By Lindsey Erdody 812-331-4368 |

It wasn’t the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes, but for Bloomington, it was a significant awards ceremony, filled with acceptance speeches from winners, jokes by presenters, tears shed and standing ovations.

It was the 2014 Bloomington Be More Awards at Buskirk-Chumley Theater Tuesday night. The annual event recognizes dedicated volunteers in the community for their service. 

Meals on Wheels volunteer Helen Freeman wasn’t expecting to go home a winner, but her lengthy volunteer resume helped her snag the final category of the night — Be More Dedicated. The award is given to an individual for a lifelong contribution to volunteering. She’s delivered more than 48,000 meals to more than 2,000 clients in more than 25 years of service. At 93 years old, she’s older than most of the elderly she’s visiting.

“She’s active, engaged and clearly younger than her years,” Mayor Mark Kruzan said before presenting the award.

Kathy Romy, director of Meals on Wheels, said Freeman is the most dedicated volunteer she has, covering four different routes, five times per month and offering to pick up extra shifts.

“She’s an exceptional person,” Romy said, mentioning she also sends birthday cards to clients and bakes peanut butter fudge and chocolate chip cookies. “She is the epitome of a loyal volunteer.”

After accepting her shiny glass trophy, Freeman said she was on cloud nine. 

“Everybody’s been so good to me. I just love everybody,” Freeman said. 

And she’s not stopping now. Romy said she’s scheduled to deliver meals two more days this week. 

“I’ve got seven more years to go,” Freeman said. “My grandmother lived to 100.”

Before the final trophy was handed out, presenters took turns cracking jokes and congratulating other Be More recipients. 

Executive Director of the Shalom Community Center Forrest Gilmore told the first parking meter joke of the night, saying he was glad his role was early in the event because he was worried time would expire on his parking meter.

WTIU Station Manager Phil Meyer kept the laughs going before presenting the Be More Creative Award to Janice Clevenger for her dedication to the Monroe County Civic Theater.

“Forrest took all my material,” Meyer said. “I do have a quarter, though, Forrest, if your meter is running low.”

Executive Director of United Way of Monroe County Barry Lessow chose a different comedic route with his opening remarks for the Be More Bloomington Award, which was given to Stone Belt meal delivery volunteers.

“I don’t want to steal the mayor’s thunder, but tonight he’ll be announcing Kruzancare,” Lessow said, which made the crowd chuckle. He said it’s only 25 cents for coverage, and the first three hours are free.

When retired Judge Viola Taliaferro took the stage to present the Be More Engaged Award to Erikka Vaughn and Carl Darnell, she decided to avoid taking a swing at Kruzan, which he appreciated.

“First off, I am not going to say anything that is going to make the mayor angry,” Taliaferro said, as Kruzan stood up and hugged her. “I don’t say that about many people.”

By the time Kruzan was behind the podium for the Be More Dedicated Award, he was feeling the heat from the jokes.

“Welcome to the first annual roast of Mayor Mark Kruzan,” Kruzan said, mentioning it was appropriate the “roastee” went last.

People weren’t the only ones honored at the ceremony. Cody, a therapeutic riding horse for People and Animal Learning Services with more than 10 years of experience, was nominated for the Be More Healthy Award.

“Each year we have some twists and turns, but this is the first year we’ve had a horse nominated,” said Bet Savich, director of the city Volunteer Network.

Cody didn’t win the award, which was disappointing to some audience members.

“This is for humans only,” said Bryan Price, president and CEO of the IU Credit Union, when presenting the award. “Let’s hear it for the horse!”