FEATURE ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 3-16-03, By RON VIDIKA, Morning Journal Writer
``AVON -- Heidi Rom helps youngsters who want to take the road less traveled.
Rom, 47, of Avon, a social studies teacher at Avon Middle School, is the adviser for the Avon Middle School Leo Club, a group formed three years ago by her late husband, Frank Rom.
The Leo Club is sponsored by the Avon Lions Club and engages the children in various community service projects.
''In Avon, most young people don't think there's anyone in need; we're the fastest-growing city in Lorain County. But not everybody in the city is wealthy and not everybody has everything they need,'' said Rom, a 1974 graduate of Avon High School.
''I think the junior high kids are at an impasse,'' said Rom. ''They're going in one direction. But they want to choose the road less traveled. To be able to do that helps them with their self esteem and the feeling of accomplishment and following through with something and finishing it.'' ...
''We're trying to set up something similar for the high school kids next year, for kids who want to help the community,'' said Rom.
Her relationship with the local Lions Club was something she got from her father, Harold Schatschneider.
''My father was one of the original members of the Avon Lions Club. He got my husband and my brother-in-law, Doug Wetzig, involved in the club.'' Wetzig is now president of Avon Lions Club.
''My husband then wanted to start a Leo Club. There was a need for a community service group for kids. There are plenty of groups like that at the school, but we didn't have one that was unaffiliated with the school,'' said Rom.
With the help of friend and Heritage Middle School sixth grade teacher Carrie Kos, Rom was able to get the Leo Club chartered in early March.
''Carrie handles the sixth grade contingent of the Leo Club at Heritage. Frankly, being chartered opens more doors for the club. Now, the kids will get to meet Leo Clubs everywhere when they hold conventions,'' said Rom.
Rom said her husband, who died in November 2001, would have been proud of the achievements of his Leo Club.
''He would be very pleased because he liked kids. He thought it was important for kids to get involved and important for people to get involved with the kid's programs, because many don't have the time. Our society is pointed more toward ourselves and our immediate family. We need to get away from that,'' said Rom.
The club meets monthly at Avon Middle School to work on a project.
Past projects that the Leo Club has been involved in, said Rom, include food drives, collecting toys, books and clothes for needy children in the area during the holidays and participation in the annual Lorain County Free Clinic fund-raising walk in May.
Craig Koehler, principal of Avon Middle School, praises Rom community spirit. ''She's been very service-minded in terms of giving back to the community and the need for people to give of themselves,'' he said ...
While Avon Middle School has its own student programs, from an environmental club to a student service club to its Teen Institute program, Koehler said the Leo Club is in a niche of its own.
''We have different angles of service in our school voluntary clubs, but the Leo Club is specifically designed for voluntary school community service,'' said Koehler.
''It's a needed program,'' said Koehler. ''It allows students to have an outlet for serving others.
''In our society, let's face it, anything to encourage others to serve others is only helpful in creating a society that's more understanding and more caring,'' said Koehler.
In her leisure time, Rom, the middle child of seven children, enjoys playing volleyball with her siblings at the Avon Recreation Center.
She is the mother of four daughters, Sarah, 24, a medical school student at The Ohio State University; Katie, 23, a physical therapist who lives in Cleveland; Jamie, 21, in her junior year at OSU studying criminology and sociology and Laurie, 19, a sophomore at OSU studying business.
Her involvement with the members of the Leo Club has benefited Rom in priceless ways.
''I love being with kids,'' said Rom. ''They keep you young; at least, they keep you on the ball."''
Avon to 1974