CORTLAND - When Florence Hutton, or Flo, heard that she was named a Community Star, she was in a state of shock.
"I didn't even know it was going on," she said.
With 400 emails and several phone calls congratulating her, Hutton felt a sense of self-reward.
"We always get so many compliments for our work, and it's deeply appreciated," she said.
A lifelong resident of Trumbull County, Hutton likes to stay active in the community. She moved to Cortland 54 years ago and spent the last 27 years making the town a place of tender, love and care. She attends almost every city council meeting and stays connected with people in the area.
"I don't want to be a politician or anything; I just like what I'm doing. I have a lot of connections with society, so don't have much trouble accomplishing what I'm after," she said.
Snowflake Committee and Cortland Beautification Association
Instead of receiving rewards, she is often the one honoring others in her community for their work.
She is the treasurer of the Cortland Beautification Association, an organization started 27 years ago with Sauni Shaffer as the Snowflake Committee. Together the two pioneered the transformation of Cortland by beautifying the area with handmade lighted snowflakes. Though they started without money, and didn't want to ask for any, the committee quickly illuminated the town with dedication and then eventually gratitude from donors.
"It all started when I made leaflets with our motto 'Your Donations will be up in Lights.' We walked the whole town and put them on doors, and then people started sending us checks," she said.
The Snowflake Committee's work soon generated talk, and Mayor Curt Moll requested a historical society along with a beautification association. Hutton suggested combining both ideas into one group, resulting in the CBA.
The CBA consists of eight members and has been a significant part in the clean-up of Cortland, with a record of projects to prove it.
"She is instrumental," Mary Kachurik, Hutton's Community Star nominator, said. "It is Flo's timeless leadership and inspiration that lights fires and keeps projects going."
Now in its 12th year, the Community Star program celebrates the volunteers who have had a significant influence on Trumbull County. It is sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100.
Kachurik's first project with Hutton was the makeover of a historical pre-Civil War memorial site known as the Casterline Cemetery. The renovation included maintenance of fences and flower beds and the construction of monuments, a historical marker and reflection spot.
After volunteering to work with Hutton in the cemetery, Kachurik officially joined the CBA and became Hutton's sidekick.
"It's hard to keep up with her sometimes. This 100 pounds, 70-something, exuberant lady is a dynamo in action. And she's devoted," she said.
If there's anything Hutton knows how to do it's find work all year round. In addition to the CBA, she and her sons manage the family business and several rental houses.
"I work half a day at the office in my home until 6 p.m., and then I do my city work after that," she said.
She said summer and winter are her busiest times of the year.
"I'm an instigator. I call the others in the group and tell them what's on my mind," she said. "Sometimes we shift nights around so I can always maintain work where needed."
What some see as overlooked, forgettable parts of town, Hutton transforms into pieces of art. During the fall the CBA hosts a lamppost decorating contest in downtown Cortland and rewards two winners.
"We also fix up spots in the area that a person or business can adopt, take over and keep clean," Hutton said. "That way we involve everybody."
Spring is dedicated to the CBA's "Knockout Roses" fundraiser, which Hutton coordinates from her home. She orders the flowers from local florists and then distributes them to buyers.
"We've been doing the fundraiser for about eight years. They're just used as beauty decorations, but we're trying to make them Cortland's official flower," she said.
Though Hutton's beautification work started with her own home, she said she'd never tell other people what to do. The primary example the CBA wants to set is that individuals and businesses can always join in and spread beauty across town.
"We have four Community Pride Awards a year sponsored by First Place Bank. Three of which go to people who maintain their homes and one for a business," she said. "This way people get rewarded for the work they do."
Hutton's generosity within the community is never stagnant or without reciprocation.
"She is always gracious and ready to show her appreciation to all those who help. She has coordinated an annual ham dinner for the City Service Department, which she organizes and serves, in appreciation for their help and support of the CBA throughout the year," Kachurik said.