would go to work in the morning and sometimes when he came home, there would be another woman and her children. My husband is gone now, but this is for my husband, too."

Upon accepting her award, Beddell said, "I am just so grateful for this award. Sometimes people feel sorry for me because I lost my mom at such a young age (18), but it has been the fuel for me to help the women in Northeast Ohio who have been affected by breast cancer, like my mom was. I just want to fight every day for them, to give them a voice."

The Josette Beddell Memorial Foundation impacts Northeast Ohio families affected by breast cancer through financial grants and educational scholarships.

Joel Daniel Harris was honored as the 2017 DeHoff Emerging Philanthropist Award. Harris has spearheaded TomTod Ideas initiatives, a project to help develop youth leadership and encourage innovation, and BikeSmart, a collaboration with the Stark County District Library, Canton City Parks and Stark Parks to provide free bicycles to downtown residents and those in homeless shelters.

Featured speaker Chris Thompson, founder of Civic Collaboration Consultants, congratulated Stark County for its collaborative efforts.

"Stark County is the cradle of collaboration," he said. "The United Way has played a critically important role in building this culture. Collaboration is the United Way's way of getting things done."

Also introduced was the United Way's new brand positioning, United Way of Greater Stark County "fights for the health education and financial stability of every person in our community."

"We win this fight by taking on challenges and addressing problems," said Maria Heege, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Stark County. "Most importantly, we win the fight by collaborating with our partners in the community, our funded organizations, government entities, other non-profits and, of course, our generous donors. No matter the obstacles or odds, we band together with others who give so generously of their time, talent and financial resources.

"Because change doesn’t happen alone. To live better, we must live united."

Linda and Kevin Smith were named co-chairs of the 2017 campaign. A former Gold Key recipient, Smith is president of PPI Graphics. In 2015, he was co-chair of the United Way Health Impact Council, and member of the United Way's Finance Committee and Leadership Committee. Linda is a licensed agent for Sirak Financial Services.

Ted and Scott Swaldo, the 2016 chairmen, announced the campaign raised $6,305,672, an amount met with a loud round of applause. 

Reach Denise at 330-580-8321 or denise.sautters@cantonrep.com. On Twitter:@dsauttersREP