Art Eberhart, Evelyn Harris, Norma Higgs and Merrell Lane (posthumously) became the first inductees of the Niagara Falls Volunteer Hall of Fame during a ceremony held last night at Niagara Falls City Hall.
Plaques bearing the likenesses of inductees will be displayed inside City Hall.
The Niagara Falls Volunteer Hall of Fame was established to honor residents of the city of Niagara Falls who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to community service. It arose from the city’s annual Volunteer Fair, which is an endeavor conceived by ReNU Niagara, a community outreach program of Niagara University. The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, New York Congressman Brian Higgins and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster then collaborated to launch the Niagara Falls Volunteer Hall of Fame. ReNU Niagara facilitated this year’s nomination and selection process.
“Through the Volunteer Hall of Fame, we celebrate the giving spirit of the people of Niagara Falls who make this community such a special place to learn, work, live and serve,” said Father Maher. “Our Catholic and Vincentian mission at Niagara University compels us to imbue in our students and alumni a tireless passion to serve those most in need, and these four individuals have embodied that spirit with ingenuity, energy and action. We congratulate them on their induction.”
“I am both honored and humbled to recognize these four selfless individuals who make up the 2017 Volunteer Hall of Fame’s inaugural class,” said Mayor Dyster. “On behalf of a grateful city, we are thankful for their dedication toward the betterment of our community and its residents, and hope that their generous acts inspire a growing class of volunteers for years to come.”
“The 2017 Volunteer Hall of Fame inductees have each, in their unique way, embraced service and this community is much better off for their outstanding commitment and contributions,” said Congressman Higgins. “We are grateful for their dedication and hopeful that the stories of those recognized this year inspire others to find their purpose in volunteerism.”
Art Eberhart is the co-founder and current executive director of the Niagara Police Athletic League, an organization dedicated to creating better relations between law enforcement officials and citizens, especially young people. Since 1967, he has served children and teenagers in Niagara Falls by creating, planning, organizing and facilitating about 60 youth programs a year.
Evelyn Harris has served as a steward for the labor union at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for 36 years, while also becoming involved in advocacy issues at the regional and national levels. Additionally, she volunteers her time to the Nash House Museum in Buffalo, the Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative and the Resident Engagement Council, among others, and has been a lifetime advocate for women’s rights.
Norma Higgs is a founding member of the Niagara Falls Block Club Council, an organization that has elevated neighborhood issues through grassroots work for decades. Committed to keeping the community safe and clean, Higgs leads the Niagara Beautification Commission’s annual Beautify Niagara citywide clean sweep event. She also authors a weekly column in the Niagara Gazette that informs readers about the city’s history and opportunities for civic engagement.
Merrell Lane, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, spearheaded efforts to keep the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station open through his work as chair of the Niagara Military Affairs Council. He was honored by numerous organizations for saving numerous jobs in the community and keeping the viability and importance of the air base intact. Lane passed away in 2014.
“The individuals being inducted today certainly embody the spirit of service that is the backbone of Niagara University,” noted Dr. Debra Colley, NU’s executive vice president. “They have each developed passions for their community, in their own unique and special ways, and have acted on their passions, time and time again – and the Niagara Falls and larger community are better off because of them. I would like to extend to them an enormous amount of gratitude and appreciation on behalf of myself, Father Maher and the rest of the Niagara University community.”
To learn more about Niagara University, please visit www.niagara.edu.