Hundreds celebrate city’s community, good health

Coatesville sergeant receives recognition as 2013 ‘Unsung Hero’

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer (from left), Chester County Community Dental Executive Director Regina Horton Lewis, Coatesville Sgt. Rodger Ollis Jr., Brandywine Health Foundation CEO Frances Sheehan and Coatesville Youth Initiative Chaya Scott celebrate Ollis' award.

Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer (from left), Chester County Community Dental Executive Director Regina Horton Lewis, Coatesville Sgt. Rodger Ollis Jr., Brandywine Health Foundation CEO Frances Sheehan and Coatesville Youth Initiative Director Chaya Scott celebrate Ollis’ award.

Under sun-drenched skies, a celebration of community, camaraderie and good health drew hundreds to the Brandywine Center in Coatesville on Saturday.

Hosted by ChesPenn Health Services, Chester County Community Dental Center, Child Guidance Resource Centers and Human Services Inc., the annual Healthy Families’ Block Party offered an opportunity for participants to have fun, win prizes, obtain health information, and relax and socialize with friends and neighbors.

Jaclyn Gleber, director of education and outreach at the Chester County Community Dental Center, estimated that a steady crowd of more than 400 took advantage of the various offerings.  The fact that the temperature hovered in the mid-80s with a gentle breeze was an added plus, she said.

Few people left empty-handed, whether they received brochures on health services, sported face-paintings, or won one of dozens of raffle items, which ranged from gift certificates for Irie Jamaican Food and Coffee to the Coatesville Flower Shop.

Hundreds gathered at the Brandywine Center on East Lincoln Highway for the Healthy Families' Block Party on Saturday.

Hundreds gathered at the Brandywine Center on East Lincoln Highway for the Healthy Families’ Block Party on Saturday.

Regina Horton Lewis, executive director of Chester County Community Dental, a Coatesville-based nonprofit offering low-cost dental health care and education, said the block party typically features a segment in which four or five people are honored as “unsung heroes” for their quiet contributions to the community.

This year, “there is only one honoree because there’s only one Sgt. Rodger Ollis Jr. … He is truly one of a kind,” said Horton, citing Ollis’ commitment to reduce vandalism through beautification efforts that increase pride. “Crime will be on the rise if people think nobody cares,” Lewis said.

Frances Sheehan, president and chief executive officer of the Brandywine Health Foundation, echoed the praise, as did Chaya Scott, who heads the foundation’s Coatesville Youth Initiative, and Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer.

Sheehan said Ollis learned the importance of family and community growing up in Rutledge, a small town in Delaware County, and he honed his teamwork skills on a championship high school soccer team. “We are so lucky to have this man with us in Coatesville,” Sheehan said.

As Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer (left) looks on, Sgt. Rodger Ollis Jr. poses with his wife, Michele, and daughters

As Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer (left) looks on, Sgt. Rodger Ollis Jr. poses with his wife, Michele, and daughters Keira, 5, and Madison, 9.

Laufer said he was proud to have promoted Ollis recently and said he embodies the spirit of community policing, a time-honored practice that dates back to the 1820s. Scott said she appreciated the fact that Ollis serves as a “safe, supportive, caring, competent adult” for area youth.

Ollis said he was honored and humbled by the award, especially because as he surveyed the audience, he could “pick out so many people that are deserving of this,” and he described himself as the beneficiary of some special relationships, including his supportive wife and family.

He said he was also fortunate to meet John Pawlowski, a kindred graffiti-buster; Marie Hess, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission head, who shares his passion for providing children with positive activities; and Mike Zuratt, who brought a unique inventiveness to helping Ollis remove shoes from electrical wires.

Ollis said he recalled one particularly vexatious shoe-removal detail right before the Brandywine Health Foundation’s first Festive-5K Race/Walk. He remembered the temperature plunging to 17 degrees and one stubborn shoe that required effort that would have exhausted the patience of someone without Zuratt’s determination. Not only did Zuratt succeed in removing the footwear, but he also crafted a “medieval weapon” to make the job easier the next time around, Ollis said.

He said he also could not do what he does without the dedication of his colleagues in the Coatesville Police Department. “Before I left for here today, they had already responded to 30 calls,” he said. “When you see them, please thank them.”

 

 

 

 

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