New Kensington Points of Light Committee Honors Individuals for Community Service

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If Andre Carter and Sam Lombardo were taken at their word, then the awards they both received Monday belong to someone else. Perhaps it’s the nature of their work, or a reflection of the kind of people they are, nominated by the New Kensington Points of Light Committee for recognition. But one way or the other, both men were quick to point at other people as the reason for their selection for the committee’s semi-annual honor.

Twice a year, the city takes the time to recognize people and organizations in New Kensington that stand out for the good work they perform. The committee presented awards to this year’s individual recipients during council’s meeting Monday. Neither Lombardo nor Carter seemed entirely familiar or comfortable with the spotlight as they were seated before council and presented their awards for community service.

The Points of Light committee’s name stems from the 1989 inaugural address of then-President George H.W. Bush, who spoke of the country’s volunteers reflecting a thousand points of light. Committee member Chester Howell explained the group’s mission.

“We are here to award these two individuals that show the highest standards of service to their community,” Howell said. Candidates must be nonprofit entities or individuals involved with them; be in existence for at least three years; and benefit New Kensington, though they don’t need to live or be based in the city.

After receiving his award, Carter was quick to point out that it wasn’t the recognition that caused him to step up and spearhead the efforts that led to the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display. That display had been cancelled in 2013, after volunteers responsible for it became seriously ill.

A business man, basketball coach and member of the city’s recreation commission, Carter is a busy guy. But the Points of Light organizers say that when the city needed him, he jumped right to work to make sure residents wouldn’t be without fireworks.

Because of his efforts, according to committee secretary Mary Calvanese, the event has continued to be a success. “(Carter) and his people have been instrumental in staging a wonderful Fourth of July fireworks event,” Calvanese said. Carter refused to accept the credit entirely on his own.

“I feel honored that it happened, but that’s not the reason that we do what we do,” Carter said. “It definitely wasn’t just me. It was a whole committee. We stepped up and wanted to make it happen for the city.”

Lombardo, the owner of Sam’s Pop & Beer Shop in Arnold, was recognized for his charitable giving to area military personal who are deployed overseas. His charity group, Cookies for Our Troops, started over a decade ago with the humble plan to send baked goods to soldiers. Years later, Lombardo’s efforts have seen deployed troops sent everything from pizza ovens to helmet liners to freeze pops.

According to Lombardo’s figuring, the organization has taken care of about 30,000 troops since its founding in 2003.

“It’s, honestly, the community,” Lombardo said about the group’s success. After the award ceremony, Lombardo said he was, “embarrassed” to receive recognition that belonged to the troops. “God bless those boys — I want them all home. I want us to quit this, but we’ll keep going as long as we can.”

Howell said both men represent the best of New Kensington. “These are people who really make New Kensington a better place to live,” he said.

Lombardo and Carter’s names will join a growing list of previous award winners on a plaque displayed at city hall.

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Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, mmedsger@tribweb.com or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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