SPRINGFIELD TWP.  On Aug. 20, the school bell rang once again for teachers and staff in the Springfield Local Schools as summer has rolled to an end and a new school year was set to begin.

A tradition for the school system at the opening meeting each year is presenting the Friend of Education Award, which is awarded to someone in the community who volunteers their time and helps with the education of the students in some capacity.

For this year’s recipient, it should be said that Kellie Chapman helps in many ways.

She was nominated by teacher Heather Phillips, who spoke at the opening meeting and praised Chapman for the many things she has done to help the schools.

Chapman said she was very shocked when she received the phone call from Phillips that she had been chosen to receive the award. Her response was, "Why?"

"After I reminded her of just a few of the things I knew she had done for our district, she (Chapman) was silent again and then she humbly said, 'You just made my day but still, why me?' " said Phillips.

Chapman was in Florida when she received her call as her parents had been in a serious motorcycle accident and she was there to help take care of them. She said the news couldn’t have come at a better time.

Phillips said the National Education Association defines a friend of education as "an individual whose leadership, acts, or support have significantly benefited public education, education employees, and/or students".

She read blubs from some of Springfield’s staff describing just a few of the things she has done for Springfield schools over the years:

- "Kellie volunteered every single time I needed a parent volunteer."

- "She read with students, helped students practice their reading and writing skills, she practiced spelling and sight words with kids and she helped students practice their math facts and math skills." 

- "Kellie has donated many school supplies, cleaning supplies, and even winter gloves and hats when needed."

- "Kellie always shows up at school with a kind smile and a loving heart." 

- "Over the years, Kellie has volunteered for senior breakfasts, welcome back teacher days, safety town, kindergarten registration, sport programs, fundraisers, the list goes on."

- "Kellie always steps up when there is a need - food, supplies, door prizes, organizing fundraisers, giving of her time and probably most importantly, always a present, listening ear."

- "Kellie has helped the junior high with our end of the year 'Fun Day' by organizing parent volunteers, activities, and food for the students. She even helped us raise funds for this activity by offering to raffle off tickets for teachers/students to smooch her pet pig, Pickles"

- "Kellie is the most caring and giving person in the Springfield community. She is the first person to help with school activities for students and staff.

- "Not only does she help her human community, she goes above and beyond for the fur babies too."

The Chapman’s have opened their home for years on Fridays as a safe place for many football players to go have a meal and words of encouragement before returning to the school for the game. The majority of the time, these meals are provided by her and her family. The players say they receive food, love, guidance, encouragement, and a sense of peace from the moment they enter the house. Chapman said it is so much fun, she looks forward to it.

"I love it," she said.

Chapman also has a huge love for animals. She is an advocate of rescuing animals through adoption and on many occasions her husband and children probably thought she was trying to turn their home into a zoo. Phillips said Chapman works with Maggie’s Mission and the Lakemore Police Department to place unclaimed animals instead of sending them to the pound.

"Our fourth graders did a service project that involved collecting things for Maggie’s Mission," Phillips said. "This lesson of compassion may have been a tearful surprise to Kellie, but guess what, Kellie, this is just a reflection of your compassion for our students and staff," said Phillips.

Phillips added that Chapman is always finding ways she can make special memories for every child and she never forgets the teachers, either.

"There is never an obstacle too difficult for Kellie she will always find a way," Phillips said. "I have honestly never seen Kellie say no to anything."

Chapman is a 1984 graduate of Springfield High School and was born and raised in Springfield. Her husband, Dan, is a Springfield Township firefighter and they have three sons, Daniel, Hunter and Luke.

Chapman said it was always important for her to run her own business, so she could be with her kids. She said she felt it was important for her to be at school and to know the kid’s friends.

"Kellie has never met a stranger. She instantly makes you feel comfortable and like she’s been your friend forever," said Phillips.

As for why the award went to Chapman, Phillips asked staff members to stand if Chapman had personally helped them or knew of instances where she served as a volunteer or supporter of the schools.

Everyone stood.

Phillips pointed to those in the auditorium and said, "This is why."