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2018 Volunteer Spotlight

Soung Kim

Soung Kim - Volunteer of the Week (December 31, 2018)

Soung Kim has been nominated due to her passion for service at Beyond Sports Foundation. Beyond Sports Foundation is a college access and success program for high-school student athletes who come from under-resourced families in underserved communities. Beyond Sports Foundation uses the power of sport to transform lives by turning athletic ability into life opportunity.

Beyond Sports Foundation pride themselves in having AmeriCorps members that live out their mission. Soung Kim is a perfect example. She has been serving as an AmeriCorps member for the last two years. In that time, she has built tremendous relationships with the student athletes and their families. During the week, Soung provides academic tutoring and ACT/SAT test prep at the Highland Park location. She also meets regularly at other site locations to provide extra help as needed to student athletes.

Recently, Beyond Sports Foundation discovered that Soung was going above and beyond to help by purchasing graphing calculators for those in need. Because of her experience with the program, she was well aware that the student athletes sometimes can't afford graphing calculators, and often don’t want to ask for assistance. Her passion for service resulted in using EBay to acquire numerous graphing calculators that the student athletes can immediately put to use. Having access to a graphic calculator will help level the playing field with their peers in class and while preparing for standardized tests. In Soung's eyes this gesture was small, but it can be life changing for a student athlete.

Soung is a perfect example of an ideal tutor at Beyond Sports Foundation and also epitomizes what it means to be an AmeriCorps member.


DoIT and IDPH Office of Preparedness and Response - Volunteer of the Week (December 24, 2018)

The Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) and Illinois Department of Public Health’s Office of Preparedness and Response staff co-located at the Bell building has been nominated due their outstanding Christmas donation efforts for children of Sangamon County.

On Wednesday, November 14th, the DoIT hosted their 9th Annual Chili Cook-Off Luncheon. Bell building employees participated in some friendly competition as to who could make the best pot of chili. Contestants were able to name their own price for a bowl of chili and/or hotdog. The chili was purchased and judged by fellow employees around the building. All proceeds from the event were used to purchase goods donated to Toys for Tots. The Bell building also had a Toys for Tots donation box for employees who wished to donate toys to the cause.

The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future.

The donations received for the Chili Cook-off combined with yearlong fundraising efforts equaled a considerable amount. The Bell building staff members were able to purchase approximately 50 toys donated to Toys for Tots. The remaining amount was used to purchase 8 fleece hat/glove combos, 4 pairs of gloves, 2 ear warmers, and 2 scarves for the local “Coats for Kids” drive.

Millikin Baseball

Millikin University Baseball Team - Volunteer of the Week (December 17, 2018)

Millikin University Baseball has been nominated as this week’s Volunteer of the Week due to their dedication to helping neighboring communities. Recently, the Millikin University Baseball Team volunteered at the Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) in Taylorville, Illinois. Taylorville was hit with an EF3 tornado, leaving much of the town and its residents in ruins for the holiday season.

Millikin Baseball Team Head Coach, Brandon Townsend, decided there must be something the team could do to help. “Although we have players from around the country, we really want to represent Central Illinois. So when something happens, we are here to help,” said Townsend. There were a total of 38 players and 2 coaches volunteering at the VRC on behalf of Millikin Baseball. The team was partnered with Central Illinois Lutheran Disaster Response Team - LCMS, helping primarily with debris removal in Taylorville and the surrounding communities.

Townsend described how his players were moved by both the destruction to the town and the generosity of the Taylorville residents. It really hit home how easily any one of them could have been affected by the damage. It’s not just about baseball games. It’s about helping the community,” Townsend added. Townsend and the other coaches continually stress the importance of community service and community involvement while in college. It was finals week for the players, so the decision to come was a balancing act.

A total of 236 people volunteered at the VRC this weekend in Taylorville over a 5 day interval. The VRC was open to anyone 18 years and older who was not affiliated with a volunteer organization but wanted to help locally. All volunteers were matched with organizations to effectively aid those impacted by the tornadoes.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte - Volunteer of the Week (December 10, 2018)

On December 1st Matt, former Chicago Bears running back, served alongside AmeriCorps members at the Healthy Kids Resource Fair teaching students the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Health and Wellness hosted the event in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and United Way of Metro Chicago. The goal of the Healthy Kids Resource Fair was to enroll students and their families in health insurance and connect them to vital health and household resources.

Matt is the newest United Way of Metro Chicago ambassador. He is excited to serve with United Way and CPS to promote healthy living in communities that often lack access to quality goods and to improve the number of students and parents enrolled in healthcare. As a father of three and long-time athlete, Matt views access to healthcare as the foundation for educational and life success.

In 2013, Forte established the Matt Forte “What’s Your Forte?” Foundation to empower at-risk high school students striving to achieve their dreams of higher education by providing life-changing resources. Matt believes that through awareness, relationship-building and child-focused empowerment programs we can help eliminate Chicago’s high school dropout statistics.

For more information about the Matt Forte “What’s Your Forte?” Foundation, please visit

Chris Parson

Chris Parson - Volunteer of the Week (December 3, 2019)

Chris has been a volunteer guide with the Friends of the Chicago River Canoe Program for over 20 years.

Friends of the Chicago River is an organization founded in 1979 that works on policy initiatives geared towards improving the water quality of the Chicago River so that it can support native plants, fish and other wildlife, and a variety of recreational uses. Friends also develops on-the-ground projects that result in physical improvements and the preservation of quality habitat. The organization has education and 

outreach programs that inform and inspire people to help revitalize the Chicago River. As a result, the Chicago River is becoming a haven for wildlife and a treasured community resource. Chris has been critical in helping others understand how the Friends of the Chicago River Canoe Program works, supporting the learning curve for new hires, and taking on important organizational duties like scheduling. He has been an essential part of the Canoe Program this year, due to the time and effort he spends every week hauling canoes to the river. Without canoe haulers like Chris, the program would be unsuccessful.

Chris believes, as Friends of the Chicago River does, that getting people on the water is the best way to inspire them to care about their river and take part in its stewardship. Chris has an immense knowledge base that all of our guests and new guides benefit from. It is not just his knowledge but his joyful attitude, enthusiasm, and humor that make the sun shine even when it’s cloudy. Chris suggested adding “Haunted House” to the yearly Halloween paddle, organized volunteers, decorations, recruits and extra canoes to make the event happen. His colleagues describe him as a very special person who is deserving of recognition.

Rosie Marshall

Rosie Marshall - Volunteer of the Week (November 26, 2018)

Ms. Rosie Marshall is being nominated as volunteer of the week due to her outstanding commitment to serving senior citizens in her community. Ms. Rosie is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services which will help move individuals and families out of poverty. Ms. Rosie volunteers at the Senior Citizens Café located in East St. Louis, Illinois. Breakfast and Lunch are served at the Café, giving the seniors not only a nutritious meal, but also a sense of community and belonging.

At the Senior Citizens Café, Ms. Rosie assists with just about everything. Ms. Rosie welcomes the guests, sings, dances, and helps serve plates and beverages. Ms. Rosie has volunteered at many different sites and participated in a variety of community services events and activities. Her experience from working with American Red Cross led her to serve for AmeriCorps.

“I want to serve for AmeriCorps because I have a passion for working in single family housings and a passion for giving my service to the community,” says Ms. Rosie. The Senior Citizens Café is lucky to have Ms. Rosie and her warm smile and love.

Kelsey Woodcock

Kelsey Woodcock - Volunteer of the Week (November 19, 2018)

Kelsey Woodcock is a second year AmeriCorps member with Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps. Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps is a partnership conducted through four Illinois College Campuses: Rend Lake College, Ina; John A. Logan College, Carterville; Kaskaskia College, Centralia; and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Kelsey is currently serving in the Shawnee National Forest. Last week she helped lead a group from Chicago Green Corps in the Garden of the Gods. The group worked to remove Autumn Olive (an invasive species) on trails to allow hikers to enjoy this trail in beautiful Southern Illinois for many years to come. Kelsey also serves in local elementary schools conducting educational programs on environmental conservation.

Kelsey served in AmeriCorps last year with Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. During her AmeriCorps service she has discovered her passion for environmental stewardship. She is continually working to educate the community about the importance of preserving the natural areas of Southern Illinois and she works to restore and maintain these areas as well.

For more information visit Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps

Paulette Herring

Paulette Herring - Volunteer of the Week (November 12, 2018)

Paulette Herring is a part-time AmeriCorps member with Chicago HOPES for Kids. She began her service year in January 2018. Paulette is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran. She volunteers at the Jesse Brown Veterans’ Administration Hospital in addition to her hours with Chicago HOPES for Kids. Chicago HOPES for Kids provides educational support for children living in homeless shelters throughout Chicago.

Paulette is currently helping HOPES develop resources and partnerships with other organizations in the Chicago community. She brings housing and career resources to the parents in the shelters where HOPES has its After-School and Literacy Mentor programs. Paulette originally provided academic support to the children in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood at the Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation shelter. She now is serving at the Ridgeland Transitional shelter in the South Shore neighborhood where she helps support children whose families have suffered from domestic violence. In addition, Paulette participates in other HOPES activities such as field trips and Family Game Nights, and often helps out at Frieda’s Soup Kitchen at the Su Casa shelter in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

Carol Lefler

Carol Lefler - Volunteer of the Week (November 5, 2018)

Carol Lefler has been nominated due to her outstanding commitment to ensure that no veteran goes hungry. Carol is an AmeriCorps member at the Greater Chicago food Depository where she serves as the Veteran Pantry Coordinator.

Carol spent 20 years in the Naval Air division of the U.S. Armed Forces. She flew DC-9 airplane near Cyprus and Lebanon. As a veteran, Carol is very passionate about her duties as Veteran Pantry Coordinator.< Carol left the armed forces and joined the corporate world over 20 years ago.

Carol heard about the AmeriCorps opportunity with Greater Chicago Food Depository and decided it was the perfect fit. She now serves at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital as the Veteran Pantry Coordinator. Both pantries are collaborations between the Food Depository, Department of Veterans Affairs and AmeriCorps.

On Tuesdays, veterans line up for hours in the hallway of Jesse Brown VA Medical Center for the pop-up food pantry. Thanks to Carol and her team of volunteers, hundreds of veterans go home with over a week’s worth of food.

According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 13,000 veterans in Cook County live at or below the poverty line. Of those who the Food Depository serves, 18 percent of households include a current or retired member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

AmeriCorps is a part of helping the Food Depository respond to help veterans in need. Since 2009, 78 AmeriCorps members have served at the Food Depository. AmeriCorps members serve programs anywhere from school breakfast to veteran services. Learn more about our AmeriCorps program by visiting:

Mary Wegeng

Mary Wegeng - Volunteer of the Week (October 29, 2018)

Mary has been nominated due to her constant contributions to her community. Mary has been a member of Family Service of Champaign County/RSVP since 2010. Family Service is the oldest private social service agency in Champaign County Illinois and has provided services for over 100 years. Family Service has a variety of programs and services, one of which is the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (SeniorCorps RSVP). RSVP is one of the largest volunteer programs in the nation for seniors. RSVP enables and supports seniors to provide volunteer service to schools, medical clinics, libraries, and nonprofits.

Mary has volunteered in various programs consistently since she joined Family Service/RSVP. Mary has been a skilled seamstress her whole life. She has put her abilities into an amazing array of projects. Most recently, Mary sewed about 20 “walker bags”. These walker bags attach to walkers and can hold objects and possessions. Mary has a great eye for color and composition making her bags works of art. Champaign Urbana Nursing and 

Rehabilitation Center recently held a show of her walker bags where eight bags were given away to door prize winners. The other bags will be donated to the VA in Danville. Mary also participates in a variety of special events projects in Champaign County. She has volunteered as an activity assistant, as a community sewer, in the American Legion Mats Project, fundraising events, and in the mitten tree project sponsored by OSF Healthcare. Almost all of these projects feature Mary’s beautiful crocheted items. Mary has contributed countless hours and materials to the happiness of others.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Family Service of Champaign County/RSVP please visit:

Eva Mayol

Eva Mayol - Volunteer of the Week (October 22, 2018)

Eva Mayol is an avid volunteer for Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Shedd Aquarium could not achieve their mission of sparking compassion, curiosity, and conservation for the aquatic animal world without the service of hundreds of talented volunteers. Shedd is particularly grateful and proud of dedicated individuals like Eva, who has been volunteering 

at the aquarium for over 14 years. Recently, Eva surpassed 4,700 lifetime volunteer hours at Shedd Aquarium. After retiring from a career in nursing, Eva’s fascination with fish led her to explore opportunities to become involved with Shedd. Her initial volunteer roles included working in the sustainable gardens with the Horticulture Department and assisting with special events like family overnights. Eva’s biology and science background naturally prepared her for working with school group field trips to Shedd’s Learning Labs, which she continues to help facilitate today. For the past 7 years Eva has also volunteered as an exhibit interpreter, engaging some of the 2 million aquarium guests that visit every year. Every Monday morning she enjoys the challenge of relating animal and conservation stories to guests in ways that are meaningful and accessible. She appreciates meeting guests from diverse life experiences. Eva enjoys that she continues to receive unexpected questions after all these years, especially from children eager to learn. She feels gratified when guests thank her for speaking with them. Interacting with Shedd’s stingrays and beluga whales are among her most memorable experiences.

Eva values the close friendships with her Monday volunteer group. Shedd Aquarium values Eva’s generosity, kindness, and eagerness to try new roles and approaches to her work.

If you are interested in volunteer opportunities at Shedd Aquarium, please visit:

Michelle Ramirez

Michelle Ramirez - Volunteer of the Week (October 15, 2018)

Michelle Ramirez has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her growth and development during her year of AmeriCorps service. Recently, United Way of Metro Chicago held their Second Annual End of the Year Celebration for AmeriCorps Program 2017-2018 Members committing a year of their lives to service. At the celebration, Michelle received the Member of the Year Award.

When Michelle started her service, one could describe Michelle as “fresh”. She was fresh out of college, fresh out of “young adulthood,” but most importantly fresh into the community of Cicero. Although Michelle had lived in Cicero for over 10 years, she did not realize how much work was being done in Cicero by community organizations. She has been able to learn about important changes implemented in the community and has had opportunities to network with organizations outside of Cicero.

Michelle’s AmeriCorps Program Manager, Bianca Cotton, describes Michelle’s work ethic as nothing short of amazing. “By coming in everyday and creating a jolly work environment with her energetic personality,” says Cotton.

When Michelle began her program, she had set views of the community and society. She has now grown to view issues through a different lens. Michelle has learned that things are not always black and white and there is always room for a grey area. When the organization reaches a sensitive topic, Michelle describes her point of view but is always receptive to other opinions. She is now able to hold a variety of conversations and think of how others might view the certain topic.

To learn how you can join AmeriCorps, click here.

Anuva Shandilya

Anuva Shandilya - Volunteer of the Week (October 8, 2018)

Anuva Shandilya is a 17-year-old at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, IL. During her freshman year, Anuva started her own nonprofit, Chance for Sports, to help people donate gently used sports equipment. Anuva has always had a passion for sports. She has tried and loved everything from soccer to lacrosse. Anuva understood that the opportunity to try all of these sports was a privilege since sports equipment is expensive. She also knew that not every child could afford to participate.

Anuva has been a globe trotter her whole life. She was born in Denmark and has lived in in England, Canada, and the United States. She has moved 14 times over the course of her life and has been to 24 countries/territories. She says that one constant in all her travels, especially to countries like Cambodia and Nepal, is poverty. Anuva knew she wanted to help underprivileged children achieve their dreams in sports just as she had, as a Varsity track runner and PE leader at her school, so she created Chance for Sports.

The summer she started Chance for Sports, Anuva and her brother, Daksh, went around their neighborhood to gather sports equipment. They collected roughly 150 pieces of equipment that summer. Anuva knew she wanted to leave a greater mark on the community so she expanded Chance for Sports exponentially. As a result, Anuva has established chapters at 5 locations in the United States (all 3 high schools in District 204, St. Xavier University, and University of Illinois) and 1 chapter in India (at Oberoi International School). She has over 70 volunteers from all over the US and India and has donated $35,000 in sports equipment to thousands of children all over the US, Zambia, Haiti, Mexico, and India. Anuva herself has over 500 volunteer hours. She does inventories, door-to-door sessions with volunteers, drops off equipment, picks up sports equipment, and much more.

Last summer Anuva went to Mexico to donate leotards to young, aspiring gymnasts. This summer Anuva travelled across India donating sports equipment to charities and schools such as Shanti Bhavan and SOS Children’s Villages (SOS Children’s Villages of India) Faridabad. Anuva is a remarkable young lady. She has been described by peers as kind, articulate, ambitious, and inspirational. She shows others that no matter what age you are, you can always make a difference.

Mary Ann Hettel

Mary Ann Hettel - Volunteer of the Week (October 1, 2018)

Mary Ann Hettel, a Senior Companion Volunteer for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet, is providing care and companionship to homebound seniors in Kankakee County. Her service allows them to remain living independently in their own home. Mary Ann volunteers an average of 15 hours a week, spending time with four older adults in her 

community. She supports these seniors with a variety of tasks including grocery shopping, running errands, doctor appointments, meal preparation, household chores, and most importantly companionship. Her gentle spirit and positive attitude prevents feelings of loneliness and isolation in the people she serves. Mary Ann’s compassionate service improves these individuals’ quality of life. When the Senior Companion program received a call from Patricia, an older adult living in a rural area, they were worried the program would not be able to assist her. Even though Patricia was calling for help, she was reluctant to have home visits. Patricia had lost her husband recently and was having a hard time adjusting. Mary Ann agreed to travel to another county over 40 miles away for each visit. When Mary Ann first visited, she was concerned that Patricia was depressed. Patricia rarely left home and her house was always dark. After a few weeks, Mary Ann began to notice changes. Patricia began to open the curtains, she smiled more, and her depression lessened. A weekly visit with someone who listened to her ended up meaning so much.

Through her weekly visits, Mary Ann helps seniors by giving them someone to talk to. Mary Ann serves as a Senior Companion four or five days a week and served over 720 hours last year. She currently assists three older adults and assisted five older adults last year.

Jill Egizii

Jill Egizii - Volunteer of the Week (September 24, 2018)

Jill established and serves as a volunteer for WILD Canine Rescue. WILD is a nonprofit rescue preventing well-balanced dogs from being euthanized at shelters, both locally & nationwide. WILD was founded in 2016 by Jill and a group of her friends who are passionate about saving animals in need. Their goal was to bridge the gap between local animal shelters in central Illinois and foster based rescues nationally to facilitate placement of local dogs in urgent situations.

Jill volunteers tirelessly to find dogs permanent homes and temporary foster homes when necessary. She has contacts all over the country in her efforts to find homes for abandoned, neglected, abused, or homeless canines. Jill does all of this while serving as the mayor of Leland Grove, being involved in the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, maintaining a farm just outside of Springfield, and caring for her four Bernese Mountain Dogs.

WILD stands for Women in Love with Dogs. There is no conversation one would have with Jill where she would fail to bring up if that person wants or needs a dog. Those who know Jill describe her as kind, passionate, and big-hearted.
Please visit for volunteer or adoption opportunities.

Matthew Williams

Matthew Williams - Volunteer of the Week (September 17, 2018)

Matthew Williams of Schaumburg High School has been nominated due to his extraordinary volunteer efforts in his community.

Matthew has been responsible for expanding and maintaining the parent resource library at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley since June 2016. Easterseals is a nonprofit organization that helps infants, children, and adults with disabilities achieve their maximum independence, and to provide support for the families who love and care for them.

Matthew has assisted in stretching limited resources to ensure parents have the information they need to help their children with disabilities gain independence. Matthew, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, has supported the library through efforts from cataloging to calling in overdue materials.

Matthew was an Ambassador for the 35th Annual Easter Seals Luncheon and Fashion Show. Hundreds of people attend the event each year to cheer children down the runway. Due to a nomination from Matthew, Schaumburg High School Band donated 100% of their proceeds from concerts earlier this year to Easterseals DuPage and Fox Valley. The money raised from these events is donated to help children in surrounding areas receive services provided by Easterseals.
On March 16, 2018 Matthew received recognition as a Distinguished Finalist of the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during an awards ceremony at Schaumburg High School.

Congratulations Matthew and keep up the great work!

George Stout

George Stout - Volunteer of the Week (September 10, 2018)

George Stout has been nominated due to his decade of outstanding volunteer service to Central Illinois.

George has been a volunteer for the Community Workshop and Training Center, Inc. The CWTC is a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to adults with disabilities. Located in Peoria, the organization focuses on organizational employment, community employment, community integration, and community living. This CWTC’s mission is to enrich quality of life, promote social change, and optimize the potential for independence for those affected by disabilities. To learn more about volunteer opportunities with CWTC please visit

George volunteers as a one-on-one tutor with the consumers at CWTC. He primarily teaches reading, but also helps with coin identification. Each tutoring session is strategically catered towards the needs of that specific individual. George has been dedicating one morning a week towards volunteering at CWTC since 2008. Those who have served alongside George describe him as dedicated, reliable, soft spoken, and patient with the consumers.
Two days per week George commits his time at UnityPoint Health- Proctor Hospital as a chaplain to offer spiritual support to families and patients in various conditions. At Proctor hospital he also volunteers as an escort to assist patients with admissions and dismissals or to transport items to different departments. George is an avid volunteer at his church, Northminster Presbyterian, serving wherever the need may be.
George commits nearly every day of the week to serving others and making his community a better place.

Taylor Larson

Taylor Larson - Volunteer of the Week (September 3, 2018)

Taylor Larson of Chillicothe, Illinois was nominated for her dedication to providing comfort to children in need.

As a young child, Taylor had health problems that never seemed to improve. After many months and doctor’s visits, there seemed to be no diagnosis for her condition. One day Taylor’s illness reached a dangerous level and she was rushed to the Emergency Room for exploratory surgery. Doctors discovered that Taylor’s appendix had ruptured in an odd way causing her to become ill. Taylor spent multiple weeks 

at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois where she received a teddy bear from a stuffed animal drive at a local radio station. This act of kindness inspired Taylor to give back to those in need. Taylor began by volunteering with the stuffed animal drive that gave her that beloved teddy bear. Since then she has expanded her efforts by starting her own nonprofit, Cuddles for Kids. Taylor, now a graduate of Illinois Valley Central High School has collected more than 6,500 stuffed animals over the past 10 years. She hopes to provide comfort for children regardless of their situation. Cuddles for Kids provides cuddly friends for children in hospitals, children’s homes, house fires, and domestic disputes. Taylor hopes to make a lasting impact on Central Illinois and to inspire others to make a difference.
For more information or to make a donation to Cuddles for Kids please visit

Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner - Volunteer of the Week (August 27, 2018)

Jennifer was nominated for her exceptional volunteer effort and dedication to the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association Illinois. Whether it’s delivering care package kits to Ann & Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, writing a blog about living as a Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) warrior, traveling to D.C. to advocate for CHD awareness or supporting a fellow heart warrior, Jennifer does it with passion and heart. 1 out of every 100 babies is born in America is born with Congenital Heart Disease. Congenital Heart Disease is a lifelong disease with no cure.

Jennifer is part of a zipper club that no one asks to be part of or gets a say as to if they would like a lifetime membership. She was born with Congenital Heart Disease. She uses her experience as a heart warrior to not only help fellow warriors from kids to adults, but also inspires hope for parents of children with Congenital Heart Disease. Her nominator is a mother of a child with Congenital Heart Disease. Jennifer has touched her and her family’s lives. Jennifer uses her story of countless heart surgeries, procedures, and heart related tests to show others that no matter the obstacle you face, you can live a full life and inspire others to conquer Congenital Heart Disease.

Amanda Martin

Amanda Martin - Volunteer of the Week (August 20, 2018)

Amanda Martin was nominated because she gets things done. As a member of Illinois JusticeCorps in Bloomington, IL, she has been an important part of the team helping people without attorneys navigate the court system in McLean County. She was eager to learn all the procedures and forms so that she could be a strong asset to the program when people come to the law library for assistance. The Illinois JusticeCorps program helps educate so many people about family law issues, ranging from order of protection to guardianship to parenting plans. To further her understanding, she and the team attended a local training put on by the McLean County Bar Association focusing on family law issues. There, the members were able to learn from local attorneys and interact with the local bar. One attorney kept referring to Amanda and the team as the Justice League instead of JusticeCorps. Well, maybe Justice League was a more fitting title after all.

After the training, in the parking lot, that same attorney called out, “Hey Justice League, hey Justice League, I need your help!” Amanda and the team immediately sprang into action. They were called over because a bunch of ducklings had gotten trapped in a storm drain. The mama duck circling around the drain is what drew the attention initially. A city employee removed the cover, but it was a deep, narrow drain. Amanda didn’t hesitate and lowered herself right in the drain to help release the ducklings from their prison. One-by-one she was able to get each duckling to safety. The other members were right there setting the ducklings free. Not only is Amanda willing to give her time to serving the people of McLean County, but she also exercises her commitment and responsibility to the safety of her town, down to the very last duckling.

Daniel Dankert

Dan Dankert - Volunteer of the Week (August 13, 2018)

Dan Dankert is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the Western Illinois University Quad Cities campus. He helped turn a small storage room into a food pantry that is helping feed students. The food pantry is available to all WIU students. Dan says it helps relieve stress for college students facing difficult times as well as helping non-traditional students trying to make ends meet. "We have quite a few people who come in that are single parents or having to take care of multiple children while going to school while trying to go to work," said Dan. He says the next step is hopefully teaming up with local food banks in the area to grow the food pantry.

In the fall of 2017, a WIU survey showed about a third of students on campus weren't getting enough to eat. Currently WIU has a little more than 1000 students attending classes. To make sure students don't go hungry on other local campuses, Dan organized the 2nd annual informational "food insecurity conference" on Friday March 2nd. The conference provided speakers from the Iowa State University Extension Outreach Local Foods Program coordinator, the Food Rescue Partnership, a Quad-Cities group that works to rescue food from becoming waste, and the River Bend Foodbank.

Mike Foppe

Mike Foppe - Volunteer of the Week (August 6, 2018)

Mike began his service for the Community Interfaith Food Pantry as a board member in 2015. He is also an associate pastor of Peace Lutheran church in Belleville. The Community Interfaith Food Pantry provides food to families throughout the Belleville and Swansea communities who are experiencing difficulty in meeting the demands of daily living. Mike became Director of the Food Pantry in 2017. He provides guidance for the volunteers and organization to the food distribution process. His faithful and compassionate service has helped the Community Interfaith Food Pantry clientele grow considerable during his leadership. The Community Interfaith Food Pantry is a nonprofit charitable organization governed by a board whose members are selected by the participating churches. Their mission is to eliminate hunger in their communities.

Eleven local churches decided their resources were better used and more effective if they cooperated to improve life in their neighborhoods. Their mission also includes their commitment to consider the total spiritual, emotional and physical needs of individuals and to identify available resources to assist them. The Community Interfaith Food Pantry services an average of 550 families per month using an all-volunteer workforce of 110 volunteers a month. To find out more about the Community Interfaith Food Pantry in Belleville visit

Mike has an excellent relationship with the volunteers and his unwavering devotion and work ethic is an example to all, as is his sense of humor.

Thanet Natisri

Thanet Natisri - Volunteer of the Week (July 30, 2018)

Thanet was called upon by the Thai military to help save the 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped inside a cave for more than two weeks. Thanet and his wife own and operate THAI-D Classic Thai Cuisine in downstate Marion, but he is also a groundwater expert. Thanet is a native of northeast Thailand and had been on a volunteer trip working to 

help rural Thai communities with water issues when he got the call from authorities. The military wanted his help with the mission to rescue the boys from the cave complex after they were stranded by heavy rains. Thanet said he was on the first plane after getting the call. He thought it was going to be a simple operation at the beginning, but upon arriving on the scene, he realized the seriousness of the situation. Thanet said "We had about 20 deep wells that pumped out water 24/7. I also had to lead the team of soldiers and villagers to find the sink hole where the water was going into the cave." Thanet was really concerned because they had less than six days before the heavy rains would come in. Thanet said “If we didn't do the rescue before then, the cave would be flooded." He says this pushed officials to start the dive rescue operations, which saved the soccer team. Although Thanet, and many other volunteers, never got the chance to meet the team, he's grateful everyone came together. "I'm really thankful for everyone, I mean in this situation, everybody is a hero," Thanet said.

Sophie Happ

Sophie Happ - Volunteer of the Week (July 23, 2018)

Sophia (Sophie) Happ, age 14, of Monticello, is going to be a freshman at Monticello High School. She started a drive four years ago that has collected nearly 15,000 books for children in need. Sophie spreads the word and distributes collection boxes to schools throughout her district, works with friends and family to sort books by reading level and genre, then contacts agencies to find them good homes. Sophie says she's still trying to figure out what to do with the remaining books. She says she might give them to Champaign schools or Round Lake Elementary in Northern Illinois. Its library was flooded last year.

Sophie first started volunteering in the fourth grade, when at the age of 10 years old organized a book drive that collected 4,000 volumes for youth who could not afford to buy their own. That “can-do” attitude still drives her today. She started the Volunteer Club at Monticello Middle School. Since it’s beginning, the 25 club members have grown a garden and donated the food to senior citizens, held color days to raise awareness for causes like breast cancer and sepsis, delivered hand-written cards to local nursing homes, and compiled RAK (random acts of kindness) bags for incoming sixth graders. “I just really like to help others,” said Sophie.

Sophie is also a member of her school’s scholastic bowl team, student council, and plays for the Monticello Magic traveling softball team. But no matter how busy she gets, volunteerism seems to be in her blood.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

Sigma Phi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority of Waukegan - Volunteer of the Week (July 16, 2018)

The Sigma Phi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., set a goal many years ago to be a “Premier Service Organization on the North Shore.” This northern Illinois chapter, located in Waukegan, continues to accept the challenges set before them. They strive to be the most impactful through their community service throughout the world.

One of the many challenges they have faced this year was the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico. The hurricane brought devastating damages to the island, leaving many of the residents there homeless and in need of basic items. The Puerto Rican Society of Waukegan quickly reached out to the Lake County area seeking assistance for their families and friends on the island. Sigma Phi Zeta accepted the challenge and immediately started collecting items which included toiletries, batteries, flashlights, baby necessities, non-perishables and monetary donations.

The Sigma Phi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority continues to serve our communities through key partnerships such as; Elder Care, March of Dimes, The Chocolate Chip Association, Vista Hospital and Waukegan Township.

Jason Powell

Jason Powell - Volunteer of the Week (July 9, 2018)

Jason Powell grew up in West Frankfort and recently moved to Marion. He is the Branch Manager for both Legence Banks in Marion. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management. He is certified as a property management specialist and a personal trainer. He also attended University of Illinois Fire Institute to become certified fire brigade member for underground coal mines. He spent 8 years working for Peabody Energy as a coalminer.

Jason, is a member of many organizations allowing him to be involved in the community. He is a member of Cornerstone Church. He has done mission work in Haiti with Farming Gods Way. There he worked on a team that installed clean water access to villages in need. He is the newly elected president of the Williamson County Heartland Rotary, which raises money to purchase iPads for students with autism every year. Jason is also member of the Marion Chamber of Commerce and sits on many committees including the marketing committee, the golf scramble committee, the new membership committee, the scholarship committee, and the annual dinner/awards committee. He is also a member of Ready Nation, which helps build a skilled workforce by promoting children’s learning and development.

Over the winter Jason held a coat drive to help Caritas Family Solutions supply coats to foster children and families in need. They were able to give over 450 coats to families in need. Jason recently volunteered for the Girl’s World Expo as a guest emcee and coordinator. The event gave a place for the girls of southern Illinois to learn empowerment and interact with different role models. The girls were able to address the concerns they face in today’s world.

Jason currently is working on something close to his heart. His nephew Timothy Powell Jr, eight years old, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma in December 2017. DIPG is a rare inoperable brain tumor. With only four percent of cancer funding going to childhood cancers, he has vowed to bring awareness to this and other childhood cancers. He is working on numerous fundraisers to help bring light to his nephew’s battle.

Jason enjoys volunteer coaching for little league baseball and football. He stays very active in his niece’s and nephew’s lives.

Heather McClelland

Heather McClelland - Volunteer of the Week (July 2, 2018)

Heather McClelland is an AmeriCorps Member who serves as an Academic Tutor and Mentor at Beyond Sports Foundation. Heather’s background is in admissions, college counseling, and personal essay writing. Her past experience has also included creating and implementing writing workshops and interview workshops with schools including Loyola Academy and Cranbrook, as well as University of Chicago's prospective student weekends.

Heather enjoys getting to know the student-athletes and their families, while supporting the students academically. Being part of the AmeriCorps Beyond Sports Foundation team has been a great experience. Being an AmeriCorps Academic Tutor balances her writing life perfectly. Heather believes in the power of education and is grateful to use her skills to support the student-athletes of Beyond Sports Foundation.

Learn more about AmeriCorps.

Dr Mark Holterman

Dr. Mark Holterman - Volunteer of the Week (June 25, 2018)

Dr. Mark Holterman is a practicing doctor, a tenured faculty member, and a successful businessman. He also volunteers with the International Pediatric Specialists Alliance for the Children of Vietnam. This organization is known colloquially as ISPAC-VN, and it is an ambitious charitable organization that focuses on outreach to Vietnam. Many countries suffered losses during the Vietnam conflict. Decades later, the aftermath is still apparent. The country is trying to move on and put the past away, but it takes time to build up infrastructure and professional support systems in important industries.

Dr. Holterman also belongs to the Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons (PAPS). PAPS 

is an exclusive organization aimed at promoting fellowship and education among doctors who are from Pacific Rim nations. The organization currently has more than 500 members spanning 23 countries.

Barb Higdon

Barb Higdon - Volunteer of the Week (June 18, 2018)

Barb Higdon has been a member of Dove Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Macon County for more than 17 years. Barb has served at more than 15 different stations in her community. From feeding the hungry to delivering Meals on Wheels with her husband Jim to serving at her church Barb is a strong supporter of her community. She has served more than 9500 hours in the Decatur community and shows no signs of slowing down. Oftentimes you can find Barb and her husband Jim serving together for various events such as mailings, fundraising activities or serving on local councils and boards. Sharing her time, experience, and talent with many nonprofit agencies in the community. Barb is very humble. She happily puts the needs of others before her own. She has a very calm and loving nature that can make you feel at home immediately. She allows people to tell their story and really takes the time to listen and learn their needs. She ensures each person she encounters feels love and warmth, never rushing anyone. Barb honors everyone she meets with the respect and dignity all humans should enjoy.

Dove RSVP stated that they are proud to have Barb as one of their faithful members and are thankful for everything she does in our community.

Emily Blankenberger

Emily Blankenberger - Volunteer of the Week (June 11, 2018)

Emily Blankenberger is using her interdisciplinary education from the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Ukraine. Placed with an ecology nonprofit, Emily is focusing on organizational development to make a lasting difference. A native of

Flossmoor, Illinois, Emily chose Illinois State University after high school because she appreciated the access to diverse educational resources and the small-school atmosphere. She wrote an undergraduate thesis on nutritional anthropology, assessing cultural food patterns. Emily met her goal of a broad undergraduate education, graduating with a degree in anthropology and family and consumer sciences with a sequence in food, nutrition and dietetics, as well as a minor in peace and conflict resolution. She was a resident assistant for the Leadership and Service floor and helped design a sustainability garden. Emily is an applied economics graduate student through the Master’s International program, in which students serve two years with Peace Corps after one year of classes. Peace Corps ended the Master’s International program nationwide, but the Stevenson Center still offers an array of graduate programs and an undergraduate program, Peace Corps Prep.

Emily is now a community and economic development volunteer in Rivne, a city of 250,000 roughly three hours away from Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. She works with a local ecology nonprofit called Ecoclub, which strives to provide effective sustainability methods. Emily is making a lasting impact in both her Illinois community and in Rivne, Ukraine.

Great Adventure Preschool Program

The Plainfield Park District’s Great Adventures Preschool - Volunteer of the Week (June 4, 2018)

The kids at Plainfield Park District’s Great Adventures Preschool have a heart for helping others. Great Adventures Preschool is an early childhood program for children designed to meet their emotional, social, creative and 

physical needs. Leslie Anderson, Recreation Manager for Great Adventures, oversees the staff members who create a daily learning environment that promotes future academic success by learning concepts about colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and even civic engagement through fun group activities. Anderson said that she looks for volunteer opportunities for her students that will teach them the value of helping others and help them to learn more about the needs that out there in the world beyond their classrooms. She knew that the recent collection for the troops would engage students who would be helping not only their teacher Mrs. Bollinger’s son but his fellow service members as well. She said that her classrooms have collected donations for the troops since 2015 and in previous years have also organized collections for a Multiple Sclerosis charity and Angel Tree. “We like to do something every year,” said Anderson.

Jack Picciolo

Jack Picciolo - Volunteer of the Week (May 28, 2018)

Jack Picciolo, of Lockport, is a Vietnam veteran, past commander of the Lockport VFW, and chairman of the Will County Veterans Affairs Commission. He has a strong passion to help his fellow veterans. Jack volunteers for several veteran support agencies such as; the VAC, 

VFW, the Stand Down Coalition for Homeless Veterans program, and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. It has been Jack’s mission to bring an end to veteran homelessness in Will County. He is also passionate about ensuring that every veteran, including homeless vets, receive military funeral honors. Jack was involved in the "sandwich run," which prepared and served 400 meals and delivered them to vets every Sunday in Chicago area. Jack served in the Army in Vietnam in 1964-1965, earning the Vietnam Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and Sharpshooter Medal.

CWS Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu - Volunteer of the Week (May 21, 2018)​

Since his arrival to Chicago in 2014, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has made his presence known in a big way. The Cuba native burst on to the scene in his first season in Major League Baseball en route to winning various awards and acknowledgments – including the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger Award and the first rookie in major-league history to rank among the Top 5 in his league in each Triple Crown category. After an 

impressive rookie year, his success continued with various honors and both franchise and league records. The 31-year-old star has his sights on more than on-field success. He has maintained an active presence in the community through his Abreu’s Amigos program. The program was launched in 2014 in partnership with Easterseals Academy to provide regular opportunities for students with special needs to develop social skills in a recreational setting through field trips to the ballpark. Nearly 70 students have visited the ballpark through this program. Abreu provides both his time and financial support for the program, including a $10,000 donation to kick off the program during a baseball clinic on the school’s White Sox Field. Abreu will launch the fourth year of the program on May 22, spending time with the Easterseals Good Guys Group and throwing a pizza party for the 200 students at the Academy.
For Abreu, giving back is about more than having a presence in the community. He shares a positive energy and the White Sox dedication to the Chicagoland community with the goal to give others the assistance that he received to achieve his dream to play in the MLB. Abreu has connected with the community most frequently at youth baseball clinics, sharing the skills he has learned over the years with baseball’s next generation. This includes his present leadership in the clubhouse, as he guides the Sox young team and makes his presence seen in the community and on the field.

Rosalea Colucci

Rosalea Colucci - Volunteer of the Week (May 14, 2018)

Rosalea, an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School, has collected more than 60,000 toys, books, stuffed animals, games and other gifts for hospitalized children, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help find a cure for childhood cancer. When she was just 3, Rosie was diagnosed with brain tumors and 

numerous other serious conditions that required her to spend a lot of time in the hospital. While there, she received so many gifts that her mother said she couldn't keep them all. So Rosie decided to share them with kids who didn't have any. "I know what it's like to lay in a hospital bed feeling bored and bad, worse than bad, and miss out on fun, school, playgrounds, riding bikes, holiday parties, play dates and sports," she said. "I wanted to make other kids' hospital stays better. I wanted to bring them sunshine and joy!" A year after her diagnosis, Rosie started "Rosie's Toy Box" and began collecting donated gifts in a plastic bin outside her family's front door. Before long, she was not only soliciting donations of toys and other items for pediatric patients, but was also working to raise money for a variety of charities and foundations. She asks big and small businesses, schools, churches, daycare centers and restaurants to conduct toy drives or fundraisers with her; and she promotes her efforts through fliers, social media and the news media. Among the activities she has conducted to pursue her mission are walk/runs, lemonade and bake sales, dance marathons, school competitions and head-shaving. "I want to further research so kids like me don't have to die," said Rosie. "We need some answers! We need a cure now!"

Kennison Adams

Kennison Adams - Volunteer of the Week (May 7, 2018)​

Kennison, a senior at Edwardsville High School, has assisted hundreds of people in emergency situations over the past three years as a member of the Edwardsville Fire Department Explorer Post. She learned about the opportunity to serve her community in that capacity at an informational presentation in her medical careers class. "I have always had a passion for medicine, along with a compassion for helping others, and this program combined both aspects," said Kennison. In order to join the Explorer Post program, Kennison had to be trained and certified in CPR, first-aid and blood-borne pathogen safety, and learn how to draw blood and start IVs. Now, she makes sure fire trucks and ambulances are stocked and ready for emergency calls, rides along with first-responders to assist in any way she can, and 

cleans up vehicles afterwards. Kennison also provides hands-on help at community events, including fire department open houses and safety awareness presentations, pediatric cancer fundraisers and local homecoming carnivals and festivals. She is currently assistant chief of her Explorer Post program.

Louise Carson

Louise Carson - Volunteer of the Week (April 30, 2018)​

Senior Corps member Louise Carson has been an inspiration and a devoted volunteer in the Joliet community for over 23 years. Upon her retirement from an area hospital, where she was the first African American hired as a nurse’s aide, Louise wanted to do something where she could connect with others and work with children. Louise joined Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program. Grandma Louise has served at Joliet public schools, Head Start, and her church. Grandma Louise begins her day by sitting the children on a rug where she reads stories to them. After reading time, Louise works with the students using flash cards and other activities assigned by the teacher to aid the children in becoming fluent readers. Grandma Carson enjoys watching the students grow as they come from struggling to fluency.

In her spare time, Grandma Carson likes to listen to music and find new songs for the choir to sing. She enjoys reading her Bible and loves to go to church. Grandma Louise’s teachers report that she is reliable, positive, caring, compassionate, and motivating to the students. She is comforting to the students when they are sad, upset, or not feeling well. She is a positive role model for her students. She is an asset to the classroom as the children light up when she walks into the room every morning. Louise exceeds expectations and the children show significant improvement while working with her.

Jahmal Cole

Jahmal Cole - Volunteer of the Week (April 23, 2018)​

Jahmal Cole is a tireless volunteer and role model. An advocate for education in Chicago, Jahmal is passionate about improving schools and is a frequent speaker at colleges in the Chicagoland area. Jahmal is a mentor to underserved teens, a leader of an army of civic volunteers, a lifelong explorer, and an author. 

He is the author of The Torch of Decency: Rekindling the Spirit of Community Organizations, "Athletes & MC's" and "50 Excuses: to not Follow your Dreams." As a child, Jahmal spent time homeless in both Texas and Chicago. That time shaped his life from college to mentoring to founding the program, he said "I remember what it was like when I was 11 years old and homeless. I lived in the back of a U-Haul truck for like five months. We used to have tie a belt to the outside and leave a little space for air.” Jahmal explains "I never really got any opportunity to settle down and grow roots because every three to four months I’d be moving. But it taught me how to communicate, it taught me how to expand my world view. I love traveling. That’s why I travel to different communities now."
​​Jahmal said the tough times taught him about being a mentor and seeing the bright side of a bad situation. He founded My Block, My Hood, My City after working with teens in Cook County Jail who said they'd never been Downtown before. My Block, My Hood, My City provides youth with new experiences, exposing them to possibilities beyond their own communities. They help teenagers overcome the poverty and isolation they face, boosting educational attainment and opening them to opportunities that make a difference in their lives. Jahmal also takes them on trips to serve others. "Normally, we take them to do activities and eat a different food they’ve never tried," Jahmal said. "We’ve been taking them on a lot of cool field trips or explorations, but also part of our model is social. I wanted them to do something social and give back. I want them to learn how to give back to those in need."

Heather Gardewine

Heather Gardewine - Volunteer of the Week (April 16, 2018)​

Heather has been a mentor in the Mid-Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters program since 2013. She began her mentoring relationship with her Little Sister Katie while in college at Eastern Illinois University and has continued the relationship even after her graduation. Heather has shown a tremendous amount of dedication to her Little Sister. Katie was 8 years old when she was introduced to Heather. She has met with Katie for about 10-12 hours per month for the past 5 years. Heather has watched Katie grow into the wonderful teenager that she now has become.

Katie was once a shy child, but now participates in extracurricular activities and consistently makes the Honor Roll at school. Much of this success can be attributed to Heather who has showed Katie new opportunities that have helped Katie come out of her shell. These two have developed a lifelong friendship and continue to grow closer together with each year. Aside from being a mentor in our program, Heather has contributed to Big Brothers Big Sisters program in other ways as well. Heather now has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and does a lot of work with aquatic animals. Due to strong need of other volunteer mentors, such as Heather, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently has a list of children waiting to be paired up with a Big Brother or Big Sister. Many of these children enjoy working with animals as well. Heather organized an outing for the children on the waiting list to attend. She and her co-workers provided all the equipment needed so that our children could go fishing. For some of these children, this was their first time ever having the chance to go fishing. Heather even came up with certificates to recognize the children who caught fish that day. Even though Heather was not a Big Sister to these particular children, she still provided a new opportunity for the Little Brothers and Little Sisters in the community. Heather is a very kind, dedicated, caring and committed individual. Aside from being a mentor in our program, Heather has contributed to Big Brothers Big Sisters program in other ways as well. Heather now has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and does a lot of work with aquatic animals. Due to strong need of other volunteer mentors, such as Heather, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently has a list of children waiting to be paired up with a Big Brother or Big Sister. Many of these children enjoy working with animals as well. Heather organized an outing for the children on the waiting list to attend. She and her co-workers provided all the equipment needed so that our children could go fishing. For some of these children, this was their first time ever having the chance to go fishing. Heather even came up with certificates to recognize the children who caught fish that day. Even though Heather was not a Big Sister to these particular children, she still provided a new opportunity for the Little Brothers and Little Sisters in the community. Heather is a very kind, dedicated, caring and committed individual.

joseph Kalala

Joseph Kalala - Volunteer of the Week (April 9, 2018)​

Joseph is a Computer Science student at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois. Joseph is involved in many volunteer opportunities. He has been involved in the Black Student Union and Student Government at Lincoln Land Community College. He also

tutors elementary school aged children at 21st Century After School Program through his AmeriCorps placement at Urban League in Springfield. There he tutors children helping them with homework and reading. Joseph also mentors the kids by being a positive role model that they can bring their problems to. He also plays basketball with the kids and plays games with them. Joseph selected 21st Century because he loves kids and wanted to get involved. Joseph says that one of the most challenging but rewarding things about what he does is figuring out what motivates each kid. When asked what impact volunteering has had on him, Joseph responded “Every day is a new challenge. The best part is getting to know each of them. Everyone has their own story.” His dream for his time with AmeriCorps is to leave a big impact on the kids and to be a good role model for them. Joseph said “to me, working with these kids is more fun than being at home.”

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina - Volunteer of the Week (April 2, 2018)​

Illinois resident Yadier Molina is committed to service-not just service to the St. Louis Cardinals, but to the community. More specifically, Yadier spent his offseason working tirelessly for the recovery of Puerto Rico a​fter Hurricane Maria.​

As a native of Puerto Rico, Yadier and his family were moved by the devastation of Hurricane Maria last fall and wanted to do more. The desire turned into a lot more, from fundraising to coordination of donations to advocating for residents. Yadier was in Puerto Rico two days after the St. Louis Cardinals final game last fall to oversee the distribution of truckloads of items in the northern Puerto Rico towns for Vega Alta, Dorado, Utuado and Cayey.

Molina continued over the fall and winter to raise funds through the Yadier Molina Fundacion 4-Foundation 4. In fact, further fundraising efforts are continuing as many of Puerto Rico's residents will need help for years

to come. Yadier continues to visit the island, serving residents and hosting events to raise attention to hurricane recovery. Yadier's meaningful contributions through service define him as a leader, both on and off the field.

For more information about Yadier's foundation, visit


Anthony Rizzo - Volunteer of the Week (March 26, 2018)

Chicago has a long history of great athletes, and one of the greatest is Chicago Cubs’ First Baseman Anthony Rizzo. A three time All-Star, Gold Glove winner, and World Series Champion, he is a master of his craft on the field, but being the best in his sport was not enough for Anthony.

At 18, while playing single A ball, Anthony was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and he would soon have to endure six months of chemotherapy. As his grandmother was battling breast cancer at the same time, Anthony says, “I believe that an individual does not battle cancer, but rather the whole f​amily does.”

After winning his battle with cancer, Anthony decided he wanted to help others going through what he did, and in 2012, he started the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to raise money for cancer research and support children and their families while they battle cancer. Since its formation, Anthony’s foundation has raised over $5,000,000 to fight cancer, and Anthony continues to be a tireless advocate and supporter for those in their greatest time of need.

Anthony’s volunteer spirit was shown once again after tragedy came to his high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida​. Anthony left Spring Training in order to give comfort to the Parkland community, and he worked to support them through an auction that helped to raise $305,000to help the victims and their families.​ After, watching Anthony speak at the vigil, his Manager Joe Madden said, “I can never be more proud of you than I am at this moment.”

Anthony Rizzo represents the best of us on and off the field, and his work to support Illinois communities will long outlive his baseball career. To learn more about the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, visit

annie Niswander

Annie Niswander - Volunteer of the Week (March 19​, 2018)

Annie has generously volunteered her time at the United Methodist Church of Mahomet for 5 years. She helps prepare for children’s church each week by preparing the children’s bulletins and class materials. She also volunteers additional time over the summer to help out at their vacation bible school. Her time and dedication is very much appreciated by the chu​rch staff and the kids she serves. They love “Miss Annie”.​

Annie is a long-time resident of Mahomet, Illinois. In addition to being an active member of the United Methodist Church of Mahomet, she also works as an assistant at First School in Mahomet. She is an active member of the human service cooperative Community Choices. She also participates in a local choir.

Abby Sagher

Abby Sagher - Volunteer of the Week (March 12, 2018)

In conjunction with AmeriCorps week, our Serve Illinois Volunteer of the Week is an AmeriCorps member. Abby Sagher has been working with Beyond Sports Foundation working with student a​​thletes in Highland Park as an academic tutor. She joined as an AmeriCorps member during service year 2017​​-18.

During the week, Abby works for a college access and persistence program. For Abby, 

the best part about working at Beyond Sports Foundation is the students - whether it's being a part of their many "a-ha moments," building relationships, or seeing their teamwork on the court or field.​

Abby also enjoys meeting and networking with other tutors and AmeriCorps volunteers and creating lasting relationships based on trust and mutual understanding.

Marilyn Newman

Marilyn Newman - Volunteer of the Week (March 5, 2018)​

Marilyn Newman is a Senior Corps-RSVP Member of Northern Cook and Northern DuPage County. She also serves as the Coordinator for the AARP Tax Aide program for Illinois District 11, managing nine sites and a total of 104 volunteers. She's responsible for training, processing all prospective volunteers and certification reporting to AARP and the IRS. She also holds a state-level position as part of the 

Management Team for all of Illinois north of I-80. Marilyn handles the volunteer data base information for over 700 volunteers, 134 sites and 24 districts. Under Marilyn’s direction, the District 11 tax preparation volunteers helped file 2,874 returns for an approximate taxpayer savings of $720,000, based at $250 per return fee (the average fee in District​ 11.) Marilyn has been volunteering since 2004. She is a retired high school math teacher who always prepared her own taxes, so when she saw an article in AARP magazine calling for people to assist seniors in filing, she stepped up. Helping seniors has always appealed to her, and this area of volunteering was the perfect fit. One of the reasons she continues to do it is the satisfaction of seeing the relief on a senior's face after their taxes are in order, receipts sorted and appropriate lines filled in.

Evan Robinson

Evan Robinson - Volunteer of the Week (February 26, 2018)

Evan Robinson, age 12, of Chicago, is a seventh-grader at Kenwood Academy. Evan raised more than $2,000 for relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria by making and selling nearly 1,000 

empanadas. When out-of-towners contributed to #PiesforPuertoRico but couldn't pick up their empanadas in person, Evan donated their pies to a homeless shelter. “I’ve been seeing, all ove​r the news, people struggling, and I thought, ‘I need to help. I want to help,’” Evan said. “They can’t get fresh water, electricity; they can’t get really anything. I know I’m just a kid, but I think if a lot of people do something, a lot of things will get better.”

He launched Pies for Puerto Rico over the weekend, taking online orders for homemade empanadas on his Evan the Chef Facebook page and collecting the proceeds to donate to Unidos Puerto Rico, a hurricane relief initiative launched by Beatriz Rossello, wife of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

Walter Jones

Walter Jones - Volunteer of the Week (February 19, 201​8)

Walter founded the West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders in 2011. Their mission is to work together to build a stronger, safer, and more productive community. Their goal is to establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies, federal, state, local and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance use among youth and reduce senseless violence in the West Garfi​eld Park community.

As the founder Walter has created opportunities via programs, activities and events to help direct youth towards 

positive alternatives to violence as well as teaching them how to become productive citizens through positive civic engagement. West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders seek to create opportunities via programs, activities and events to help direct youth towards positive alternatives to violence as well as teaching them how to become productive citizens through positive civic engagement. Some of the programs Walter oversees are town hall meetings, prayer vigils, community rallies, an intergenerational mentoring initiative, and Parent Cafes which help bring parents together and empower them. He has even created two weekly TV programs on a public access channel which tackles various topics each quarter. One show is led by West Garfield Park Youth Counsel by youth ages 13-24. The program gives youth a chance to bring to light topics that are important to them. The other weekly TV program features adults in the community and is called Fathers Who Care.

Walter says “Our Vision as stakeholders is to engage a partnership of residents, parents, youth, educational institutions, organizations and public servants with a common goal to reduce violence within the West Garfield Park community.” As issues arise they rally people in the community to face the issues head on. It is a holistic approach to empowering the community.

Karran Robinson

Karran Robinson - Volunteer of the Week (February 12, 2018)

Karran is a tutor at 21st Century After School Program through his AmeriCorps placement at Urban League in Springfield. Karran works with elementary school aged children at Lee School. There he tutors and mentors youth, helping them with homework and reading. He also has taught many of the youth how to play basketball and acts as a role model that they can trust. When asked what impact volunteering has had on his life, Karran responded “These kids really help me out more than I help them out.” He also says that the kids have taught him patience which has really helped him in school

Karran is working on getting his Associates in Arts - Music and Audio Production from Lincoln Land Community College. Karran says that he really enjoys his work because he understands the kids. He says that he grew up in a single parent household and that his mom pushed him to keep busy from an early age on. She enrolled him in multiple music programs throughout his childhood and got him involved in multiple community programs. He is thankful to her for that because it gave him multiple positive role models that helped guide him. He says that is what kept him out of trouble and has made him the man he is today. Now he is giving back by being a positive role model to the kids at 21st Century.

To learn more about AmeriCorps, visit

Donald Steplight

Donald Steplight - Volunteer of the Week (February 5, 2018)​

Donald Steplight is a Career Development Associate at YMCA of the USA in Chicago through the Public Allies AmeriCorps program. Donald is going to grad school for a Masters of Public Administration. He learned about AmeriCorps from his roommate who was also an AmeriCorps Member with Public Allies.

Donald is a vital part of the YMCA of the USA. Some of his tasks are research, data analysis, organizing certification programs, networking with YMCA directors across the country, event planning, and approving outside licensing for program staff. The next project that Donald is excited about  

is building a social media presence for the YMCA of the USA. Donald also participates in a mentoring program through Public Allies Chicago as part of his Team Service ​Project hours. Every Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning he volunteers at a program that mentors 10-12 students at Eric Solorio Academy High School. In these mentoring periods, they offer support to the students on multiple levels. This program acts as a safe space for the students to express any frustrations or concerns they have in their school or personal life. They also engage in a variety of character building activities with the students. Every week there is a new activity designed to support the students with what they are going through or might go through in school.

When asked what his passion is, Donald responded - helping people the way he was helped as a kid. He was adopted as a small child, and he wanted to give back to the programs that made a difference in his life. He wants to make the biggest impact that he could. That’s why he selected AmeriCorps and the YMCA; because, they make such a large impact in so many lives.

To learn more about AmeriCorps, visit

William Mugg

William Mugg - Volunteer of the Week (January 29, 2018)​

William volunteers at Feed My Starving Children in Aurora. FMSC is a non-profit organization that sends fortified meals to children in need in over 70 countries. William has felt the great impact FMSC has on children’s lives around the world and says “It really does put your life into perspective. It is so easy to take our lives for granted, but working with FMSC has really opened my eyes to the reality others face in different countries. The children that are being cared for through the work of FMSC and its partners have had to face harsh realities since birth. Every child deserves to live a worry free life. FMSC has ignited a new hope in the lives of these children through the generous work of many volunteers, and I hope that we continue to make a difference in their lives.” William made a personal goal to reach 300+ volunteer hours each year. 

So far, he has met that goal each year he has served.

William is incredibly hard working, generous, and such a joy to all those around him. His wife, Betty, and four children Annie, Matthew, Patrick, and Anthony all believe in community service and have all volunteered at Feed My Starving Children.

Aggie Becker

Aggie Becker - Volunteer of the Week (January 22, 2018)

Aggie began to volunteer with Community Link in February 2015. Community Link serves adults and children with disabilities through a day training site, residential services, and infant services. She is always willing to help in whatever way she can to fulfill the organization’s needs. Aggie is experienced in yoga and holds teacher certification. Aggie has continued to teach Yoga class 2 times weekly to for 2 full years. It is amazing to see the relationships that Aggie has created. The Yoga group loves Aggie and her energy. The yoga group, under the direction of Aggie, is forming their own third party fundraiser, selling yoga t-shirts for the Community Link Buddy Walk in May. Aggie can be overheard not only teaching yoga but also giving life lessons, assisting in troubleshooting, and discussing many joyful times with everyone. She is their biggest cheerleader!

In addition, Aggie not only volunteers herself, but also includes her family in events. Her kids are found volunteering for whatever is needed. In addition to volunteering at Community Link, she volunteers at a local daycare and the Catholic Church teaching classes. At times, Aggie organizes her students to volunteer for projects here at Community Link. .

Patric Miller

Patrick Miller - Volunteer of the Week (January 16, 2018)​

Patrick Miller is an AmeriCorps Up2Us Coach serving at his host site of Chicago Run. Patrick moved from Boston, MA to support the Chicago community through his year of service.

Patrick attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst graduating with a BS in Public Health and a minor in Sociology. After graduating, he went on to pursue a Masters’ degree in Public Health at the Boston University School of Public Health. While in grad school, Patrick developed an interest in combating the childhood obesity epidemic through evidence-based practices addressing the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of health.

Patrick works directly with Chicago Run’s Running Mates program and Runners Program that focuses on instilling the daily habit of running and physical activity during the school day for elementary school students and an after school 

program designed to prepare middle school students to run in a local 5k race. Patrick brings so much energy, liveliness, and enthusiasm to all the students he meets and works with. As an AmeriCorps member, he is involved in not only serving at his site, but also volunteering throughout Up2Us Sports service days and giving back to the Chicago community. Patrick goes beyond his role as an Up2Us Coach by trying to make the city a better, healthier, and safer place for youth.

To learn how you can join AmeriCorps, visit

AnaPatricia Marquez

AnaPatricia Marquez - Volunteer of the Week (January 8, 2018)

AnaPatricia has worked to develop and implement a comprehensive Green Education program that can be used for Mid Central Community Action in Bloomington participants and the community as well. The information is tailored to the specific program area or community member with the outcome of increasing their energy efficiency, positive “green footprint” in their community and for them to act as an example to others on green practices in their neighborhoods. These practices can also be replicated by other small business and non-profits in order to maximize their impact on their stakeholders as well.

The programs and educational opportunities that AnaPatricia has developed address the short and long

term financial health of low income indivi​duals and families in the community. AnaPatricia is building relationships with local green organization in order to develop processes that make the “greening” of Bloomington homes easier and therefore more widely adopted.

Teri Lehman

Teri Lehman - Volunteer of the Week (January 1, 2018)​

Teri Lehmann is a volunteer at Keshet in their GADOL program. The GADOL program is a community-based day program for adults with disabilities, located in Skokie. GADOL supports adults ages 22 and older in living meaningful lives after exiting the educational system. The program offers participants both vocational and recreational experiences. Teri has been volunteering at GADOL for the past year. She always has a smile on her face and is willing to do whatever it takes to help GADOL.

During her time at GADOL, her duties have changed. She started helping out by answering phone calls and assisting the art teacher. As Teri became more comfortable and got to know her team members better, her responsibilities grew. Teri now job coaches a young woman at a nursing home. Teri has supported this young woman in performing her job with minimal supports and in fostering friendships as well as. When the young woman became 

more independent at work, Teri started job coaching another participant. Teri’s support has enabled this young woman to work. She needs support staying on task. Teri is right there to help her focus. Teri helps the administration staff keep both women’s schedules straight. Teri shows up consistently to greet her clients and is eager to work! She is always encouraging them to “do one more thing”. She also encourages them to work a little harder & develop relationships with their co-workers. Teri provides a much needed service. Her support has changed both of these ladies lives. Teri’s upbeat, friendly personality has certainly brought a lot of joy to everyone at GADOL.