2018-12-05 / Front Page

Third member of Ennis family receives Pete Award

By Susan Scholl

Downham Downham Volunteering and helping her community come naturally to the Flora Lions Club’s 2018 recipient of the Pete Award. Both of her parents are previous honorees. “It’s the way I was raised,” is how she explains it.

Gale Ennis Downham was honored Tuesday night as the 35th Pete Award winner at the club’s annual Christmas dinner held at the Wabash & Erie Canal Center in Delphi. The award recognizes exceptional service to the community, in honor of the late DeVere “Pete” Hoffman.

Gale volunteers with many activities, but she spends a lot of time helping with the ARC, an organization that promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and Special Olympics, a sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Her daughter, Emily, is special needs and participates in Special Olympics.

Gale has been involved in ARC since high school and became involved in Special Olympics in 2004, becoming the county coordinator six years ago. She works tirelessly and effortlessly fundraising, scheduling games and practices, securing and providing transportation, and securing coaches and volunteers. She makes sure everyone is ontime and spends a lot of her own money helping these special children and adults. She also coordinates and chaperones the annual overnight trip to the Special Olympics State Games at the ISU campus in Terre Haute. Sometimes she ends up serving as a coach herself. Last year she was the men’s basketball coach.

“It’s rewarding to see the enjoyment the athletes get when they participate in sporting events,” Gale said about her involvement in Special Olympics. “They are so excited.”

As a single parent with her own special needs child, Gale has opened her heart and family by taking over responsibility for a special needs adult, looking out for his wellbeing, too.

“She’s a saint,” her employer Theresa Brown said. “She selflessly does this as well as takes over Carroll County Special Olympics because she’s afraid if she doesn’t, it may disappear. The work she does, not everyone can do, but she does it with a smile.”

Theresa said Gale often helps her with her volunteer activities. Even though Gale is not a member of the Flora Community Club, she assists with Moonlight Madness, now Depot Day, and the garage sale for scholarships. Last year she helped with Flora Main Street’s first annual Magical Main Street Ball.

“I’m very grateful for all of Gale’s help with the many projects I’m involved in. Gale would not have to, but she gladly does,” Theresa said.

Gale has also served as a Cub Scout leader, a softball coach and a volunteer at the Flora Thrift Shop. She has sewn dolls and animals for Riley Children’s Hospital, made paper dolls for mission trips to Mexico, and made dresses for mission trips to Honduras.

Gale is known as a resource person as well. She helps low-income families with food, clothing or finding what they need. She has been known to drive them to appointments without asking them for anything in return. Last year she coordinated the building of a ramp for a woman in Flora, who is handicapped.

When the CDC Center in Monticello built its Memorial Garden, Gale started making concrete memory steppingstones in honor of each consumer who dies. She etches their name on a stone for the garden so they will not be forgotten. She was recently named CDC’s Volunteer of the Year.

Besides all of her volunteer activities, Gale has a job. For the past 11 years she has been employed at Flowers & Friends in Flora. She spends much of her days there repurposing furniture.

A couple weeks ago Gale was hosting a family gathering when there was a knock on her door. A Lions Club representative was there to tell her she had been chosen as the Pete Award winner.

“Everyone I wanted to tell was there,” she said. “It was special to have them all with me for that moment.”

“Everyone” included her daughter, son Jesse and his wife Heather and granddaughter Audrey, along with her parents, Gail and Helen Ennis, and her sisters, Kathy and Lucy, and their families.

Gale said she feels extremely honored to receive the award, especially as the third member of her family.

“We do a lot of different things in this community that benefit the people here,” she said. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”

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