PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” It is one of the greatest honors in the small town of Punxsutawney, and deservedly so, the bequeathing of that honor comes on the eve of the town's biggest day.
It was Groundhog Eve, as many know it, Friday night, and the crowning of the Woman and Man of the Year took center stage as the end of the Groundhog Banquet approached.
Katie Laska, 2011 Woman of the Year, stepped to the microphone and delivered the ceremonial, passing-of-the-torch speech to a woman who she said she knows quite well.
And, passing on a tradition started by Laska and 2011 Man of the Year Howard Beezer, Laska literally crowned her friend, Jennifer Roberts, the 2012 Woman of the Year for Punxsutawney.
In her acceptance speech, Roberts thanked a number of people who have helped her, and called helping people "a dream."
"In my dreams, I would help everyone," she said, listing just a few of the groups she's loved to work with.
Roberts, 42, is a lifelong resident of Punxsutawney and is the daughter of Bill and Jean Roberts. She is the sister to five siblings â€” Bill Jr. and Jim of Punxsutawney; Joe of Philadelphia; Betty of Moorestown, N.J.; and Lori of Pittsburgh.
After the banquet, Roberts was embraced by a large number of community members offering their congratulations on what they all called a "well-deserved honor."
As the crowds eased for a moment, Roberts took a moment to reflect and said, "I would say this is a very special honor. I was just so touched and feel so loved. Everyone is so loving."
While Roberts felt loved, it was her love for helping others that spoke greatly to her deservedness of earning the special honor.
Roberts is a board member of Jefferson County ARC and is consistently in the top three in fundraising efforts for the annual Run/Walk for
Someone Special, which benefits Camp Friendship.
The list of organizations she volunteers for does not stop there, though.
Jennifer has volunteered many hours at the Chamber of Commerce and Waltzing Matilda, in addition to her time volunteering for VanDyke and Company's annual recitals and performances.
She is a member of Saints Cosmas and Damian Roman Catholic Church, where she is a member of the Rosary Altar Society and Catholic Daughters of America.
Currently, Jennifer is the Punxsy PRIDE corsage coordinator, selling corsages for the Groundhog Banquet, which benefits the entire community.
Jennifer was also a past officer of the Young Women's Club of Punxsutawney.
She is employed part-time at Frank Roberts and Sons.
Asked why she feels it's important to give of her time to the town of Punxsutawney, Roberts pointed to her passion for helping others.
"Because I like to do so much, and I just love doing things for people so much," she said.
In the bio that Laska read â€” one that was obviously written from the heart â€” Roberts was described as "a true representative of the spirit of Punxsutawney."
It continued, "Upon meeting Jennifer, you will know within a few minutes that she is from Punxsutawney, because she has not only told you that, but has invited you to visit the town or to attend the Groundhog Day festivities. What may not be known by many people is that Jennifer frequently sends out-of-town friends and new acquaintances souvenirs (cookbooks, pins, posters, etc.) and other collectibles to help spread the word about Groundhog Day."
Roberts shines Punxsy pride through all that she does, and Laska said that is quite clear.
"She is very genuinely proud to be from Punxsutawney, and it shows when she talks about going up to The Knob or attending other activities like the festival and concerts in town. She is actively involved in several organizations, and she never says, 'No,' if people ask her for help."
Laska cited Roberts' willingness to sell raffle tickets, hang signs, make phone calls or "do just about anything to help any organization, even those that she doesn't belong to."
In her closing comments, Laska made two things clear: While Roberts is blessed to have the town of Punxsutawney, the town is equally as blessed â€”Â if not more blessed â€”Â to have Jennifer Roberts.
"Jennifer focuses on helping others and giving to others," Laska said in conclusion. "Her goals in life are simple: to be happy and to make others happy. No more, no less. Lucky for her, Punxsutawney is a community that welcomes her efforts. And lucky for Punxsutawney, we have such a dedicated and loyal citizen."
In closing, Roberts couldn't think of just one person to thank, so she encompassed them all in one blanket thank you.
"I can't think of just one person," she said, "because I'm just so thankful to everyone."
PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” Scott Anthony, the owner of Fox's Pizza Den in Punxsutawney, was chosen as the 2012 Punxsutawney Man of the Year at Friday's annual Groundhog Banquet.
Howard "Butch" Beezer, the 2011 Punxsutawney Man of the Year, said
Anthony has been described as kind, fun-loving, honest, hard working, successful, generous and humble.
Beezer said Anthony and his wife moved to Punxsutanwney in 1987 as young adults.
"At that time, he was managing a cleaning business and was in Punxsy working more often than in Homer City, so they decided Punxsutawney would be a great place to buy a home and settle down," he said.
Beezer said that in 1994, a local business became available and the rest is history.
"All one needs to do is ask, and Scott will gladly respond, 'Sure, what do you need?'" Beezer said, adding that Anthony supports the American Cancer Society, local Boy and Girl Scout troops, Make-A-Wish, the various
sporting groups in the community and countless senior projects through "business card fund-raisers."
He said Anthony is often seen providing meals to people in need and feels that Punxsutawney businesses should be supportive of other businesses in town, and he strives to exemplify this goal.
"After the tragedy of 9-11, Anthony wanted to honor the firemen and policemen in his hometown in memory of those who lost their lives that day," Beezer said.
He said the Punxsutawney Fire Department has become the beneficiary of
fund-raisers initiated by Anthony.
Beezer said that new fire and life-saving equipment has been realized through Anthony's efforts and has provided food for the Punxsutawney Borough Police Department.
"Because of Anthony's generosity and religious ethic of 'living your life in faith,' Punxsutawney is a better place to work, live and raise a family," Beezer said.
Anthony and his wife Andrea, and their two daughters are proud to call Punxsutawney their home, Beezer said.
"In fact, this evening, Scott is not in attendance at the banquet, but sharing his pizza passion with Groundhog Day visitors and had to be kidnapped and delivered to the banquet by Punxsutawney Borough Police Officer Ryan Miller," Beezer said.
Anthony, who did arrive at the banquet with a police escort, thanked everyone and said that being chosen for the honor was totally unexpected.
"I have many people to thank, including my parents, my family and my faith," Anthony said.
Following the banquet, Anthony said he kind of had an idea that something was up when Officer (Ryan) Miller came and took him
from his pizza shop and brought him to the Punxsutawney Area High School cafeteria.
"When Ryan (Miller) was not driving me to the police station and up the hill to the high school instead, (I thought) that I might have been chosen for this great honor," Anthony said, adding that he was still in shock and never even dreamed he would be chosen for such a high honor as the Punxsutawney Man of the Year for 2012.