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UIS Good as Gold

On April 22, 2024, The University of Illinois Springfield, the Junior League of Springfield, and the United Way of Central Illinois honored more than forty Sangamon County volunteers, businesses, and organizations during the 16th annual Good as Gold Ceremony held in the UIS Student Union ballroom.

This year, Serve Illinois Volunteer Program Coordinators Anthony Wanless and Cecilia Maciel Martinez attended and presented several honorees with the Office of the Governor of Illinois Certificate of Appreciation. This certificate is among the highest honors an Illinoisan can receive for outstanding contributions to service on behalf of the people of the State of Illinois. Among those recognized are the following:

Donna Brown of Springfield was honored with the 2024 Distinguished Volunteer Award. Brown founded iMagicNation in August 2013, a nonprofit to improve children's reading skills. She is also the creator of numerous reading programs used in Springfield Public Schools District 186 and summer book clubs implemented in conjunction with the Springfield Urban League and Camp Compass.

University of Illinois Springfield communication major Brandon Damm of Springfield was honored with the Star Student Award. For him, volunteering means doing something outside of oneself and thinking of others around you.  Brandon is the volunteer director for Rock and Run for Mental Health, an event that raises funds for mental health and suicide prevention organizations.

Dre Duvendack, UIS Gender and Sexuality Student Services program coordinator and adjunct communication instructor was honored with the Star Staff Award. Duvendack calls volunteering "an extremely useful tool in community building, empowerment, and engagement.” Duvendack stays engaged as much as she can. She’s been an active member of the PFLAG Springfield, an organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people, since 2020. She was a board member in 2021 and served as president in 2022 and 2023.

Natasia Brown, a junior at Springfield’s Southeast High School, was honored with the Youth Volunteer Award. She has a passion for helping people.  Brown volunteers on multiple committees through District 186 including Family and Community Engagement (F.A.C.E.), which comprises district personnel, parents, and community members. Brown's involvement at Southeast High School includes improvements to the course catalog, the Superintendent Round Table, and Unity Day.

The winner of the 2024 Organization of the Year Award is the Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network (SIAN), a grassroots volunteer organization serving immigrants and refugees, children and families who have come to Springfield. Its mission is to protect the rights and promote the well-being and inclusion of Springfield’s immigrant and refugee communities through advocacy, education, and direct assistance. Veronica Espina, founder of SIAN, has served as board president and co-chair since 2016. SIAN provides fresh food every other week to almost 60 families facing food insecurity. Dozens of families have since received assistance that was otherwise nonexistent or inaccessible to them.

Twenty-six volunteers were also honored with the prestigious Heart of Gold Award.

The Good as Gold Ceremony was started in 2008 to honor people, businesses, and organizations who freely give their time and talents to make Sangamon County a better place to live.

The Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service would like to thank The University of Illinois at Springfield for hosting this event and the Junior League of Springfield and the United Way of Central Illinois for sponsoring. We look forward to future collaborations.