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From ThisWeek Community News — 

BY ANDREW KING — For its biggest annual award, the Rotary Club of Westerville honored a man who helped provide comfort during one of Westerville’s darkest moments.

The club named Westerville police chaplain the Rev. Jim Meacham as its A. Monroe Courtright Community Service Award recipient for 2018, largely for his work in responding to the deaths of two Westerville police officers earlier this year.

Named for the former publisher of The Public Opinion, a predecessor of ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion, the award is given to an outstanding leader, volunteer or community member each year.

Nominations are sought from the community, with the deadline for submissions set at the end of March.

On Feb. 10, officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli were killed in the line of duty as they responded to a potential domestic violence situation.

In facing the loss, Meacham and other chaplains in Westerville were called into action to serve other police officers, their families and other members of the police and first-responder communities.

When the Rotary Club presented Meacham with the award, Chief Joseph Morbitzer was on hand to praise the work that Meacham and his colleagues provided.

“On Feb. 10, every one of them were at the station, not just for a couple hours, but for days straight,” he said. “Without their help, I don’t know how we would have made it through that. They provided a lot of counseling, a lot of comfort to everybody.”

In addition to his work with the police department, Meacham has been involved with a variety of Rotary charitable causes, helped create the Serving Our Seniors program with Westerville police and has been a long-time instructor at the Westerville Citizens Police Academy.

Meacham is also connected to the award’s namesake.

When Courtright died, Meacham completed his term as club president and helped create the award in Monroe’s name.

“This year, as so often happens in life, what goes around comes around,” said club member John Oleyar, who helped present the award to Meacham.

Meacham said he was “honored” to receive the award, which has been a positive during a difficult year.

“To feel the love and caring of fellow Rotarians and friends has been a very, very positive thing to help me get through a lot of that,” he said. “A lot of folks, even away from the Rotary, have been so kind and have done great things for us.”

In addition to his Courtright award, Meacham said he’ll be receiving the chaplain of the year award for Ohio at the International Conference of Police Chaplains later this year.

Although he said he’s not accustomed to the awards and has never been particularly interested in recognition, he’s enjoying the experience.

“It’s in my heart to be a chaplain, and to have been a pastor and do the things I’ve done,” he said. “It’s not about any honors or awards. But I’m not pushing those away. I’m honored and blessed and it meant a lot to the people who did it and means a lot to receive it.”

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