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Cohen involved with service efforts

Moraine Elementary School students pose with Slippery Rock University mascot Rocky and Jack Cohen, Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau president, during an America250 event on May 11, 2023. Butler Eagle File Photo
A Pillar of the Community

To say Jack Cohen has put Butler County on the map is not an exaggeration.

During his tenure as head of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, Cohen transformed the hidden gem into a sought-after destination. His efforts extend beyond simply doing his job of promoting the county to tourists and organizations seeking world-class facilities for conferences, conventions and other events.

Cohen has become a pillar of the community, someone who volunteers his time and talents wherever they are needed for the betterment of the county. A perfect example was becoming a founding member of the Rotary Club of Cranberry Township Sunrise. He previously served as president and most recently as a district governor.

“Jack has an outsize ability to come up with an amazing idea and then actually execute it,” said Michael Ozdinec, president of Rotary Club of Cranberry Township Sunrise. “A lot of people can come up with great ideas. But Jack’s ability to get the right pieces together is just outrageous.”

One of the reasons he founded the club decades ago, Ozdinec said, was to make sure women were included as the Rotary expanded.

Presenting the Rotary November students of the month award at Haine Elementary School on Dec. 20, 2002, is Jack Cohen, left, president of Rotary Club of Cranberry Township Sunrise, to sixth-grader Stephanie Ryan and fifth-grader Cory Brunner. With them is principal Melvin Steals. Butler Eagle File Photo

“He’s a constant leader within the organization,” Ozdinec said. “It speaks to his commitment to making sure everyone has a seat at the table. He understands that the more people who have a seat at the table, the stronger the table is going to be.”

Cohen has never encountered a challenge he wasn’t willing to tackle head-on, Ozdinec said.

“I’ve never heard Jack say the word no. He’s willing to help out absolutely everyone. He’s a tireless worker. When he leads a project, he makes every single person on the team better because he allows them to be self-sufficient and accountable.”

Serving as a mentor to others is another way Cohen has served his community. When he joined Rotary, Ozdinec remembers Cohen was one of the first to take him to lunch — and under his wing.

“I don’t think we talk about that enough,” he said. “Jack’s an incredible mentor, and I know I’m not the only one he’s sharing his knowledge and experience with.”

Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, presents the Officer of the Year award to Saxonburg Police Chief Joe Beachem as Saxonburg Rotary Club honors its Hometown Heroes at Mingle on Main in September 2023. Butler Eagle File Photo

Butler County residents and visitors who have enjoyed the amphitheater, dog park or Cranberry Township Community Days can thank Cohen.

Cohen also had a hand in developing the world-class disc golf course at North Boundary Park. The championship course hosts tournaments, bringing people to the county from all over the world. The course includes an American with Disabilities Act-accessible loop near the Penn Power Pavilion to ensure the sport is available to everyone.

An additional strength of Cohen’s is his interest in local history. It’s how he became involved with Washington’s Trail 1753. He was one of the group’s original directors and has remained active with the group since its founding in 2000.

His first objective with Washington’s Trail 1753 was to get road signs and informational markers put up along the portion of the route running through Butler County.

“He recognizes the importance of historic events,” said trail chairman Martin O’Brien, a retired Butler County judge who has served alongside Cohen in the group for many years.

O’Brien said Cohen played an important role in convincing U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th, to introduce a bill in December 2023 directing the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to conduct a feasibility study on national recognition for the trail.

Martin O'Brien, Washington’s Trail 1753 president and a former Butler County judge, accepts the award for Tourism Ambassador of the Year from Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau president Jack Cohen at the bureau’s 2022 Toast to Tourism dinner at Tanglewood Center. Butler Eagle file photo

“He has gone to every meeting we’ve had with Congressman Kelly and his staff promoting Washington’s Trail from Williamsburg, Va., up through Waterford,” O’Brien said. “That persuaded Congressman Kelly to introduce the bill to start the process of recognizing it as a national historic trail. Incidentally, it promotes Butler as a tourist destination.”

Cohen’s love of history is part of the reason Butler County commissioners appointed him chairman of the America 250PA Butler County committee. The group is tasked with planning special events celebrating the 250th year of the United States that focus on its historical significance.

“Jack recruited me early on, and we’ve been working on it since 2022,” said Tammy Schuey, Butler Eagle general manager.

One of the ideas the committee generated early on was the America250 special section of the newspaper that shares stories about the people of Butler County who lived through historic events.

The yearslong commitment to the project means Cohen will continue in his role as chairman even after he officially retires from the bureau in July.

“All of us are committed to work through until 2026,” Schuey said. June of this year marks the first official kickoff event. “That’s where we’re going to start engaging the community in what we want to see for our celebration in 2026.”

Schuey said pulling off the 2026 event will take a lot of planning, and she can’t think of anyone better to lead the effort than Cohen.

“Jack’s very passionate about tourism, about Butler County in particular, and selling Butler County to the rest of the world,” she said. “Having him as an advocate for Butler County has been a positive for as long as he’s been part of the tourism bureau, and even before then in his role as a local entertainment executive. Working with that passion motivates all of us.”

Jim Cunningham, retired director of development for Jean B. Purvis Community Health Center, has known Cohen for more than a decade. He worked with him regularly in his previous role with the health center and has continued to enjoy his assistance in helping the Butler County Symphony Association grow.

“Jack’s very community-minded,” Cunningham said. “He does whatever it takes to help community organizations meet their goals.”

During his tenure with the health center, Cunningham said Cohen helped the organization get sponsorships for some of its fundraising activities. In 2023, Cohen appointed one of his tourism bureau employees to serve on the event committee for the health center’s annual Signature Sensations fundraiser.

“The bureau helped spread the word about the event and the health center, which helped us net over $100,000 last year,” Cunningham said.

Cohen’s ability to build strong relationships has benefited every county organization to which he has lent his talents.

“Jack remembers faces, he remembers names,” Cunningham said. “He’ll go out of his way if he sees you at an event to come up to you and ask you how things are going with your organization. I can’t think of anybody who doesn’t like Jack Cohen.”

Jack Cohen, right, Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau president, presented Scott Goehring, Harmony Fire District chief, left, and Tim Sapienza, Harmony Fire District president, with a check for $1,680 from a fundraiser for their rescue and cleanup efforts during and after the May 28, 2019, storm that flooded the borough. Also in the photo are business owners Danyelle Sharp and Josh Meeder who helped organize the fundraiser in November 2019. Butler Eagle file photo
From left, Jan and Jerry Andre, Janine and Jack Cohen, and Janice and Richard Dunmire at the seventh annual Butler AM Rotary Sweetheart Gala at Butler Country Club in February 2012. Butler Eagle file photo
Boy Scouts of the Moraine Trails Council honored, from left, Henry Sinopoli, Jack Cohen, Max Cravener, Mike Hall and Ray Tennent on October 2011. In the front is Scout Dylan Darak. Butler Eagle file photo
The Saxonburg Rotary Club received its charter Dec. 14, 2023. Also in attendance was Jack Cohen, district governor, right. Submitted Photo
From left, Mark Hall, Bob Brandon, Jack Cohen, Ed Wedding and Rue Snider worked together in 2021 to move the Jimmy Bashline Hand Carved Miniature circus to Butler Township. The circus is now housed at the Eagle Printery. Butler Eagle file photo
Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, talks with Eagle Community Editor Paula Grubbs on March 5 at the Butler Eagle about the journey the Jay Bee Circus has had over the years. Butler Eagle file photo
Kids ride the Cobra at Cranberry Township Community Days at Cranberry Community Park on July 13, 2023. Butler Eagle file photo

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