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Elder Care executive director receives Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award

Dedicated philanthropy was recognized on Tuesday evening when a Dickinson woman was named the newest member of an exclusive and prestigious club — Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award winners.

Mayor Scott Decker, right, hugs Colleen Rodakowski, executive director of Elder Care in Dickinson, after she received the next Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award during a special ceremony Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the Stark County Family & Ag Resource Campus in Dickinson.
Mayor Scott Decker, right, hugs Colleen Rodakowski, executive director of Elder Care in Dickinson, after she received the next Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award during a special ceremony Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the Stark County Family & Ag Resource Campus in Dickinson.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — Recognized for her outstanding leadership as the executive director of Elder Care in Dickinson, Colleen Rodakowski was selected by the Stark County mayors as the newest recipient of the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award — marking the eighth time the award has been bestowed.

During a special ceremony Tuesday at the Stark County Family & Ag Resource Campus in Dickinson, a roomful of family, friends and peers awaited to surprise Rodakowski with the award. As she walked into the room, the room cheered with applause, bringing tears to Rodakowski’s eyes.

Nominated by her work team at Elder Care, Rodakowski was selected as the next recipient of the prestigious line of award winners for her instrumental success is Elder Care’s mission of providing the elderly the option of remaining in their own homes nad helping them maintain a sense of independence, while also a better quality of life by providing nutrition and transit services. For two years in a row, Rodakowski’s efforts have not gone unnoticed as her guidance has helped Dickinson Public Transit receive the Best of the Western Edge Award for cab companies.

Upon receiving the next Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award for her leadership, Colleen Rodakowski sheds a tear at the podium in front of her friends, family and peers during a special ceremony for her Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the Stark County Family & Ag Resource Campus in Dickinson.
Upon receiving the next Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award for her leadership, Colleen Rodakowski sheds a tear at the podium in front of her friends, family and peers during a special ceremony for her Tuesday, June 28, 2022, at the Stark County Family & Ag Resource Campus in Dickinson.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

According to the letter submission, which redacted names to be open and fair for all candidates, during the pandemic Rodakowski “worked tirelessly to ensure that the services provided to our community by Elder Care have continued to be provided safely every day.”

Though she admitted at being a quiet person behind the scenes, Rodakowski said that she’s enjoyed being the executive director of Elder Care for the past 14 years.

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“I want you to know that I’m so blessed, and I love the gifts that God gives me (and) gives each of you. We all have so many special gifts that God has bestowed upon us,” Rodakowski said. “For me, he asks us to use those gifts for goodness and he asks that we use those gifts for me to bring other people to him. Many people that know me close know that my goal is to get to heaven and to bring as many people along with me.”

Despite ongoing challenges throughout the pandemic, Rodakowski said it wouldn’t have been possible without her devout faith, her employees, transit drivers and others who have played a role in getting services to Dickinson’s elderly community.

“We’ve grown so much since I’ve been here and I’m so happy and proud of the successes that we’ve had, and the failures and challenges because they help us grow,” she added.

Dickinson State University Provost and Vice President Debora Dragseth shares a few words about her friend Colleen Rodakowski's excellent leadership and work ethic during the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award presentation on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Dickinson.
Dickinson State University Provost and Vice President Debora Dragseth shares a few words about her friend Colleen Rodakowski's excellent leadership and work ethic during the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award presentation on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Dickinson. Rodakowski was chosen as the next recipient of the award.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Dickinson State University Provost and Vice President Debora Dragseth was one of the several people who took to the podium during Rodakowski’s special ceremony, who shared a few words on what her leadership has meant to the community throughout the years from Elder Care to her previous position as DSU's business challenge coordinator.

“... She worked with high school kids, and now she’s working with elders in Elder Care and it makes sense to me that she’s moving people from point A to point B,” Dragseth said. “She’s feeding people, that makes sense to me that that is her career. She’s given me the best advice over the years that I’ve ever gotten.”

Before Mayor Scott Decker presented the award to Rodakowski, he also shared a few words on what she has meant to the Dickinson community.

“I’ve known Colleen since being on the commission in the last eight years. And I can tell you this as we go through the process of running our community, the one thing that I can appreciate with her is when she comes to us to do a presentation for funding she’s prepared,” Decker said. “She is honest and you know there’s isn’t a hidden agenda. I can appreciate that. You truly are a pillar of this community.”

As Decker asked Rodakowski to come before the roomful of her friends, family and peers, he congratulated her with a hug.

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“I’ve been tearing up this whole time, and oh my gosh, I can’t even express the words to see all of you come up here.. I love you guys all so much, and my heart is just full; I’m very full right now,” Rodakowski said.

Julie Obrigewitsch, who pioneered the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award program, noted that she has known Rodakowski for a long time. Back when Obrigewitsch was attending DSU, Rodakowski was her professor.

“My favorite part of the awards program honestly, it’s not just the people that join here, it’s the words that are shared here… A lot of times the words that are shared here, it’s an hour of positivity, sharing kind words about someone that genuinely we don’t stop to do,” Obrigewitsch said. “… For me, that’s why I continue to do this because it’s people like Colleen who are so deserving that make it all worthwhile.”

READ MORE BY JACKIE JAHFETSON
“There’s a little bit of something for everyone. You come with your family, your kids can find something, the moms can find something, the dads can find something,” Jessica Quandt, owner of JQ Clothing, said.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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