BY MELANIE YOUNG
The Trenton Civic Commission recently held its annual celebration honoring members of the Trenton Police and Fire departments, as well as exceptional members of the community.
The Trenton City Awards were held Jan. 20 at the Chateau on the River inside Elizbeth Park. More than 160 attendees enjoyed dinner, drinks and dessert provided by facility caterer Kosch Catering.
The program was attended by various city department heads and was emceed by Trenton Mayor Pro-Tem William LeFevre, who kept the crowd entertained throughout the evening. State Rep. Darrin Camilleri was in attendance and provided all award recipients with either a proclamation or certificate of recognition from his office.
The Police Officer of the Year was Patrolman Blake Rusnak. Rusnak grew up in Trenton and has been on the force since May 2016. Steve Voss, director of police and fire services, described Rusnak as wise beyond his years.
“He represents what we want represented in the Trenton Police Department,” Voss said.
Rusnak was emotional as he thanked family and fellow officers.
“I’m not really big on individual rewards,” he said. “Being a police officer, there’s nothing individual about it. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the city I grew up in.”
The Community Relations Officer of the Year award was given to Patrolman Jason Davis, the Trenton Schools Resource Officer. The Resource officer position was created this year and Davis has already made a big difference, according to Dr. Michael Doyle, Trenton High School principal.
“His presence has created an approachable image for the Police Department,” Doyle said. “Thanks for your service and dedication to the Trenton Public Schools.”
Davis said he feels blessed to do what he does.
“I feel like it’s something I’m called to do,” he said “It’s an honor to be in the schools.”
The Firefighter of the Year was Engineer John Kalisz IV. Nominated by fellow firefighters, Kalisz has been on the job for nine years. He is known to approach work with a strong work ethic and the right attitude. Kalisz said he wanted to be a firefighter since he was a young child.
“I’m fortunate and grateful to do what I love every day.” He also spoke of his wife and her sacrifices. “I appreciate my wife sharing my time with the city of Trenton.”
The Trenton Sports Hall of Fame also inducted its 76th member at the event. William Arnold is a lifelong Trenton resident and has worked with young adults for more than 25 years in several capacities. He has been active with high school sports as a volunteer, served as an umpire for the MSHAA and coached travel softball. He also worked on numerous city projects. Arnold spoke briefly and thanked Duane Keck for nominating him, as well as Alec Lesko and Coach John Biedenbach for the honor.
The Civic Commission Awards followed and began with the presentation to the Outstanding Senior. That plaque was awarded to Deborah Barnes, who has taught fitness classes in Trenton for many years.
“She has made staying fit a lot of fun for many years,” said presenter Helen Filipp.
Barnes is also a Master Gardener and manages the city’s vegetable garden, producing fresh vegetables for local needy families. Barnes and her husband have been Trenton residents for 63 years. Barnes was emotional as she received her award.
“I found my niche in fitness and gardening,” she said. “I’m lucky to live in a community that gives me the opportunity to do these things.”
The Outstanding Woman Award was given to Barbara Radecki-Kelley and was presented by Joann Gonyea. Gonyea revealed that Radecki-Kelley had no idea she was receiving the award. Radecki-Kelley serves the neediest members of the community through her work as president of the St. Joseph Parish Chapter of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul. She also provides support to and befriends families in Trenton in desperate situations. She spearheaded the creation of a furniture pantry for the Downriver area. Radecki-Kelley was surprised at the honor.
“It’s unbelievable and very humbling,” she said. “I’m so blessed to be part of the Trenton Community and St. Joseph Family,” she said.
The Special Recognition Award went to Lori Holcomb. Holcomb’s work at Trenton High School as an athletic trainer, and advisor to the Student Council, National Honor Society, Homecoming and Prom is well known.
“I’m truly honored to be recognized,” said Holcomb.
The Duane Brannick Award is given to a person or group that helps the Civic Commission continue its mission. This year’s award was given to the Seaway Chorale. The group has helped to present the Memorial Day ceremony for over a decade and performs the National Anthems of both the United States and Canada.
The final award of the evening was given to the Outstanding Trentonite. The award was presented to a previous winner, Howard Hammes, a 1978 Trenton High School graduate. Hammes is very active in Trenton organizations such as the Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, Police Auxiliary and Boy Scouts. Hammes spoke with pride of the place he calls home.
“It is with great pride, pleasure and honor that I accept the award,” he said. “I’m proud to provide leadership and service to others in the City of Trenton.” Hammes received a standing ovation as he ended his remarks. “I’m proud to be a resident of the city of Trenton, proud to be a resident of the State of Michigan and proud to be a citizen of the United States of America.”