Matt Fennessey, Christy Machelett and Gabe Hoekel received awards at the Distinguished Service Awards Banquet Saturday, Feb. 1.

The banquet is sponsored by the Union Area Chamber of Commerce. The awards given are in recognition for outstanding educator, student and young person who have made an impact in the community.


Fennessey was the recipient of the Outstanding Educator Award. To receive this award the recipient must teach in the city of Union or the Union R-XI School District.

“Matt has demonstrated a commitment to the children of this community in a way that is both admirable and astonishing,” said Leigh Kolb, the 2019 recipient of the award. “His impact stretches well beyond the gym.”

Fennessey is the driving force behind the implementation of a motor lab at both Central Elementary and Beaufort Elementary, Kolb explained.

As the spearhead for the creation of a book room, Fennessey has enabled teachers and students access to books that are suited to their unique learning needs. 

The girls soccer team he coaches, the Lady Cats, has been successful with 15 consecutive district championships, followed by two straight Final Four appearances. 

Fennessey’s hard work goes beyond the field, Kolb explained, “He has been instrumental in the Union School District connection with Project United.”

This educator and coach has been a driving force behind Central Elementary’s fundraiser PawFest, which brings $20,000 each year for the school.

Fennessey also recently organized a bike drive, where he was able to collect and repair 100 bicycles. He then collaborated with local health care providers to equip the children with free helmets.

“Coach Fennessey regularly goes above and beyond the call of his job in an effort to maximize the talents of our students, assist our teachers and school, and ultimately improve our community,” Kolb said.

While, Fennessey was given the award he said the other nominees, Christy Machelett and Dr. Leslie Lause, also deserved the award.


Hoekel received the Outstanding Student Award. Hoekel is a sophomore at Union High School. 

“His energy and enthusiasm for everything he does in life is contagious,”  said Amanda Egli, director of the Union Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hoekel is active in sports and school events, lettering as just a freshman.

“To see Gabe compete is not just fun to witness but uplifting as well. His sportsmanship is one for the books” Egli explained.

Hoekel was voted most motivational on the cross country team two years running. He is also on the wrestling and track teams. He gives every sporting event he does his all. 

As a freshman Hoekel made the District Band in percussion and is a part of a student-led youth group that started at UHS this year.

In terms of academia his teachers speak nothing but words of praise, as they have pushed him to take honor classes as a sophomore according to Egli.

“Gabe’s drive, determination and his heart definitely show through at Union High School,” Egli said.

Hoekel expressed nothing but gratitude and surprise for earning this award. Josie Lause was the other nominee for Outstanding Student of the Year. 

Young Person

Machelett received the Outstanding Young Person Award in addition to being nominated for Outstanding Educator. 

Machelett is a teacher at Beaufort Elementary, where she organizes and emcees school assemblies and Christmas events. She has served on the Beaufort Home and School Association and the Beaufort Elementary PTO.

In addition to her work as an educator, she is very involved with helping others in Union. 

“She serves her community passionately,” said Dan Rettke, the 2019 recipient.

She is president of the Union Lions Club, has worked with the Union Little League Softball Association and is the organizer for the annual Lions Club 5K run/walk.

Rettke noted that young people tend to be consumed by work rather than their community.

 “Christy does not follow this trend, she is always giving her time and talents to serve the Union area,” Rettke said.

There were two other nominees for the Outstanding Young Person Award, Macee Nikole Jarvis and Eric Schmuke.