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by Alecia Sirk
(July 17) An originator and a builder were honored Thursday night for their service to Bridgeport during the Benedum Festival Awards Banquet at Via Veneto.
Madge McDaniel and Clyde Strother, two retirees, received the honor for community service during the fourth annual awards dinner. The event serves as the kick off to the Benedum Festival, which will be held this weekend in Bridgeport.
"I was flattered and surprised to be chosen as a Benedum Fellow," said McDaniel, who has served on the selection committee in the past.
McDaniel has started up several committees and organizations, including the Bridgeport Community Council and the county-wide Meals on Wheels.
"I helped organize Meals on Wheels, which is a community service for the whole county," McDaniel explained.
Festival committee member Dwight Fowler said McDaniel gave to the community daily during the more than 40 years that she taught school.
"She's served on all the educational clubs you can think of," he added.
Strother began his community service in earnest after his retirement from CNG in 1989, two years after his move to Bridgeport.
"We're very proud and very excited," said Strother's daughter, Jennifer Lawson.
Strother is a builder who created a platform for the Bridgeport High School cheerleaders to keep their feet out of the mud during cold winter games.
He also uses his skills to help members of his church.
"He goes out and helps people who are not able to make repairs for themselves," Lawson said. "Rather than having them pay a high cost, they just call the church and he'll go out and make small or large repairs. He's very handy."
More than 100 people attended the banquet. Following dinner and before the awards, storyteller Noel W. Tenney of the Hill Lorists, who entertained the group with stories and songs depicting the heritage of West Virginia.
The festival is held in the memory of Michael Late Benedum. Benedum was born in 1869, and had much success in the oil business.
With his good fortune, he contributed to Bridgeport, donating the money for the county's first swimming pool at the Bridgeport Civic Center and unifying the city's three cemeteries.
Rebecca Conley said she came out to the banquet because service helps build the foundation of a community.
"I've lived a lot of places," she said. "And believe me, Bridgeport is a wonderful place to live."
Fowler said taking the time to recognize community service creates a positive future for the city.
"It lets people know that this is one of the things we like," Fowler said. "People who give service to the community are valuable individuals."