Heart of Giving Annual Award Dinner

Heart of Giving Annual Award Dinner

October 31, 2023 Haley Donofrio

Samaritan Hospital Foundation Recognizes Greg Gorrell, Steve Huber, Melanie Miller, JoAnn Ford Watson and Gavin Finger for Their Service to the Ashland Community

Each year in October, a crowd of nearly 150 gathers to celebrate individuals in our community who give generously of their time, talent, treasure, and service to help others. This year, the Samaritan Hospital Foundation’s (SHF) annual Heart of Giving Appreciation Dinner honored four individuals with Heart of Giving Awards and added a new award to recognize a young person in our community who goes above and beyond for others.

The event began with videos highlighting how SHF grants are positively impacting the health and wellness of individuals in Ashland County and the hospital, including:

  • The Ashland Pregnancy Care Center (APCC) received a community grant that helped fund the purchase of a new ultrasound machine. According to Melanie Miller, Executive Director APCC, “More than 90% of women and men who see their baby on an ultrasound will choose life!” The center also uses the ultrasound to medically confirm that the pregnancy is in the uterus and not a tubal pregnancy, as well as determine the gestational age of the baby. Providing this important service allows the center to serve in the role of a pre-screening agency for women prior to established OB care.
  • UH Pet Pals is a pet therapy program that uses trained individuals and their adult dogs to make short, hospital in-room visits to adults and children who would enjoy the company of a furry friend. Jerry Seiter, Director of Annual Giving & Special Projects for SHF explained why he and his dog, Teddy, love providing pet therapy through the UH Pet Pals program, “My goal is to always have a therapy dog to share joy and happiness with others.”

New for 2023, SHF added The Power of Youth Award to recognize a young person in our community who shares his or her time and talents to help others. Gavin Finger, who is a 2023 graduate of Genesis Christian Academy in Ashland, has a great passion for serving as a volunteer for the local Respite Care Program through the Ashland Special Needs Ministry led by Christina Teevan. He has served as a volunteer caring for children with special needs in the program and their siblings, supporting setup, cleanup and special events, as well as serving for a week at a time with the Respite Care Team at Joni and Friends Camp. Gavin truly enjoys working with the families and he looks forward to many more years serving in the ministry of loving God’s children.

During the Heart of Giving Awards portion of the event, SHF recognized four individuals in our community for their compassion and faithful service to make a difference in the lives of others:

Greg Gorrell was honored for his lifetime of service to the Ashland community, our country, and touching the lives of so many through his faith. Whether it be bringing others to Christ through his servant leadership in his church, supporting his community through his passion to help others through fundraising during countless United Way campaigns and serving as campaign chairperson, serving on the Ashland City School Board and City Council, and last but certainly not least, through his bravery in serving our country during the Vietnam War and helping other veterans by organizing fundraising events to benefit and honor them. In retirement, Greg continues to help out in the community by supporting Associated Charities with raising funds for a new building, helping to raise funds for the new YMCA additions, and continuing to organize fundraising events to support our local veterans.

Steve Huber was recognized for decades of serving the Ashland community using his gifts and talents as an art teacher to inspire the next generation of artists, as well as his love for the outdoors, encouraging the Ashland County Commissioners to launch a county park district. For 23 years, Steve has worked with the Ashland County Park District as it has grown to 21 county parks and has served as Volunteer Park Manager at Freer Field for 20 years. He was successful in raising money to complete the Freer Field paved trail, which is a great gift to the community and has led to Freer Field being enjoyed daily by hundreds of people. Steve has also served internationally, volunteering (mostly teaching art) with trips to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Mexico. When Steve fully retired, his volunteering went into overdrive with him adding working at Ashland University (AU) planting, weeding, and trimming to help the grounds crew. And over the past decade, he has developed an interest in helping foreign AU students, especially those from China and, most recently, working with Spanish speakers to learn English.


Melanie Miller was recognized for her service to our local community through the Kroc Center, our state by promoting volunteerism during her reigns as Miss Ohio and Mrs. Ohio (the only woman in Ohio’s history to hold both titles), and as a voice to protect the lives of the unborn as the Executive Director of the Ashland Pregnancy Care Center. Melanie has testified in Columbus on legislation protecting the right to life and even conducted the first live ultrasound in Washington D.C. before the U.S. Congress. She was also recognized for the impact she is making for our community and our state through her role as Representative in the Ohio House of Representatives covering Ashland County and part of Medina County. In less than 12 months of service, Melanie has already positively impacted numerous pieces of legislation for local governments, construction contractors, the transportation bill, and she is even responsible for bringing back more than $2.5 million to Ashland County in the recently passed state operating budget.


Reverend Dr. JoAnn Ford Watson was recognized for a lifetime of giving back, serving others, and training men and women for ministry service during her 31 years at Ashland Seminary as assistant, associate, and full tenured professor. While at the Seminary, Jody accomplished many firsts…she was the first woman to be a tenured full professor and the first woman to hold an academic professionally endowed chair in theology. She was the first woman to serve as an academic department chair and the first woman to be hired as an ordained minister. She is the first woman professor to serve at the seminary until retirement to receive the award of Professor Emerita of AU and Ashland Seminary. In retirement, she continues her mission to serve and further Christ’s kingdom through her role on the Ashland County Community Foundation Board of Trustees and as President and Chair of the newly formed non-profit organization, the Foundations Community Childcare Board, which is building a new childcare center to serve up to 150 infants, toddlers, and children of school age in our community.

Samaritan Hospital Foundation The Power of Youth Award recipient Gavin Finger

« Back to General News Releases