When Linda Welty discovered she was the 2016 recipient of the John D. Rudd Service Award for 2016, she couldn’t believe it.

She stood at the podium during the Brown County Community Foundation’s June 23 annual meeting to accept the award and thanked everyone else for their community service.

“All these people that help out, all the organizations and agencies, they all have such good people, and it’s just rewarding to meet them and just see what they do,” she said. “Everybody deserves this award — all the volunteers.”

For someone who the presenters had just called humble, unselfish, positive and supportive — among many other compliments — Welty lived up to their words.

The John D. Rudd Service Award is presented each year by the Brown County Community Foundation. It bears the name of its first recipient, said award presenter and 2008 recipient Betsy Lease.

With his years of service to the community, Rudd set the bar high for what could be expected of future nominees, Lease said.

“This winner definitely fits that mold,” Lease said of Welty.

Welty was recognized for establishing Habitat for Humanity in Brown County and for spending 25 years on the board. Lease said she was “the initiator and driving force for bringing Habitat for Humanity to Brown County.”

She was a mentor to countless individuals through the Community Volunteer Network and has served in various other board positions in local volunteer organizations, Lease said.

Welty sees herself primarily as a “worker bee.”

Though Welty — currently a eucharistic minister at St. Agnes Catholic Church — had volunteered previously at church, her first work with a volunteering organization came when she sought to bring Habitat for Humanity to Brown County, she said.

Welty was working in social services with South Central Community Action Program, dealing regularly with the struggles of families looking for affordable housing.

“I saw a need in the community and just asked them to come and visit, and we went from there,” she said.

Seeing a family take the keys to a new house in their hands is still a joy for her, Welty said.

“It’s just a great feeling to see them finally achieve what they needed,” she said.

As a member of the Brown County Community Foundation’s board, Welty was part of efforts to preserve the Brown County Playhouse, she said.

The response of the local community still makes her proud.

“I think it was just the whole community coming together to work so hard to keep it here, keep it open,” she said. “It’s such a piece of our Brown County history, and we didn’t want to lose it.”

As much as Welty was noted for her ability to inspire others by the three women who presented her award — Lease, 2010 recipient Jaydene Laros and BCCF trustee secretary Shirley Boardman — it was the inspiration others have provided her that Welty focused on.

“In my younger years, a lot of people helped me and mentored me, and I just always — I want to pay back, I want to give back,” she said.

And who has inspired Welty?

“I don’t know, there’s so many people in the community that I could say,” she said.

The mentorship of Lease and the example set by Sister Mildred Wannemuehler are just a few inspirations.

“Sister Mildred was probably one of my very first inspirations,” she said. “She’s almost a saint. She would ask people to do different jobs, and you did. She never took ‘no’ for an answer. She was that type of inspiration.”

Her time as a volunteer has also provided Welty friends and a closer sense of community, she said.

“All these people that help out, all the organizations and agencies, they all have such good people, and it’s just rewarding to meet them and just see what they do,” she said. “Everybody deserves this award — all the volunteers.”

As exceptional as she finds many who volunteer, volunteering is not something reserved for those with superhuman abilities or hearts, Welty said.

“We have a great community, with a lot of needs, and there’s a place for everybody,” she said. “No matter what your skill level is, there’s always a place that you can fit in and help the community become a better place.”

Volunteers of the year

Volunteers of the year

Donna Niednagel, Bean Blossom Farmers Market

Pat Clark, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Shari Frank, Brown County Literacy Coalition

Keith Baker, nominated by Karen Smith, Brown County Community Foundation, for multiple group involvement

Each Volunteer of the Year gets to name a local nonprofit to receive a $500 grant from the Brown County Community Foundation.

Other honors and awards

Mary McInerney and Jenise Bohbrink, BCCF Chairman Award

Stone Head Conservancy and Peaceful Heritage Preservation Society, BCCF Environment Leadership Award

Brown County Literacy Coalition, Howard F. Hughes Community Award

Michael Chamblee and Del Newkirk, BCCF Leadership Awards

2015 BCCF grants awarded

The Brown County Community Foundation’s annual report states that $93,163 was awarded to 14 separate organizations during the 2015 competitive grant cycle.

Brown County School Corp.: $46,872 for Preschool Education Scholarships

Brown County (Nashville) Fire Department: $10,000 for a utility task vehicle

Brown County Art Guild: $5,200 for Tuck Away Courtyard

Brown County YMCA: $4,000 for trail fitness equipment

Brown County Garden Club: $3,000 for Picture Perfect Brown County: removing trash from roads

Society of St. Vincent de Paul: $3,000 for back to school program

Bean Blossom Farmers Market: $2,970 for market storage barn

American Red Cross: $2,500 for Home Fire Preparedness Campaign

Brown County Habitat for Humanity: $2,221 for energy efficient items for home

Indiana Department of Natural Resources – Brown County Law Enforcement Division: $2,150 for X26P Taser

Nashville Police Department: $2,000 for National Night Out community event

Peaceful Valley Heritage Society: $1,850 for historic landmarks

Brown County Literacy Coalition: $1,213 for productive play

Brown County Enrichment for Teens Association (BETA): $1,000 for video equipment

The Right Information and Direction (TRIAD): $1,000 for senior Christmas baskets

Brown County 4-H Council: $950 for presentation equipment

Mother’s Cupboard Kitchen: $650 for equipment

Women’s Resource Center: $495 for shelter and other living resources for homeless women and their families

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.