EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Outstanding Citizen 2017 Jim McLeod received a rousing reception at Longwood Gardens on Saturday night as the audience members rose and applauded him with a standing ovation.
This was the 51st annual banquet of the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce to honor a notable community member defined by his or her extraordinary dedication to service, leadership and vision. More than 200 guests, most of them dressed in formal attire, gathered at the luxurious and orchid-draped surroundings of the world famous tourist destination for the event. In stark contrast, a sloppy mix of rain and snow left a carpet of slush outside,.
McLeod, who was notified in January that he had been chosen for this year’s honor, said earlier that he was happy for himself, but even happier that the chamber had chosen someone from the farther south region of the service area, namely Oxford, for the honor.
Last year’s Outstanding Citizen 2016, former Kennett Square Mayor and Borough Council President Leon Spencer, introduced McLeod.
Currently, McLeod is the executive director of the Oxford Area Senior Center, and he said he also sells real estate. But in the course of his 66 years he has been involved with and contributed to a litany of causes, organizations and businesses, which Spender recited.
Among other things, he served two terms on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association, was appointed to the association’s Legislative Committee and served on Ford Motor Company’s Zone Dealer Council representing Ford dealers in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
He is a member of the Fulton Bank Brandywine Division Advisory Board and with Oxford Rotary for 28 years. He was a founding board member of the Jennersville YMCA of Greater Brandywine, serving for 30 years, two terms as chairman and oversaw fundraising and building.
McLeod served nine years as chairman of American Red Cross Chester County Brandywine Division’s Disaster Action Team, assisting displaced fire victims. He sits on the Board and is Development Chairman of the Southern Chester County Emergency Medical Services and eight years on the SCCOOT Board. Jim served on various Oxford Borough Task Forces, Police Chief Search Committees, chaired the Borough’s Vacancy Committee and is Chairman of the Civil Service Commission. He served on the Pennsylvania Legislative District 13 Advisory Board, Chester County Department of Aging’s Paratransit Advisory Council, and chairman of Oxford Area Regional Sewer Authority.
In 2014 McLeod was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Oxford Area School District for long-standing service including a memorial scholarship in memory of his wife, presented each year to a graduating Oxford Area High School senior. He served on District committees studying truancy and drop-out rates, served on the first Board of Directors of Oxford Educational Foundation in 1994 for mentors and tutors, and grants to bring innovative programs not funded through the budget. Jim also served as president for seven years.
Like the “partridge in a pear tree” in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” Spencer capped his tribute to McLeod by mentioning, ”And he has also run the Oxford Halloween Parade for 34 years.”
McLeod spoke spontaneously without a prepared speech — “I don’t like paper.”
He said he loved a life of service and that it would not be possible without the many people who supported him, including his late wife, Mary.
With Mary, McLeod founded the December Spirit of Giving luncheon years ago, and he honored her memory in his acceptance speech with symbolic kiss to the heavens.
With him at the banquet were his two adult children Chris McLeod and Michelle McLeod Meadowcroft.
During the evening he was embraced by scores of friends and neighbors, including peers in the Rotary Club and other organizations is part of.
The banquet this year was called the Chairman’s Dinner for the first time. In that connection, retiring board Chairman John Jaros marked the end of his term by leading the audience in the Eagles fight song. He reminded them that he was chairman in 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series and now in 2017 when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. He is succeeded this year by J. Douglas Doerfler,
On hand for the accolades also was state Rep. John Lawrence, who brought with him a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He also assured some visitors that Route 1, running beside Longwood to Oxford on this snowy evening, had already been plowed and salted by PennDOT.
The banquet food was presented as an elegant buffet of short ribs, lobster, mushrooms and more. Volunteers from the Unionville High School Interact Club oversaw the coat checks.
The Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award has been presented annually since 1968. Past recipients of this prestigious award include: 2005 Kathleen Lafferty, 2006 Doris Haley, 2007 Eva Verplanck, 2008 James T. Horn, 2009 Michael R. Walker, 2010 Janice Taylor, 2011 Terence Farrell, 2012 Stacie A. Kucera, 2013 Ken Goddu; 2014 Joan Holliday; 2015 David Haradon and 2016 Spencer.