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2022 Volunteer Spotlight

Norma Robertson - Volunteer of the Week (December 27th, 2022)

Norma is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe in South Dakota. She is currently enjoying retirement and doing beadwork during her free time. Her previous work experience was as a Social Service Intake Coordinator with the St. Augustine Center in Uptown Chicago for nearly 20 years. She worked at the American Indian Health Center of Chicago as an Addiction Counselor and was a volunteer 12 Step program coordinator for AA meetings. She has held a seat on the American Indian Center Board in past years as the Treasurer. She is happy to continue to serve the Chicago Native community.

Max Feinberg - Volunteer of the Week (December 19th, 2022)

Fostering Fun is a nonprofit founded by Max Feinberg, 2021, that provides children in Foster Care with holiday “essentials.” Throughout the year, birthday bags are distributed and nine times a year holiday surprises are delivered. Children receive treats for New Years, Valentines Day, Spring Break, Summer Break, 4th of July, Halloween, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, and the Holiday Season. Max has helped over 1000 kids in Foster Care and raised almost $100K in in-kind donations. 

Vincent Romero (Laguna Pueblo) - Volunteer of the Week (November 29th, 2022)

Vince is the primary caretaker of the community eagle staff for the American Indian Center of Chicago.  He transports the eagle staff to most every venue that requests it using his personal vehicle.  He is often the one to carry it in and even if he can't not be present, he orchestrates the other volunteer veterans to carry the responsibility.   

Isabella Nilles - Volunteer of the Week (November 9th, 2022)

Isabella is extremely involved in volunteer work in her community. She is a member of Sherrod’s Independent Mentoring Program (“SIMP”) where she is on the Violence Prevention Team. She contributes to many volunteer projects each year as a member of Young Leaders in Action (“YLIA”). She volunteers for National Honor Society. She is also on the Principal Advisory Committee for her school, Maroa Forsyth High School. Recently she volunteered as backstage crew to assist Maroa Forsyth Junior High students in their production of the musical Frozen Junior. Isabella loves helping her community and learning about how she can give back to others. 

Lexi Smith - Volunteer of the Week (November 2, 2022)

Lexi Smith is 17 years old and attends St. Teresa High School. She is the chair of the Action team at Young Leaders in Action. She is a member of the Youth Advisory committee of CGTI (Cebrin- Goodman Institute). She is apart of Walk It Like You Talk it. She is apart of SIMP and is on the executive board. She is a host of a podcast that is on called “Nobody Asked Us.” Additionally, she actively participates in service learning through her high school to bring good to her community.

Maxwell Yang

Maxwell Yang- Volunteer of the Week (January 31, 2022)

Helping others, bringing joy through music, and spreading appreciation for Asian American culture was the primary goal when Sound of Wishes came to be as a nonprofit organization. As the Director of the Western Instruments division, Maxwell Yang lead his team by composing, arranging, and performing music at many performances to raise funds in order to help charities to support community need. Through countless stories Maxwell has heard 

from family and others, living in poverty or under-resourced conditions is something that is never easy to get out of. His parents were both born and raised mainly in China and lived in conditions less fortunate than he was used to. They mentioned that the times where someone lends even a small amount of help have impacted their lives greatly. This inspiration led to Maxwell’s interest and involvement in volunteering.

From the organization’s beginning, any proceeds from fundraisers or donations have gone to the Make-A-Wish Foundation or Feeding America to help people with limited resources or children with critical illnesses. Since being a part of the group, they have raised over $10,000 for those organizations with about $4,000 raised from their Covid-19 Relief Project for Feeding America. They released weekly videos and helped provide meals for communities who needed help with obtaining food during the pandemic. Additionally, a main goal of the group has always been to promote cultural awareness and diversity through appreciation of the Chinese arts and music. With the performances being a mixture of both Chinese and American music pieces, we are able to cultivate interest in their group and culture, as a result.

Maxwell was proud of being part of the Chinese community and the identity that it brought with it. Cultural diversity and awareness are some of the reasons he joined the Sound of Wishes. His volunteer service has been able to impact the community by not only broadening the knowledge of their culture, but their community as well. Namely, we perform at many events dedicated to Asian American communities through the Coalition for Better Asian American Community, such as at the CBCAC Asian American Census and the ‘Belonging in Chinatown’ event to empower these communities living in Chicago. At one event dedicated to announce the passing of the TEAACH Act, requiring Illinois school curriculums to include Asian American History, Sound of Wishes performed and met with local officials like Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton to talk about the group and what can be done to further Asian American acceptance in the community through music.

Ruby Arun

Ruby Arun- Volunteer of the Week (January 18, 2022)

Ruby Arun founded Mission:MathMinds ( in June 2020, a 501(c)3 non-profitand Presidential Service Certified organization dedicated to improving math literacy and providing more access to underprivileged girls. The needs that Mission:MathMinds ( fulfills -mentoring, math, service, female relationships, and mathematical understanding - have been passions of Ruby’s since she was a little girl. She has had opportunities to create relationships with female teachers that she admired and 

coaches that inspired her to learn mathematics more deeply, and she has recognized that this is not what the majority of female students experience, with this possibly being a factor in why many female students have negative feelings towards math learning, or negative outlooks as far as theirability to be “good” at math.

Creating opportunities for others like she had been given directly resulted in the creation of Mission:MathMinds. She has created something out of others’ needs, not her own. She has combined her two passions - math and volunteering - into something with the capacity to bring others alongside her in service. These lifelong passions of hers didn’t spark the action to create Mission:MathMinds; rather, it was observations made and accounts from her peers about learning during the COVID-19 pandemic that inspired all the work that has followed. Ruby’s friends and peers were affected firsthand by the pandemic. As mathematics is a subject that builds on top of itself, it is vital for previous topics to be understood to advance further in the curriculum. Without the normal opportunities to collaborate with their teacher and classmates together, it became more difficult for her friends when they were “stuck” on a concept or procedure.

Ruby was able to help her friends over Zoom as they worked on assignments together for hours. It was here where the model for mentoring, using Zoom to connect girls of different ages and experiences, was first formed. After talking with her parents, she realized that this was most likely a need not just for her friends, but for many female students in her town, district,state - and possibly the nation. This need for connection, when the connection was stripped from us, can persevere outside of a global pandemic. The technology we have to connect with one another at the push of a button can be used to connect female students in different states, and all across the United States. This is an idea that can last and flourish regardless of environment, economic status, and world crises.

Gary Spaulding

Gary Spaulding- Volunteer of the Week (January 11, 2022)

Gary Spaulding enrolled with AmeriCorps committing to serve at the Salvation Army on Clear Lake in Springfield, IL last year, for 900 hours a year. He completed over 1000 hours by the end of November, and has likely put in way more hours than that. He organizes and runs the Food Bank for the Salvation Army at that location and does much more than a volunteer would be expected to do. The Food Bank at the Salvation Army is an “on demand” program, meaning those who are served by the program are able to come into the room and choose their own food, knowing what their family will eat and enjoy. They are assisted by other volunteers who help them shop by reminding them of the limits of each category of items they provide.

Gary enjoys what he does, and says he would do it again, especially being able to help the families of veterans. Gary has been at every function, training, orientation, and activity the AmeriCorps Program for the City of Springfield has made available. Next year he will be taking on a larger role in AmeriCorps as a full-time 

member and well deserves the recognition as an AmeriCorps Member who is making a difference in the City of Springfield. The biggest motivation for Gary is the education award that is available, which he plans to use for his grandson to help with college bills.

Rogelio Villa

Rogelio Villa- Volunteer of the Week (January 3, 2022)

Rogelio Villa serves with The Mission Continues, an organization whose vision strives for all veterans with a desire to continue their service to be part of a nationwide movement to transform communities. Rogelio is a veteran of the Army National Guard, and has held on to that same desire to serve others in his community today. He previously volunteered with the YMCA Urban Warriors in Chicago to connect veterans with at-risk youth. While working to organize group support sessions on the weekends, he was introduced to The Mission Continues.

He helped by incorporating community leaders, veterans and local community members to get involved in projects. He also worked in the Little Village Community via community gardens in order to beautify the community and help local organizations engage in outdoor programming. Rogelio is a dedicated volunteer who has sacrificed sleep and his free time on the weekends while juggling family commitments and his full time job.