Gawlik named Brecksville Citizen of the Year

by Dan Holland

The distinction of being honored as the 2024 Brecksville Citizen of the Year, presented during the annual State of the City address on April 18, was a humbling experience for longtime resident Denise Gawlik.

“I am overwhelmed by this touching ‘thank you’ of recognition by the city, and I sincerely appreciate it,” said Gawlik. “It was completely unexpected, and it wasn’t something that was on my radar, but it is sincerely appreciated.”

Gawlik, who has lived in Brecksville with her family for 16 years, first began volunteering with the Parent School Organization, when her son – now a senior at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School – began attending kindergarten in the school district. She recently transitioned from the PSO after she was asked to serve as a trustee for the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools Foundation.

She became involved with the Brecksville Kiwanis, eventually becoming a board member, after she was introduced to the organization while serving as co-chair of the BBH Middle School Auditorium Renovation Committee.

“We partnered with the Kiwanis club to do a fundraiser with their support, and I loved everything I saw about Kiwanis and their mission,” said Gawlik. “So, at the conclusion of that fundraiser, I decided to join the Kiwanis.”

The mission to raise funding for renovation of the middle school auditorium, which netted more than $155,000, was one of her favorite volunteer efforts in addition to her annual organization of the Brecksville Kiwanis Trick-or-Trot 5K race & 1-mile walk, which raises money for the club’s youth services.

Gawlik has served on the city’s charter review commission and currently serves on the recreation commission.

A spirit of volunteerism and local involvement took root during her high school and college years, said Gawlik.

“I feel I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in life, and I feel that it’s important to give back to the community and set a good example for my children to help out the less fortunate and give back when I’ve been given so much,” she said.

“From her unwavering dedication to the schools’ PSO program and her invaluable contributions to the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools Foundation, to her recent endeavors in city governance, Denise’s commitment is truly exemplary,” said Mayor Daryl Kingston, who presented her with the award. “Her proactive involvement, including service on the Charter Review Commission and her current role on the Recreation Commission, highlights her passion for enhancing the quality of life in Brecksville.”

“Her contributions embody the essence of what makes Brecksville great,” he continued. “Her efforts, coupled with her genuine dedication to community betterment, serve as a beacon of inspiration for all. In every endeavor, Denise exemplifies the values of unity, service, and excellence that define the city of Brecksville.”

“Denise Gawlik is one of the most supportive individuals I have met during my time at Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools,” said Superintendent Jeffrey Harrison. “No matter the event or organization, if it is benefiting the schools or city, you will find Denise there doing the work that needs to be done to be successful. I have not met many people in my career who give so much of their time, energy, and effort as Denise does. We are a better school district because of her.”

“It’s almost like an adrenaline rush with running – to be helping others and seeing other people happy that you’ve accomplished something that is going to make someone else’s life a bit better,” said Gawlik. “It’s a great feeling that makes you feel good. I’ve always done that and will always continue to do that.” ∞

Photo: Denise Gawlik (center) was honored as Brecksville’s 2024 Citizen of the Year during the annual mayor’s state-of-the-city address April 18. Photo by Melissa Martin.