Local men who are paving the way in West Chester and Liberty Township
INTRO: In March we asked readers to nominate local male leaders who are positively impacting West Chester and Liberty Township. We received an overwhelming response, selected a handful of men and added a few of our own picks to round out this amazing group of guys. These profiles give you a small glimpse into the day-to-day lives of six wonderful men.
Born and raised in West Chester, Rob Lyons has seen the region go from farmland to a thriving suburban community, one where he chose to plant the seeds of his own family and business. As a practicing attorney since 1980 and a Butler County Court Judge since 1999, Lyons loves having the opportunity to help people.
“In both jobs, you often encounter people at difficult times in their lives,” Lyons says. “It is very gratifying and rewarding to help people navigate through trying situations and help them make a positive change in their life.”
One of his most personally gratifying moments was when his youngest of four children, Kara Lyons, chose to practice law at the family’s firm, Lyons & Lyons. Together, they continue to positively impact the community around them in order to ensure that West Chester and Liberty Township remain among the best places to live.
For the second year in a row, Lakota West’s Trey Small is the recipient of the Gold Key Award from National Scholastic’s Art & Writing Awards Competition, which he will receive at Carnegie Hall this summer. The passionate art student also won Grand Prize for the U.S. Congressional Art Competition award representing the Ohio 8th District, which includes a trip to Washington, D.C. When he travels to D.C. in June, Small will attend the opening of an exhibit in the U.S. Capitol building which will feature his artwork for a year.
Small’s love for art began in preschool, the first time he can remember drawing with colored pencils.
“I was fascinated by drawing,” Small says. “The art classes through West have exposed me to so many different materials.”
While he’s making a name for himself in the world of art, Small’s family has been his biggest support along the way.
Where Dan Foote sees a need, he fills it. Retired from a career in manufacturing management, Foote is dedicated to assisting people in our community, especially senior citizens. He has tried a variety of volunteer roles since his retirement. You may find him driving seniors around town with West Chester Van Service, offering free tax preparation through the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation Tax-Aide or at the welcome desk at West Chester Hospital. Foote intentionally uses his time to help others.
“I’ve always been involved in the communities I’ve lived in. I feel like I’m part of a team,” Foote says. “I don’t feel that what I do deserves a lot of recognition. It’s just something you do as a caring human being and an opportunity to give back to our community. It makes me feel good, and hopefully the people I serve feel good.”
When compassionate teen Andrew Brauer learned of the harsh living environment of the homeless population, he was moved to make a difference. At age 13, he founded The Blanket Crew, a non-profit organization with the mission of “Changing the world one blanket at a time.” Now a junior at Lakota East, Brauer cuts lawns and does other jobs around town to raise money to purchase blankets. His home serves as a donation drop-off spot. In just three years, Brauer and his team have collected and distributed more than 2,000 blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless of Cincinnati and Houston, Texas.
“I thought it was a phase,” laughs Jen Brauer, Andrew’s mother. “I didn’t know my garage and basement would be filled with blankets!”
“This opens my mind to what other people have to live through and how privileged I am to live here in Liberty Township,” says Brauer.
In 2005, when his daughter and her student-athlete friends were overwhelmed with the college search process, Percy Brown set up a table in his basement. They worked there together to study for college entrance exams and prepare academic and athletic applications. Word got out about Brown’s wisdom. For more than 13 years, he has continued to meet with local student-athletes, where he shares counsel for their futures. He has mentored dozens of teens as they seek a university, coach and team that best fits their needs. Brown believes a good match to a college equals success.
“We talk a lot about if a school is the right fit,” Brown says. “In the process, the students learn a lot about themselves.”
He adds, “Education is such an important piece of the puzzle in a kid’s life. It opens up doors that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to go through.”
Larry D. Burks
When Larry Burks was looking for a great new opportunity where he could comfortably relocate his family, West Chester rose to the top of his list. Between the Lakota School District, the employment opportunities and West Chester’s continual top ranking in Money Magazine, Burks says the chance to move from Nebraska to West Chester in February was too good to pass up. As Township Administrator, Burks is excited to lead a “fresh new team” to accomplish important initiatives.
“Over the next few months we’ll have a strategic planning session, which will allow the trustees to provide a vision for what they think is important,” Burks explains.
After that, Burks will work with his team to set goals to advance the organization’s priorities for the community. Soon, his family will join him in the new neighborhood, where his kids will start school at Lakota in the fall.