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Volunteer Spotlight


Lakshmi Nair - Volunteer Spotlight (July 17, 2024)

"Lakshmi, now 16, has completed several forms of volunteer work for Feed My Starving Children since she was 10 years old. She has also tutored children from grade 6 and above in several subjects ranging from standardized testing to social sciences. She has volunteered in her local library to be a document transcriber and has written cards for hospitalized children. She currently volunteers at Habitat for Humanity designing homes for third-world countries. Overall, her service impact has shown through her 200+ hours of service and dedication towards her community."


~Nominated by Soumya Nair

Michelle Yuen and Brandi Weyers - Volunteer Spotlight (June 7, 2024)

"As college students at Bradley University Michelle and Brandi started Paws Giving Independence. 15 years later it is still an all-volunteer organization. They train service and facility dogs and place them at no charge to their recipients. In addition to working as a pediatric physical therapist and ER nurse they also manage the nonprofit."


~Nominated by Donna Kosner

Crystal Flynn - Volunteer Spotlight (May 17, 2024)

"Crystal Flynn retired from U.S.P.S. After working for over 35 years. Upon retirement, she decided to volunteer to help pregnant women and their babies. She is an advocate for Pregnancy Aid South Suburbs and her love and concern to help motivate the women to be great parents and to support PASS as a volunteer brings such great joy! Her goal is to help save lives and be a mentor for the mothers."


~Nominated by Keisha Blake

Jason Powell - Volunteer Spotlight (April 11, 2024)

Jason Powell, is a 41-year-old Marion, Illinois resident who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Jason is the CEO of Bainbridge Enterprises LLC, a consulting firm. He is also the Business Development and Property Manager for Heartland Realty & Rentals. In addition, Mr. Powell is co-owner of Southern Illinois Rejuvenation Center, a new medical spa in the area. In the past, he worked for Peabody Energy as a coal miner, where a terrible coal mining accident ended his career of 8 years.

Jason is a member of many organizations that allow him to be involved in community projects as well as contribute to various philanthropic endeavors. In addition to being a member of Cornerstone Church, he has made several mission trips to Haiti with the organization, Farming God’s Way. They provided clean water access to Haitian villages.

Jason served as Assistant Governor for Rotary District 6510 and former President of Williamson County Heartland Rotary. He assists this group with fundraising to purchase iPads for autistic students annually among other projects that support our youth and community as a whole. He serves on the Board of Directors for Caritas Family Solutions, one of Illinois’ largest foster care providers. Jason coordinates a coat drive to help Caritas Family Solutions supply coats to foster children and lower-income families. They have provided over 2000 coats throughout 50 counties.

Jason is a member of Ready Nation, a group of business executives focused on building a skilled workforce by promoting solutions that prepare youth to succeed in education, work, and life. They were able to secure millions of dollars in funding for downstate early childhood education. He also served as Chairman for the Egyptian District – Greater St. Louis Area Boy Scouts of America.

Mr. Powell is a member of the Marion Chamber of Commerce and was nominated as one of their top Young Leaders under 40. Jason is a representative of the Illinois branch of the Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). As a representative, he received the Seven Seals Award for his volunteer and community development efforts.

Jason has been recognized with other awards including the 2020 Good Neighbor Award presented by WSIU of Carbondale, The Southern Illinoisian 2018 “Leaders Among Us”, and the 2019 Franklin County Alumni of the Year.

Jason truly enjoys serving the community. He spends time with displaced veterans at Haven House on Thursdays when he delivers their dinner provided by Heaven’s Kitchen. He stays very active in his niece’s and nephew’s lives and enjoys coaching their little league teams.

Jason is diligently working on something close to his heart. His nephew was diagnosed at age 9 with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. DIPG is a rare, inoperable brain tumor. With only four percent of cancer funding going to childhood cancer, Jason vowed to bring awareness to the need for funding for DIPG and other childhood cancers. Mr. Powell is championing numerous fundraisers to help bring awareness to his nephew’s battle.


~Nominated by Jason Covington

Sharon Teschendorf - Volunteer Spotlight (March 4, 2024)

Sharon volunteers her time to help do whatever she can to improve the end of our patients' lives. She and her LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Esther visit multiple patients and dedicate their time to the patients and their families". Esther Comfort Dog is part of Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry and has received extensive training to be calm and quiet so people can enjoy petting her. Sharon comments that she enjoys visiting patients with Esther Comfort Dog because many of them are happy to see the dog and greet her with a big smile, gentle pets, and sometimes even a kiss. She also has noticed that some of the patients struggle to carry on any type of conversation with her, but when they see Esther their words become clear and understandable and they say sweet things to Esther such as "You're a love bug, I love you and Pretty Girl". Other patients may recall their own dog's name while petting Esther and relay 

memories of their pet. Visits with Esther Comfort Dog are always fun because she allows the people we see to enjoy some time with a furry friend.


~Nominated by Emily Robbins

Bradley Ross Jackson - Volunteer Spotlight (February 8, 2024)

"Bradley Ross is the founder of the “B”radley “E”ncourages KINDness (‘B.’ ‘E.’ Kind) non-profit organization. The “B.” “E.” KIND organization proliferates kindness throughout schools and community organizations by encouraging everyone to eliminate bullying, racism, and discrimination—and to focus on love and kindness. Bradley Ross has received grants from Hershey’s, Hasbro Toy Company, and Amazon to support his excellent work.

Bradley Ross is President of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP Youth Council and President of the NAACP State of Illinois’ Youth and College Division. Bradley Ross is the youngest NAACP Image Award recipient, as broadcasted on BET and CBS. In February of 2023, Bradley Ross was invited to share the red carpet with Angela Bassett, Gabielle Union, Dwayne Wade, Attorney Ben Crump, and other Civil Rights Activist. Bradley Ross was acknowledged for his commitment to social and racial justice. Bradley Ross was selected 

as the 2022 NAACP Medgar Evers Recipient. His engagement activities run the gamut from education advocacy, voter empowerment, to climate and social justice to advocating for students who have suffered from racial bullying. Bradley Ross’ non-profit organization, “B”radley “E”ncourages KINDness has received service recognition from President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump—earning him a Gold Medal for community service. Bradley Ross’ work was recognized, as he received the 2023 Youth Global Citizen’s YICU Service Award.

Bradley Ross is a 2023 Disney Dreamer Alumni and was honored to spend a week at Disneyworld, engaging with leaders, thought partners, and peers. In March of 2023, Bradley Ross was acknowledged by Disney and was selected to provide the closing ceremonial speech.

Bradley Ross was honored to be the recipient of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated’s 2023 Aleksandr Pushkin Writing Competition, Scholastic Competition and Outstanding Leadership in Community Service Competition. Bradley Ross has served in many leadership roles with Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated.

Bradley Ross was selected as the 2022 American Heart Association Spokesperson and developed a three-minute Public Service Announcement to assist with reducing High Blood Pressure in under-served communities.

Bradley Ross is honored that he was the only African American student inducted into his school’s National Honor Society in 2022. Bradley Ross has won several gold medals from the Academic, Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) Program, Normal Community High School’s Speech Team, Operation PUSH, and 4-H Speech Competition. Bradley Ross has performed in numerous dramatic plays and musicals such as “A Raisin In The Sun”, “High School Musical”, “Willy Wonka” and “The Fell Family.”"

~Nominated by NAACP Youth Council

Tom Ryan - Volunteer Spotlight (January 10, 2024)

"A successful project needs many people to make it happen, but to be successful every project needs a leader – the one that will make sure that all of the pieces of the project fit together, funding is secured and people are attracted to the project because of its importance to the community, business or organization.

The Lake Sara Forever Foundation found that one person in Tom Ryan.

After an illustrious career with Ford Motor Company, Tom Ryan and his wife Pat, retired to Lake Sara 20+ years ago and quickly became integrated into the lake community. They not only became active lake residents but engaged in activities that were underway to improve the lake, not just for the enjoyment of residents and visitors, but to ensure that the lake would endure and offer enjoyment for many years to come.

In the early 2000s, Tom answered the call for concerned residents to work on the water quality of the lake caused by erosion from unprotected shorelines and joined the Erosion Control Committee. The committee worked with the Soil and Water Conservation District and obtained $350,000 in state, federal, and local grant programs to seed a rip rap 

program to control erosion in public areas of the lake, then worked with local residents to apply the same rip rap program on resident properties. This project alone has resulted in protected shorelines and improved water quality.

Tom was instrumental in creating a dynamic master plan to redevelop the public areas of the lake into a recreational park with amenities to please users of all ages. The first part of the project was to secure ownership of the area. Tom helped raise $150,000 to accomplish this goal in 2017.

He has successfully led the completion of Phase I of the project, an accessible playground for younger children and a disc golf course. The project was funded by a $400,000 Department of Natural Resources grant, matched with $742,000 of local contributions.

Tom has put countless hours into the project and worked with the necessary partners to get the job done. He has met with state and local agencies to keep the project front and center in obtaining needed funding as well as meeting all environmental and quality concerns. He has also led a local committee in working with contractors to successfully complete the first phase of the project and raise local matching funds. And, just as Phase I was completed, work began on the next phase of the project, which was completed in September 2023. Another $400,000 grant was received from the DNR and Tom assisted in obtaining the matching funds to complete the project ahead of schedule. Phase II of the project focuses on teen and adult activities, including pickleball courts, a beach volleyball court, a 1/4 mail walking trail, and two fitness areas.

Tom has not only spent countless hours in the work of the project but also has spent numerous hours on-site, talking to people and obtaining feedback on what people want to see as further development of the beach area continues to be a focal point for the development of the beach park area."

~Nominated by Norma Lansing & members of the Lake Sara Forever Parks & Recreation Committee