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Citizenship is one of the region's richest resources

Over the last eight years, Inquirer readers have easily identified dozens of neighbors who exemplify citizenship — each one fit to receive a Citizen of the Year award. This year is no exception.

2011's choice will be announced Sunday, but the field comprised many worthy contenders who showed the importance of dedication, service, doggedness, and foresight. These nominees of readers and the Editorial Board are working to enhance growth, promote ethical government, fight poverty, preserve the environment, and expand opportunity.

For her years-long work on children's causes, Shelly Yanoff, director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, was applauded. A coalition-builder, she's also willing to challenge the status quo to improve the health and welfare of Pennsylvania's children. She does it with both fervor and humor — as when she presented lawmakers with cans of spinach and urged them to "be strong" for the kids.

Journalist-turned-activist Iris Marie Bloom came more recently to her cause: fighting reckless gas drilling through her grassroots group, Protecting Our Waters. The moratorium on drilling near the Delaware can be attributed partly to her efforts.

Holding those in government to high standards has been the life's work of Zack Stalberg, both as a journalist and as steward of the Committee of Seventy. To the growing list of reforms advocated by Seventy and Stalberg, add the city's new lobbyist registration law.

Building community and helping at-risk youths through art has been the calling of nominee Jane Golden of the Mural Arts Program for a quarter-century. She was cited as "living proof of the power of art to ignite and inspire change."

Curtis grad and trumpeter Stanford Thompson was cited for Play On, Philly!, an after-school music workshop for 110 youngsters with limited musical experience. Drexel's public-health faculty has been the base of operations for Mariana Chilton, who works to stem hunger in the city. And stemming the dropout rate and other youth ills is the focus of Jesuit priest Jeff Putthoff's Hopeworks 'N Camden.

In the realm of public policy, the key staffer on the city's rewrite of its cumbersome zoning rules, Eva Gladstein, was lauded as "smart, engaging, tireless." She led a four-year effort that leaves the city poised for greater growth.

Readers' honor roll also includes retired Philly firefighter Fred Endrikat, an urban search-and-rescue pioneer and 9/11 responder. And Havertown resident Joseph Natale has arranged hundreds of care packages for U.S. troops abroad.

The list goes on — yet another tribute to the spirit of citizenship that the Citizen of the Year award aims to celebrate.