Awards honor Leslie, ‘servant leaders’Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventeen-year-old Deke Ludwig has always had a passion for environmental sustainability, converting a truck to run on electricity before he was old enough to drive it and speaking to school groups about alternative energy solutions.
But it was a “life-changing” exposure to homelessness and poverty last year in Toledo that prompted him to enter the fight against social injustice and recruit his peers to do the same.
The Monclova teen was one of six community activists — and the youngest ever — to be honored with a Servant Leader of the Year award at the Servant Leadership Center’s (SLC) third annual recognition banquet Oct. 21.
Others honored were Ken Leslie of 1Matters, who has advocated for Toledo’s homeless population for more than 20 years; Lucy Russell, “a tireless volunteer for a myriad of community service initiatives;” Woody and Judy Trautman of the Northwest Ohio Multi-Faith Council, “an elderly couple with a vision for multifaith cooperation and peace;” and Dan Rogers, president and CEO of Cherry Street Mission Ministries, according to a news release.
The awards are given to innovative thinkers who serve and lead by example, said Steve North, director of outreach ministry at the SLC.
“[The SLC is] about identifying systemic ways of dealing with injustice rather than just incidental ways,” North said. “So rather than people concerned with a particular case, we’re concerned with root issues and solutions. We’re looking for people who exemplify that kind of outlook and approach.”
All the honorees not only respond to community needs personally, but work to get others involved, North said.
“In the end, no real solution comes about without bringing people together. That’s the kind of thing that’s really inspiring, motivating and, in the end, transformative to their communities and ultimately the world,” North said. “These people demonstrate these things with their lives. None of them are satisfied with status quo answers.”
Ludwig’s passion for social justice issues was sparked after participating in Four Point Five, the SLC’s poverty immersion experience for high-schoolers, where the students spend four and a half days experiencing poverty and homelessness, including visiting migrant worker camps, spending a day with a homeless squatter, dumpster-diving for food and eating at a soup kitchen.
“It totally changed my life … it was an eye-opener,” Ludwig said. “I live in the country. I knew about homelessness obviously, but never thought it was right in my community. And Four Point Five just kind of opened my eyes and changed my life. It’s just, you don’t think about it until you actually see it.”
Since then, he has worked to recruit other teens to be a part of Four Point Five, as well as continues to speak about alternative energy.