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The Jenco Foundation Fund

Do you know a visionary leader in your community? That person who has always gone above and beyond to make others’ lives better? It’s someone you know is a hero and you wish everyone else did too. The Jenco Awards were created to honor these individuals, the people who work passionately in the service of others in Appalachian Ohio.

Jenco Award nominations are currently closed. 2018 Jenco Award nominations will reopen in spring 2018. To be notified when Jenco Award nominations reopen, please sign up for the Foundation’s e-newsletter.

For more information, please continue reading or contact the Foundation at 740.753.1111.

The Jenco Awards, which began in 2002 to uphold the legacy of Father Martin Jenco, are cash awards for individuals in Appalachian Ohio who have performed noteworthy community service in the region.

The Jenco Award recognizes individuals for their service contributions. Though these efforts need not be religious in the formal sense, they demonstrate direct, caring action that contributes to the quality of life of individuals living in Appalachian Ohio. Jenco Awardees are celebrated for visionary leadership in the service of others. Their commitment to others is not simply a part of their daily jobs; it is a passion. Nominations are encouraged across all areas essential to quality of life, including health and human services, education, environmental stewardship, community and economic development, and arts and culture.

The 2016 Jenco Award recipients include:

  • Robin Bozian of Washington County;
  • Becky Cropper of Brown County;
  • Carl Felger of Carroll County;
  • Kari Gunter-Seymour Peterson of Athens County;
  • Amy Hill of Athens County;
  • Linda Lake of Muskingum County;
  • Barbara Summers of Jackson County.

Watch the 2016 Jenco Award recipients share their stories here:

Watch a video showcasing the stories of the 2015 Jenco Award recipients here:

Watch the 2014 Jenco Award winners tell their stories here:

2014 Jenco Awardees from Foundation for Appalachian Ohio on Vimeo.

Celebrating the Work and Legacy of

Father Jenco


Lawrence Martin Jenco was born November 27, 1934, and grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Joliet, Ill. After studying at St. Joseph’s Seminary in the United States and the Pontifical University in Rome, he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1959. Jenco joined a small religious community called The Servants of Mary (O.S.M.). His ministry took him to many different countries where he worked among the oppressed of the world, including Australian aborigine alcoholics, California migrant workers, Indian lepers, and Cambodian refugees.

Jenco was serving as director of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut, Lebanon, when he was kidnapped by Shiite Muslim extremists on January 8, 1985. Two months later, AP correspondent Terry Anderson was also kidnapped and held at the same undisclosed location as Jenco. When Anderson learned that a priest was being held captive nearby, he asked to see him. The bearded, white-haired Father Jenco heard Anderson’s confession — the first in 25 years — which to Anderson represented “my first formal step back to the church.” Later, Jenco and Anderson shared a cell where they spoke often of their spiritual odysseys and of the role of the church in ministering to the poor and underprivileged.

Jenco was released after 19 months in captivity, while Anderson was destined to remain imprisoned about five years longer, until 1991. But as Anderson later told a radio interviewer, his time spent with the priest in the early years of captivity was instrumental in helping “build a structure I could hold onto” in the years to follow.

Once freed, Jenco resumed his ministry by serving as chaplain at the University of Southern California, providing outreach programs to the Hispanic community. He spoke often of his experiences as a hostage and emphasized the need to forgive. He and Anderson remained friends until Jenco’s death from cancer in 1996.

Anderson calls Jenco “a wonderful personal example. . .the closest thing to a saint I have ever met.” In June 2001, Anderson honored his friend through the establishment of the Father Lawrence Martin Jenco Foundation to continue the legacy of compassion and giving Jenco spread to so many.

Jenco Foundation Fund

A field of interest fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), The Jenco Foundation Fund was established to provide an award to a citizen of Appalachian Ohio who has demonstrated visionary leadership in serving Appalachian Ohio. Traditionally, the Jenco Award has been given to an individual demonstrating the heroic qualities that were evident in Father Jenco’s ministry. The recipient’s work did not need to be religious in the formal sense, but demonstrated direct, caring action that contributed to the quality of life of individuals living in the Appalachian region.

In the past, the Jenco Foundation Fund has honored a wide array of exceptional individuals in Appalachian Ohio and West Virginia who have been active in furthering Father Jenco’s vision of philanthropy.

Past award recipients include:

2002: Keith Wasserman, advocate for the homeless; Carol Kuhre, community development and Rural Action Founder; Tom O’Grady, environmental activist; Deanna Tribe, community development

2003: Irene Flowers, community development and creator of Kilvert community center; Elise Mitchell, advocate for mental health; Susan Burt, youth development and creator of High Rocks school for girls in West Virginia; 

2004: Jack Spadaro, environmental activist; Sandra Shirey, Red Cross community service; Reggie Robinson, youth development/drug and alcohol prevention; James Couts, community service through work with food banks; Donna Sue Groves, community development through the arts; Cheryl Withrow, community development
2005: Ric Mcdowell, social justice advocate; Shirley Whan, Inspiring Community Service award; Lisa Roberts, Community Leadership Initiative award, Cindy Yeager, Compassion in Action award; Ann Stempel, Inspiring Community Service award; Catherine Hare, Compassion in Action award

2006: Robert Smiddie, Rhonda Bentley, Sister Brendan Conlan,
Lorraine Myers, 
Arlene Sheak, and Adrienne Nagy.

2007: Dr. David Deci, medical outreach to the homeless, Theresa McCune,
Henry Burke,
 Margaret Tabler, and Frank Hare.

2014: Joan & Wayne Fontaine, Ginger Gagne, Gary Goosman, Paul Strauss, George & Ruth Ann Rooks 

2015: Bill Crawford, Margaret Fredericks, Donna Sue Groves, Jodie Hunt, Nancy Sams, Iva Sisson

2015: Robin Bozian, Becky Cropper, Carl Felger, Kari Gunter-Seymour Peterson, Amy Hill, Linda Lake, Barbara Summers 

Make an online donation through Network for Good to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, designating the Jenco Foundation Fund or mail gifts to:

Foundation for Appalachian Ohio
PO Box 456
35 Public Square
Nelsonville, OH 45764

For more information contact the Foundation at 740.753.1111