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Governor's Volunteer Service Awards - 2016

The following are recepients of the 2016 Governor's Volunteer Service Awards.

Southern Illinois Award Recipients

Anthnoy Wyatt - Adult - Murphysboro

Anthony Wyatt has been an active volunteer with Jackson County HealthDepartment since 1995. Tony serves as a Client Representative/Peer Navigator for the Southern Illinois Care Connect Program. Tony’s position is three-fold. He provides support and education for those living with HIV. He provides education to the community as a whole and specifically targets the youth population to reduce the transmission and increase the knowledge about HIV. Lastly, Tony serves on a variety of State-wide and local advisory boards, lending his expertise and advocacy surrounding the issues and policies regarding HIV. Not only does he possess true compassion and understanding, but he is also a realist; confronting the obvious issues of HIV with expectations of personal responsibility for those that he educates. Tony is innovative and unique, because he chooses to not let his HIV diagnosis debilitate him, but he uses it to educate others and to help them be self-sufficient.

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Tony empowers all those around him. Tony takes advantage of training opportunities to increase his knowledge and understanding of the disease. Tony is always thinking about the big picture when it comes to providing better education for our clients, and always striving to reach the goal of reducing transmission of HIV to the youth in our area.

Tony is a dedicated and committed volunteer. He is always smiling, and most importantly he walks the walk and talks the talk with integrity and grace.

Shanae Drummond - AmeriCorps Member - East St. Louis

Shanae Drummond has been a member of Operation AmeriCorps East St. Louis since September of 2015. During the day she serves at East Saint Louis Senior High School as a co-facilitator in the Leadership class for students with behavior challenges. Under her leadership students were able to plan and execute a service project where they were able to see the impact of community collaboration. After school Shanae serves at The Mary Brown Community Center tutoring and mentoring students and facilitating various group activities. As a veteran of the United States Navy Shane was searching for a place where she could lead and continue to make a difference. Shanae's goal is to build relationships with students through academic and behavioral support, with the hope that they will have better opportunities available to them. "Our students in this community have placed limits on themselves and do not fully realize how their current actions dictate their future lives. If each student understood that they hold the key to their own futures, that no one can stop them except THEM, I believe they would begin to thrive!" Serving with Operation AmeriCorps has been a life changing and eye opening experience for Shanae. Shane has volunteered to be a part of the Serve Illinois Disaster Corps and plans to pursue a career in secondary education at Harris Stowe State University in the Fall of 2016.

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Dynegy - Business - Collinsbille

Dynegy is a committed leader in the electricity sector. With nearly 26,000 megawatts of power generation capacity and two retail electricity providers, Dynegy is capable of supplying 21 million homes with safe, reliable and economic energy. East Side Aligned, is a collective impact effort designed to align policy, practice, and investment across sectors to improve outcomes for young people within the Greater East Saint Louis areas. When the call went out Dynegy stepped up to join the initiative and has provided immeasurable volunteer leadership across an array of areas. One of those is East Side Aligned’s Pathways Action Team, which is focused on ensuring young people have access to and are prepared for post-secondary education and work in order to one day be self-sufficient and thriving. Dynegy employees have volunteered in various areas of the project. They have facilitated community forums, served on governing committees, and have been working to improve public safety and generate economic activity. Dynegy’s efforts have led to increased financial investment, the creation of work based learning for East St. Louis High School students, and increasing community involvement and resources. The true impact of East Side Aligned will show over time, but thanks to Dynegy’s efforts the potential impact for the days ahead are much greater.

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Jane Perr - Senior - West Frankfort

Jane Perr is a trained and active American Red Cross client caseworker. She travels throughout Southern Illinois assisting families that have been displaced by home fires and other disasters, and has provided immediate financial assistance to countless families. Jane's willingness to respond at moment's notice ensures families will have a safe place to begin building their recovery plans. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the number of home fires across Central and Southern Illinois but Jane responds with dedication and attention to client need. Jane recently responded to 4 home fires in 10 days. She continuously encourages new volunteers to respond with her. She is known by her passionate desire to build capacity in client casework and disaster response. Jane is a focused but flexible volunteer and has successfully utilized technology to submit completed casework to the American Red Cross. Jane is also an active member and volunteer of the St. Paul Lutheran Church in West Frankfort, IL. Although she is retired, she also works as a substitute teacher.

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Esther Walker - Senior Corps Flora

Esther was born and raised in Clay County Illinois. She currently resides in Flora with her husband Pete Walker. Ester has three children, four step-children, 16 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandson. Esther enjoys reading and doing volunteer work. Esther has been a volunteer and board member of the Clay County Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry for 16 years and does the majority of her volunteer work there. Esther also attends the First Christian Church of Flora where she helps with funeral dinners and outreach ministries. Esther has received the following awards/recognition: 2007 C.E.F.S. Economic Opportunity Corporation Outstanding Volunteer Award, 2007 Special Recognition Award from the Flora Chamber of Commerce, 2012-2013 Clay County 4-H Alumni of the Year Award, and 2014 Flora Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award.

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Shane Douglas - Senior Corps - Waterloo

Shane Douglas is a junior at Waterloo High School. He became involved in scouting when he was in second grade. In August of 2014 he began working on his Eagle Scout project which was placing a marker on the graves of the 99 American Civil War Veterans buried in the cemeteries located in the city of Waterloo. During the project he led a group of 15 individuals who amassed nearly 550 hours of volunteer time combined. The final markers were placed on the graves of a Union and a Confederate soldier during a ceremony on April 9, 2015 the 150th anniversary of Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox. The media attention given to Shane’s project sparked attention from individuals as far away as New York State who had viewed it online. Shane has also been recognized by the Waterloo Veterans of Foreign Wars for volunteering over 300 hours to their organization. Shane is his class treasurer, is active in FFA, and was recently inducted into the National Honor Society. Upon graduation from high school Shane plans to attend college and pursue a degree in an agriculture related field.

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East Central Illinois Award Recipients

Jamie Waldhoff - Adult - Effingham

Jamie Waldhoff was born in Effingham and graduated from Effingham High in 1994. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1999 with a bachelor of science in Administrative Information Systems. Jamie began her working career with State Farm Insurance as a claim processor. Later, she worked for the State University Retirement System as a benefits analyst. Jamie also worked at Illinois State in the travel accounting department. Currently, she is a substitute teacher at Fresh Start Learning Center in Effingham. Jamie and her husband, Brad Waldhoff have been married for eighteen years. They have two sons—Austin, 14 and Miles, 7. Besides her leadership role in Blessings in a Back Pack, she and her family are active in their church—Christ’s Church in 2014, through the selection process of the Effingham Daily News and the Effingham Chamber of Commerce, Jamie was recognized as being one of the top twenty individuals under forty in Effingham County. Jamie led the charge to fight hunger in Effingham and sought out to find a solution. She contacted the National Blessings in a backpack office and learned how to get the program started in her area. Jamie wasted no time mobilizing teachers, parents, community members, and friends into a network of volunteers and supporters responsible for fundraising, purchasing food, and packing and distributing backpacks weekly. In the fall of 2013 the program began, feeding 130 students in three schools. Jamie has utilized the support of local businesses and community organizations to strengthen the program. Now it is in its third year of operation. Currently 391 students are being served weekly at eight schools, and plans to begin a preschool program are underway. The Effingham Blessings in a Backpack has now transcended into a chapter model with its continuous growth. Thanks to Jamie’s commitment the program is committed to ensuring hunger free weekend’s to every child in need.

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Ben Mullison - AmeriCorps - Decatur

Ben Mullison graduated from Knox College in 2010 where he studied Philosophy and Political Science. He then went on to receive his JD from the University of Illinois in 2013.Before serving with Illinois JusticeCorps, Ben completed a year-long fellowship with the Champaign County State's Attorney's Office. He also spent time as an intern with the State's Attorney's Office in McLean County and the Carbondale office of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance. Ben began offering legal aide services for Knox County as a Fellow to provide legal information to those unable to afford it in 2014. Of his time with JusticeCorps, Ben remarked: "Being a JusticeCorps Fellow meant being in the position to help people that no one else was going to help... When I took the position I had expected it to be a useful but thankless task, however on this latter count I have been consistently and delightfully wrong. I have never felt more warmly appreciated than when I was serving as a JusticeCorps Fellow, both by the court patrons and the supportive Knox County Circuit Clerk's Office." Ben is currently an associate at the law firm of Heavner, Beyers & Mihlar LLC. Before ending his service with IL JusticeCorps Ben spent almost two months training his successor at Knox County. His goal was to ensure the program would continue to be sustainable. Ben lives in Decatur with his wife Chrissy, who fights crime, and his dog, Zim, who does not.

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Deb’s Catering - Business = Altamont

Deb and Alvin Schultz are the owners and operators of Deb’s Catering, Schultz’s Dairy Bar and most recently Deb’s Vending. Deb and Alvin reside in the community of Altamont and have been serving up food through their businesses for the past 28 years. They are the parents of three children: Steve, Kevin and Tiffany who are also involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. The Schultz’s are committed to giving back to their community and have used their talents to benefit many people and organizations. Deb’s catering was nominated for their commitment to veterans. On Veterans Day Debs’ catering began offering free meals to veterans in their restaurant. The first year the event exceeded their expectations of space. Deb and Alvin didn’t let that stop their plans to honor the vets in the community. They now have formed a partnership with the local banquet hall that accommodates handicap accessibility and large turnouts. Each year employees and community members volunteer at the event to give veterans a great meal and offer their gratitude. The Schultz’s have committed to offering the Veterans Day meal annually for as long as they are able.

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Ed Hohenstein - Senior - Springfield

Ed Hohenstein was born and raised in Springfield, where he graduated from Springfield High. Ed received a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from Western Illinois University in 1972. That same year, he sat for and passed the examination to become a CPA. For the next twenty years he worked as a C.P.A. and was on the Board of Directors of the Breakfast Sertoma Club, Attention Homes for Youth, Inc., United Way of Sangamon County, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Sangamo Club. He also held leadership roles in these organizations ranging from treasurer to president. In 1992, Ed became the Chief Financial Officer of Levi, Ray and Shoup, Inc. (LRS). He was subsequently promoted to Chief Operating Officer, an office he held until his retirement in 2011. Due to extensive traveling with his job at LRS, he was prevented from actively participating in any volunteer organizations. Upon retirement he changed that, Ed and his wife organized a fundraiser in their home for Toys for Tots and raised over $47,000, that still helps pay the organization’s operating expenses. He also took over a wheelchair ramp construction program at his church that was in danger of ending and developed a transferable ramp construction design. This program was transferred to the local Habitat for Humanity and continues to thrive. Ed had always talked about building low income houses after his retirement and Habitat for Humanity was a perfect fit. He started volunteering and soon became involved in fund raising, project coordination, and more. He has had leadership roles including treasurer, board member, and president. He was instrumental in securing the new location for the Habitat Restore, where he volunteered to be the construction coordinator for the remodeling of the new location.

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Mary Yokem - Senior Corps - Springfield

Mary Yokem was born in Springfield where she graduated from Fietshans High School. Currently Mary volunteers at Enos Elementary as a foster Grandparent for a third grade class. Mary’s presence in the classroom gives students one on one attention that better re-enforces the understanding of the days lesson. She is currently working with five students two to three times a week. The students Mary is assigned to work with fall into the exceptional or special needs categories. With Mary’s positive encouragement the students try harder on assignments and with a better understanding of the material their behavior improves. 100% of the students Mary works with have had positive gains in their social and emotional goals. Mary is known to be creative with turning difficult tasks into games. She uses a strength based approach to encourage her students, and is by far the best cheerleader anyone could imagine. Mary says her three favorite subjects are History, Science, and Mathematics, and that the Foster Grandparent Program has had an immeasurable impact on her. She says the program has enhanced her self-esteem, her mental ability to think fast on her feet, and remain physically active. She ensures it is a small price to pay that she is running out of room on her refrigerator for all the letters and cards she receives from students, teachers, and parents!

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Her role as a Foster Grandparent has encouraged her to take an active role in recruiting other volunteers to the program, and mentoring them for success. Thanks to Mary’s efforts the Foster Grandparent program has been able to place 8 volunteers at the school Mary serves. Mary has been a Foster Grandparent for six years and plans to continue as long as she possibly can.

Diamond Jackson - Youth - Springfield

Diamond Jackson is the daughter of Billy and Iola Jackson of Springfield. Diamond Jackson is a senior at Springfield Southeast High School. She is a mentor with Big Brother, Big Sister of Sangamon County, she volunteers at the Central Illinois Food Bank, and is actively involved in 4-H. In addition to her work with these organizations, Diamond serves as the Student Representative to the Springfield Public Schools Board of Education, with which she attends bi-monthly Board of Education meetings, keeping elected members of the Board appraised of student concerns and activities. Her duties with this position have also included leading the Superintendent's Student Roundtable. This group of students represents the district's three high schools in activities designed to promote unity between the schools and within the community. Diamond led the group's very first Unity Day event, which brought together approximately 150 students from Springfield's public and parochial schools to network and build relationships across the city. Diamond Jackson plans to attend Purdue University in the fall of 2016 where she will major in Pre-Dentistry.

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West Central Illinois Award Recipients

Anthony Allen - Adult - Peoria

Husband to Karla, and Father of AJ and Olivia, Anthony Allen, or Tony as his friend’s call him, has been protecting and serving his community as a Peoria police officer for the last 17 years. Anthony serves as a nuisance abatement officer and on the special response team. A longtime resident of Peoria, Anthony graduated from Manual High School and Illinois State University. Anthony has volunteered for the past seven years for various community athletics programs, Boy Scouts, Heritage Days Festivals, Fish Fries, Counseling, BINGO, and at Mass for the Holy Family School and Parish. Anthony has been a committed coach for the Peoria Notre Dame Youth Baseball for 5 years, soccer coach, Cub Scout Master at Holy Family for 2 years, and serves on the Holy Family Parish Council. Tony has become more than just a police officer in his community; he has become a mentor.

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Throughout his career, Tony has made it a goal to dispel the myth that police officers are bad news. He wants youth to see the positive side of them, particularly their role as volunteers helping with school activities that they enjoy. This is why Tony, in his free time, supervises camping trips, runs the pinewood derby, utilizes Boy Scouts in the fish fries and cooks at the local Santa Breakfast. When a student breaks school rules or public laws, Tony sits down and speaks to them of the consequences of their actions. Tony has been an asset to his community and we hope he will continue to be a visible member of his community.

Abby Hilsabeck - AmeriCorps - Jacksonville

Abby Hilsabeck is from Jacksonville. She is a 2008 graduate of Jacksonville High School. She worked for City Year AmeriCorps in Greater Philadelphia from 2011-2012. In 2014 she graduated from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a degree in Anthropology and a focus in Linguistics and a minor in Art History. At SIUC she received the Outstanding Senior in Anthropology award. In 2015 she accepted the AmeriCorps Vista position at Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois. In the six plus months Abby has been serving she has been the lead for fundraising, recruiting volunteers, and enrolling youth to the program. She makes sure to respond to every inquiry, and tries to ensure each child is matched with the perfect volunteer. Abby has brought passion and energy to Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois and they are so thankful for her service. Abby would like to continue work in the nonprofit sector, specifically working with women and children in underrepresented communities. In her free time she enjoys painting, reading and traveling.

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Mount Sterling IGA - Business - Mount Sterling

Steve Kremer is the owner/operator of the Mt. Sterling IGA. Steve and his wife Dena have three children Derek, Kyle and Meg. Steve is a Director of the Brown County Fair, he volunteers with the Brown County Food Basket – a local food pantry, is active with the Mt. Sterling Park District and the Brown County High School Booster Club. Steve recognizes the importance of locally owned businesses and the role businesses play in strengthening the community through volunteer service. Steve encourages his employees to be involved with community efforts and his store supports many school activities and non-profit organizations. Each week the Mt. Sterling IGA works with Brown County RSVP, a Senior Corps program, to meet a critical need in the Mt. Sterling Community. Together they coordinate the Carry-Out Caravan Program – a grocery shopping program for senior citizens and others unable to physically go to the grocery store. In addition, Steve and his store work with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to hold an annual “Drug Take Back” program and he offers the store’s lobby to community organizations as a location for bake sales and other fundraisers.

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Stephen Lakin - Senior Murrayville

Stephen is a lifelong resident of Murrayville. Stephen attended Jacksonville High School, and Canton Jr. College. He has been married to his wife Mary Jo for 47 years, and has two children a daughter Kim, a son Scott, and 5 grandchildren. Stephen served 4 years in the Navy as an officer in a US Naval Hospital, he later returned home to help his father in the meat processing business for 20 years, and worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation for 24 years. He retired in 2007 and has volunteered and held positions and offices for numerous local groups including the Murrayville City trustee, Murrayville American Legion, the Order of Masonic Lodge, Murrayville United Methodist Church Board, the Murrayville Lions Club, and the Murrayville Fire Dept. In 1984, Stephen and then pastor of the Murrayville United Methodist church, Bill Lipp, established the Murrayville-Woodson Emergency Ambulance Service and began conducting emergency medical training classes for volunteers. After starting with nothing but an idea, with Stephen's and Bill's leadership and the help and support of hundreds of businesses and volunteers, the Murrayville-Woodson Emergency Ambulance Service began responding to emergency medical calls in southwest Morgan County in 1986. After 31 years of volunteering as a responder and the president of the Murrayville Woodson-EAS, Stephen retired from active duty in 2015, but continues to serve as a member on the board of directors.

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Jo Ellen Dollinger - Senior Corps - Monmouth

In 2015, Jo Ellen gave 639 hours of volunteer service to more than 10 community organizations. She is very involved in community issues. She is most active in her church, at Jamieson Community Center, 1st Street Armory’s Backpack program, and the Warren County Historical Museum. Jo Ellen’s motivation is to quietly use her talents to make a difference in the lives of others and she is always willing to give her time whenever she is needed. She serves as a mentor to young people through her work ethic, caring nature and love of giving back to her community. Last year, on her own initiative, she researched and put together a list of all local food pantries and distributed the list to make the information available to those in need of food. Jo Ellen uses her extensive retail experience to help with operation of the Jamieson Community Center Thrift Store, improving merchandising and customer service. She mentors community service workers, who come to the Thrift Store through DHS and Probation Offices, taking the time to get to know them and encouraging them in their work efforts.

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Kellon Oldenettel - Youth Jacksonville

Kellon is the youngest youth volunteer in the history of the Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards. He is just seven year's old and the son of Mike and Lori Oldenettel. He has three brothers Parker, Nash and Beckham. Kellon is in the first grade at Salem Lutheran School in Jacksonville. He enjoys soccer, playing the piano, exchanging Pokeman cards with his friends and playing math games on the computer. He is known throughout his community for starting Kellon's Sock Drawer and inspiring others to make their mark on the world. Kellon says it best, "It doesn't matter how old you are, YOU can always make a difference!" Since the age of five he has collected over 5,700 pair of socks and distributed them to the Salvation Army, New Direction Warming & Cooling Shelter, area schools, nursing homes, public housing, hospitals and other locations where needs have been identified. He has received the Mayors' Student Volunteer Service Award and President's Volunteers Service Award for the past two years and was the recipient of the Hasbro Community Acton Hero Award in 2014.

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Northwest Illinois Award Recipients

Christina De Voney - Adult - Dixon

Christiana De ​Voney serves at Lee County Health Department in Dixon, where She has been charged with growing the Lee County Volunteer Corps and considers it a privilege to work alongside such dedicated volunteers, who care about their community as much as she does. Since her placement in August she has increased training opportunities for volunteers, improved communication within the group, raised community awareness, and has set the goal of continuous program improvement.

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Before her volunteer work she worked for 15 years developing programs for Lutheran Community Services Northwest in Port Angeles, Washington. She credits her creative enthusiasm for program development, to the teachings of her mentor Nancy Martin who taught her that work must have belief and purpose behind it.

Christiana considers her children and grandchildren her greatest success in life and in jest refers to them as her “empire”.

She looks forward to another year of service with Lee County Health Department.

Haley Thomas - AmeriCorps - Mount Morris

Haley is from Stillman Valley. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2015. She recently married her Husband Todd and resides in Byron. Haley has been in the Wisconsin National Guard for over 4 years as a Human Resource Specialist, and currently serves at Ogle County Health Department as an AmeriCorps Member focusing on Emergency Preparedness. During her service with Ogle County Health Department Haley has undertaken the task of updating the Emergency Management Resource Binder for the Ogle county Emergency Management agency. The binder which hadn’t been updated since the 1980’s is now current and also in electronic format. Haley has shown persistence and creativity in updating the maps to specific areas and has conducted research that is not always easily accessible. In April of 2015, a tornado event happened in Ogle County and delays were caused due to an outdated manual. Because of Haley’s efforts emergency personnel are now prepared and able to better serve the community in case of disaster.

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Deere and Company - Business - Moline

Deere & Company is a world leader in providing advanced products and services and is committed to the success of customers whose work is linked to the land. In 2012, John Deere introduced its global volunteerism initiative, in which employees are encouraged to take paid time off and share their talents with their communities. In 2015, John Deere employees recorded nearly 105,000 volunteer hours, largely in the company’s focus areas of solutions for world hunger, education, and community development.

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Deere & Company volunteers have been instrumental to the Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging and their Senior Corps RSVP program in a variety of ways, from data base entry, to introducing them to social media, helping RSVP to develop a successful social media campaign, and being a part of United Way’s day of Caring events. Their efforts don’t end there, in fact that is just a small sliver of what Deere & Company employees have contributed throughout the Quad City area. Deere employees volunteer on an ongoing basis and are heavily represented on United Way community investment teams, and working with children throughout the area.

One recent Deere Initiative known as John Deere Inspire has allowed their employees to volunteer in classrooms and youth programs. Their goal is to inspire the next generation of innovators through K-12 education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics also known as STEM. The John Deere Inspire initiative has had a great impact locally and globally. Inspire has been implemented in 16 John Deere Home Communities in three countries. Inspire reached over 20,000 youth in 2015.

Emma Hoke - Senior - Milan

For 46 years Emma Hoke has participated as a volunteer for the 4-H youth development program in Rock Island County and before that as a ten year 4-H member. Her special contribution has been leading the 4-H Handy Buds special needs group. The group gives special needs people of all ages a place to socialize, make crafts, learn about nutrition, and make a snack. She has brought together special needs group homes to join her 4-H group. The group homes have a limited budget, and this gives them an activity that is affordable for the residents. The Handy Buds group has existed for 36 years. For the past several years, the group has 25-30 people who attend each month. Emma plans and coordinates each meeting, sets up the meeting room to accommodate wheel chairs, works with Extension staff to determine the snack and helps to lead the activities during the meetings. Her enthusiasm is endless and her contributions have lifted many people who needed a great day for themselves. With her leadership and service she has received the Friend of 4-H award, Handy Bud Volunteer award, Lois Mitchell award and Outstanding Lifetime 4-H Volunteer award.

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Richard Burroughs - Senior Corps - Moline

Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, Rich Burroughs grew up in a neighborhood where he learned early in life about hardship and struggles. This helped him to realize the importance of giving back. Rich has been married to his wife Chris for 27 years. He worked for over 30 years at ALCOA as a Union Committeeman, and safety rep. He was a member of the AFL-CIO Union Counselor program. In 1980, Rich was involved in a molten metal explosion, but was able return to work 18 month later. Rich joined the American Red Cross as a volunteer in October of 1997, and became a full-time Red Cross volunteer in 2003. He has worn many hats at the Red Cross including Disaster Client Casework Supervisor and Fleet Assistant Manager. Rich also handles building maintenance and his culinary skills make him the favorite chef. Rich has been on national deployments with the Red Cross including Hurricane Floyd, World Trade Center and California wildfires. In 2007, Rich was diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer, which slowed him down a bit, but has not hampered his caring and giving spirit. In 2012 Rich became a volunteer with RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program), volunteering over 10,000 hours resulting in $1,700 in matching funds to RSVP. He's instrumental in organizing the Volunteer Reception Center training and drills. Over the past 40 years, Rich has been involved with United Way, Lions and Kiwanis. On his desk is a paperweight with one of his favorite quotes, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." Rich exemplifies that spirit of giving every day by helping others.

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Saneha Kaur Borisuth - Youth - Moline

Saneha Borisuth is a junior at Moline High School and the founder and President of Moline Sports Unlimited. Which is club that pairs special needs students with student athletes to develop friendships and increase student involvement through non-competitive activities. Sports Unlimited has over 100 student members including 20 students with learning disabilities. The club meets on a weekly basis to discuss bridge building activities that would benefit the student body. The monthly activities organized by Sports Unlimited have included an indoor obstacle course, carnival games, volleyball, Zumba, tennis, a Halloween dance, and an end of year dance. Most recently, Sports Unlimited partnered with a local grocery store to collect bags and school supplies to send to Syria through an organization called Syrian Orphans Organization. The goal of Sports Unlimited is to empower the student body to interact in ways that contradict stereotypes, by compelling students to partner with peers they wouldn’t otherwise associate with; Sports Unlimited helps to break down the natural instinct of kids to separate themselves into cliques. Saneha has volunteered over 250 hours of her time with Sports Unlimited and other regional community programs including the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra, the youth philanthropic organization Teens for Tomorrow, and the Special Olympics Polar Plunge. In addition to volunteering, Saneha is involved in varsity tennis and is an editor of her high school newspaper.

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Northeast Illinois Award Recipients

Kaite O’Brien - Adult - Chicago

Born in Chicago and raised in South Bend, Indiana, Kaite is currently a practicing attorney and research assistant in a psychology lab at DePaul University. Kaite graduated from Colgate University in 2006, majoring in Art & Art History. She then moved to Chicago to attend law school at DePaul University, where she graduated in 2009 with a J.D. Kaite started volunteering for Rape Victims Advocates in July 2011, first as a volunteer medical advocate and rape crisis counselor in the ER, then with Education & Training visiting schools to teach sexual assault awareness and other prevention programming. Given her exemplary performance, in 2013 Kaite was promoted to the role of volunteer shift supervisor. Through this position Kaite takes 60-hour on-call shifts in which she is responsible for fielding all hospital pages, dispatching advocates and providing technical and emotional support to the advocate who is working directly with the client. This role requires a great level of knowledge and supervisory skills. Kaite is also the Chair of the Volunteer Committee and was RVA’s Education & Training “Volunteer of the Year” in 2013. From her work with RVA and her time as a law clerk for the State’s Attorney’s Office and as a criminal defense attorney, Kaite realized her strengths and passion are helping individuals going through traumatic experiences, and she is currently working towards a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

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In addition to RVA, Kaite volunteers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s 7th floor waiting room for families of transplant and cardiothoracic surgery patients, where she keeps members of the surgery team and the family in communication, answers questions, and provides support for individuals whose loved one is in surgery. Kaite currently resides in Chicago with her dog Gus Gus, a yellow lab named after the mouse in Cinderella.

Shelbi Ball - AmeriCorps - Geneva

Shelbi is an AmeriCorps Vista at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Her roles at the food bank are Community Garden Coordinator and Poverty Simulation Coordinator. Shelbi has been tasked with the development of the “Client Centered Community Gardens Model”. This model addresses the issues of volunteer support, increasing visibility in the community, educating and promoting leadership, ownership, and accountability of the community garden. Shelbi is an alumnus from Loyola University Chicago where she received her M.A. in Public Health and North Park University where she received a B.A. in Biology. Shelbi has used her biology and public health background to design the Garden Connect program for the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which provides the materials and education for food pantry clients to grow their own fresh produce to help fight hunger. Shelbi currently resides in Grayslake, Illinois and plans to return to school next year to receive a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.

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DuPage Medical Group - Business - DuPage

With more than 490 physicians practicing across 60 locations, DuPage Medical Group (DMG) is the largest, independent, multi-specialty physician group in the suburban Chicago area. In 2010, the physicians formed the DMG Charitable Fund as a means of magnifying the impact of giving back to the community. To date, the DMG Charitable Fund has granted more than $1 million to community partners. DMG also participates in a weekly food drive across 35 of its locations as well as other in-kind donation programs throughout the year, such as a toy drive during the holidays. Most importantly, the DMG Charitable Fund provides physicians and employees the opportunity to engage in community service through volunteer activities and offer hands-on support for community-based initiatives. The DMG Kids Care program provides opportunities for families to serve together and to teach children about the importance of philanthropy. Whether giving the gift of time, talent or treasure, the DMG Charitable Fund works strategically to engage with local non-profits to promote community health and wellness.

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Ronald Grais - Senior - Chicago

As Pro Bono Director at Sugar, Felsenthal Grais & Hammer, LLP, Ronald provides legal services to multiple non-profit organizations, and oversees pro bono activities. Since 2014, Ronald has focused his efforts on improving the lives of persons suffering from serious mental illness. He has introduced smartphone technology to community behavioral health organizations, led efforts at jail diversion, and developed innovations in creation of permanent supportive housing. Ronald continues his practice of real estate law in Chicago of more than 40 years, and as developer of affordable housing with a particular interest in the development of affordable and supportive housing. He has also worked, written and lectured extensively on Green Real Estate Development with particular emphasis of Green Leasing. Ronald was trained in Mediation at Northwestern and the Center for Conflict Resolution and has served on the Circuit Court, as a construction dispute mediator, and on several non-profit boards. In addition to Thresholds, Ronald currently serve as a director and vice chair of The Chicago High School for the Arts (“ChiArts.”), the sole City public contract high school providing both academic and pre -professional arts education. Unfortunately Ronald is unable to be here with us today, but we thank him for his service.

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Bennie Mae Gavin - Senior Corps - Joliet

Bennie Mae Gavin, 91 years old, was born in Bay Springs, Mississippi. Bennie has been living in Illinois for about 70 years now. Bennie is one out of 8 siblings, 3 girls and 5 boys, and is the only one still living of her siblings. Bennie also has 5 sons and 2 daughters, and has also raised 2 grandkids. Bennie’s hobbies are sewing and cooking. She still cooks every day and enjoys every minute of it. She also enjoys going out to restaurants and to the movie theatre. Bennie has worked for Louis Joliet Hotel as a Cook, worked for Eliza Kelly School as a Food Aide, was a House Wife and used to baby sit all the neighborhood kids. Bennie’s daughter Carol used to work for Catholic Charities, who then referred her to the Foster Grandparent Program. Bennie started as a Foster Grandparent in 1989 and is still volunteering at the present time. Bennie loves and enjoys the program so much and is very dedicated to it. Even on a very snowy day, she will not miss a day at school. Her daughter would tell her not to go to school on certain days, due to bad weather, illness, etc., but Bennie would argue and say she is going as long as she can get there. She would say they need her at school. Bennie looks forward to each day and is happy to be in good health to be able to keep volunteering for the Foster Grandparent Program.

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K’Von Jackson - Youth - Chicago

K’Von is 15 years old and currently a freshman at Lincoln Park High School. He lives on the North side of Chicago with his parents Tyrone Jackson and Tracey Gibson-Jackson and his 18 year old brother David. K’Von has a fierce passion for serving the community. Over the last two years he has volunteered over 200 hours at various organizations in and around his community. On August 31, 2015, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout, which less than 4% of boys in the scouting program earn. The non-profit organization Blessings in a Backpack was the beneficiary of K’Von’s Eagle Scout project. He collected food items from local businesses in his community and coordinated food drives at six different locations across the Chicagoland area. His original goal to feed 90 children at St. Malachy School was surpassed and he was able to collect enough food to feed all 250 students at the school. He even had enough food left over to donate to a local food pantry. On Saturday, March 19, 2016, K’Von received the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the year award. This award recognizes the valuable service by Scouts to a religious institution, a school, community, or other entity through the Eagle Scout leadership service project. K’Von spends his weekends working in a youth apprenticeship program at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and coding and building robots with the Surging Currents electronics club. K’Von is looking forward to studying science and or engineering in the future.

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