He has been a strong voice and advocate for the Waynedale community. She has worked to improve the quality of communication between emergency services and persons with severe communication disabilities. And together, the two are the latest recipients of the Linda and Jerry Vandeveer Impact Award.
During a ceremony on September 30, the Allen County Board of Commissioners presented the 2019 awards to Alex Cornwell, Owner and Publisher of The Waynedale News, and Mariesa Rang, a lecturer in speech-language pathology at Purdue Fort Wayne.
Megan Ryan, who nominated Cornwell for the award, cited his devotion of hours of professional and personal time for projects that have positively impacted Waynedale. They include the creation of the Waynedale Visitor’s Guide, founding the Waynedale Business Chamber and the Waynedale Community Improvement Team, working to help bring sidewalks and trails to the community, and initiating the Waynedale corridor project with the city of Fort Wayne. Cornwell is also the co-founder of Southwest Honey Company, an organization that works to bring pollinator education and awareness to children and adults in the community. “Alex’s commitment, his perseverance and his willingness to serve over the last 10 years have created lasting change and positive momentum that have helped move the Waynedale community forward,” wrote Ryan.
Rang’s project began in 2012 when she realized that first responders were receiving no training in how to communicate effectively with those who have complex communication needs. “As a person with a physical disability herself, Mariesa realized that individuals who have disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to be victims of crime,” wrote Sharon Mankey, who nominated Rang. Homeland Security noted when the program first started that it was the only training of its kind offered in the United States. Within one year of starting her program, Rang had trained more than 800 Allen County first responders. Over the course of the past three years, 75 training sessions in 29 departments and cities in Indiana involving nearly 2,000 first responders have been presented. Also, training materials are set to be distributed through a website for training purposes.
Both Cornwell and Rang received personal plaques and their names were included on a permanent plaque that is kept in the commissioners’ office. Both also received $250 checks from Fire-Police City-County Federal Credit Union which is handling a special account established by an anonymous donor for recipients of the award.
The commissioners announced establishment of the award in 2016 to be presented annually to an individual or individuals who reside in Allen County and have lived a life of service to our community outside of their regular profession in the example and tradition set by the Vandeveers.