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Jefferson Award winners honored at State House

Stephen Cronin, Mary Dowd-Struck, Christine Link and Michael Link

Gov. Gina Raimondo, NBC 10 and Serve Rhode Island honored this year's Jefferson Award winners Monday at a State House event.

NBC 10's Patrice Wood presented the awards.

The Jefferson Awards honor local citizens who perform outstanding public service with little or no recognition.

Raimondo also declared this to be "Volunteer Week" in Rhode Island.

This year's local Jefferson Award winners are:

Stephen Cronin

A former teacher, Stephen Cronin is now a local business owner, but he has not stopped teaching. Cronin volunteers at Hope High School in Providence teaching a life skills program he customizes for each student in need. On his own, he organizes classes and finds guest speakers with special stories to relate to the students. His website, hopelifeskills.com, serves as constant source of inspiration and help for the entire Hope High School community. Cronin reaches out to businesses to get involved and contribute, and he's been known to continue supporting the students even after they have graduated. His efforts unlock the doors of opportunity for students at Hope High School.

Mary Dowd-Struck

Mary Dowd-Struck retired as senior vice president for patient care at Women & Infants Hospital in 2006 after a 30-year-career, having participated as a nurse in almost 1,000 births; working as a teacher at Rhode Island College, Brown University, and Salve Regina University; as an advocate for professionalizing midwifery in Rhode Island; as a co-author of a book on new parenthood; and as an inductee to the Rhode Island Nursing Hall of Fame. Less than one day after she left this distinguished nursing career, fate, an off-handed remark at her retirement party and her devotion to children all played a hand in interrupting her plans for any kind of retirement. Ten years and 15 foster children later, Dowd-Struck has become a dedicated foster mother, bringing love to children with medical and developmental challenges and safely transitioning them into the arms of adoptive parents in loving environments as a foster parent with Children's Friend, an agency that focuses on the needs of Rhode Island's most vulnerable children. Foster mother Mary Dowd-Struck is making Rhode Island a better place to love, live and thrive -- one child at a time.

Christine and Michael Link

Christine and Michael Link open their hearts and their home to children who come into state care with life-threatening medical conditions. Already parents to five biological children, the Links have provided foster care and later adopted four more children and are currently providing foster care for a 1-year-old boy. Most recently, the Links welcomed 2-year-old Violet into their family after she had been diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma. Their dedication to providing love and care to children is best reflected in Christine Link's own words, "Knowing that there are little ones needing love, needing to be safe, and needing medical attention prompts us over and over to continue volunteering as foster parents. Our philosophy is that our door is open to those who need a loving home, and they can stay for as long as they need a family."

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