Heritage Fund presents first Jurgemeyer Award winners

A collaborative celebration of Black History and a Columbus Regional Health social worker have been named the first recipients of two new annual awards established to honor noteworthy heroes and projects in the community.

Black History Month Columbus was honored with the Donald W. & Catherine G. Jurgemeyer Community Leadership Project of the Year Award, which promotes and recognizes an organization or project in the community that exemplifies the Columbus community leadership values, including high aspirations, Welcoming Community, public-private partnerships, best value, collaboration, the value of good design, forward-thinking, lifelong learning and service to others, while addressing a pressing need or opportunity to improve the quality of life in Bartholomew County.

Led by the African American Fund of Bartholomew County, NAACP Columbus/Bartholomew and Paths to Success, organizers worked with more than a dozen community partners to collaborate on efforts to provide Black history in a positive, relevant and accurate way for everyone in the community from which to learn and be inspired. The Black History Columbus website, community calendar and social media pages informed and encouraged the public to attend more than 60 events during the month of February, which enjoyed significant community participation and attendance.

Project Manager Whitney Gaines and organizers are discussing efforts to build on this year’s success and involve more community partners in the future and work toward providing Black history education, resources and information to the community throughout the year. They received a $15,000 award to further support the sustainability of the project, the sponsoring nonprofit or similar charitable initiative.

Patty Pigman, specialist with the Infant Mortality Prevention Action Team, also was honored with the Donald W. & Catherine G. Jurgemeyer Community Hero Award, which recognizes and celebrates the contributions of everyday local heroes — those who have performed life-saving measures, come to the aid of another or contributed to the safety, security and resiliency of our community.

Pigman, a licensed social worker who has worked with CRH for 10 years, was credited with helping to curb infant deaths attributed to unsafe sleep in the county. Pigman, recognized by the State Department of Health as a leader in maternal-infant health, led the initiation of the first fetal-infant mortality review of Bartholomew County in 2018. It revealed a quarter of all infant deaths were related to unsafe sleep, and she subsequently gathered a team of more than 40 community leaders of organizations that care for mothers, babies and their families and quickly developed a plan to address safe sleep. As a result of these efforts, in 2019 and 2020,there were no unsafe sleep deaths reported in Bartholomew County. And in 2021 Bartholomew County’s five-year infant mortality rate dropped below the state average for the first time in more than a decade.

Pigman was described as a hero because she is able to enlist, motivate and guide others in the work of prevention toward a common goal. Pigman received a $5,000 award.

The two new awards were established at Heritage Fund this year by the estate of longtime Columbus residents and philanthropists Donald and Catherine Jurgemeyer to honor noteworthy heroes and projects in the community. Donald Jurgemeyer was senior vice president of the trust department of Irwin Union Bank for 12 years and practiced law in his Columbus firm for 29 years. He served as legal counsel for the community foundation in its early years. Catherine Jurgemeyer served as president of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation and chaired the American Bar Auxiliary and the Indiana Lawyers Auxiliary.