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Governor's Volunteer Service Awards - 2019

​​​​​​​​The following are recepients of the 2019 Governor's Volunteer Service Awards.

East Central Award Recipients

Adult: Ryan Scritchlow - Bloomington For service to: Habitat for Humanity

Ryan Scritchlow believes that home ownership is key to strengthening families. This is evidenced through 16 years of volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. Ryan will celebrate working on his 100th Habitat home in 2019! Ryan volunteers his time and talent to make an impact on his community: at one local school he voluntarily built an outdoor classroom and at another built a “Pathway to Inclusion” for children with limited mobility. Ryan utilizes knowledge gained from owning his own businesses in his volunteer work. His business, Scritchlow Enterprises, provides him with critical knowledge and skill sets to serve on Habitat for Humanity’s Board and Construction Committee. In 2017, Ryan was appointed to McLean County Board representing District 7 after serving 5 years on the Bloomington Planning Commission. He currently serves on Child Protection Network’s Board and University High School Alumni Board. Ryan is married to Carrie with 3 children: Nolan (5), Jeffrey (3), and Hannah (1).

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AmeriCorps: Carlos Ortega - Mattoon For service to: Mattoon in Motion

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After serving in the Peace Corps for four years, one year in Kenya and three years in Namibia, Carlos Ortega is currently a Peace Corps Fellow at Western Illinois University, pursuing a Masters in Public Administration/Public Policy. He is serving as a full-time AmeriCorps member in the city of Mattoon, Illinois, working on community and economic development with the organization Mattoon in Motion. He is presently helping with the development of a Business Innovation Center that will serve as a hub in the region to provide vital resources for startups and new businesses. He continues to serve people wherever he is while striving to do the most with the resources available in the area.

Business: Horace Mann – Springfield For service to: Springfield Public Schools

Horace Mann, a publicly-traded company based in Springfield and Founded by Educators for Educators more than 70 years ago, offers much more than insurance and financial services to educators. The company and its employees generously support the communities in which they live and work. Whether it’s the annual United Way of Central Illinois campaign, Stuff the Bus school supply drive, volunteering to read and mentor students in local schools, or with their annual Food Drive, Horace Mann is committed to helping the educational community. The company recognizes and supports educators with its Educator and Administrator of the Year awards, through its partnership with, and local programs customized for each school. Regardless of the need, Horace Mann and its employees generously give their time, talents and treasures to truly make a difference.

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Senior: Diane Wilhite – Champaign For service to: Grand Prairie Friends

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Diane Wilhite, a long-time resident of central Illinois, found it easy to retire from computer consulting and move into volunteer work using her skills in a different way. She and her husband completed the UI Extension Master Naturalist program in 2009 and became active volunteers with a variety of conservation partners. She was particularly drawn to Grand Prairie Friends, a land trust and conservation group that protects 1000+ acres of prairies and woodlands. Diane is now the Volunteer Coordinator for Grand Prairie Friends, organizing teams for fund-raising events, outreach to the community, and land stewardship tasks. Volunteers are a critical resource for land preservation. She also established an ongoing volunteer leadership team, the Champion Stewards, with responsibilities beyond land management so that the volunteer network is sustainable. When Grand Prairie Friends doesn’t need her, she volunteers at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Humane Society.

Senior: Susan Elke – Effingham For service to: FISH Human Services

Susan Elke and late husband Ralph moved to Effingham in June 1992 and began volunteering in the community a few months later. Susan has been a long-time member of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and has given well over 14,500 hours of service to area non-profits during her time with RSVP. Susan started her volunteer service by delivering Meals on Wheels and driving individuals to medical appointments through the FISH organization. Through her contact with the clients, she noticed many of them did not have family close by and Thanksgiving in particular was a lonely time. Susan organized a Community Thanksgiving Dinner available to anyone in Effingham County and also recruited volunteers to deliver meals to the home-bound. In addition, Susan also helps with the FISH Christmas Store, the Community Christmas Dinner and organizes a school supply drive each summer to provide underprivileged youth with school supplies. Susan is currently Co-President of the FISH organization, is the Secretary/Treasurer on the Midland Area Agency on Aging Board, Treasure for NAMI of Southern IL, and President of the RSVP Advisory Council.

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Youth: Elizabeth Ann Weidner – Dieterich For service to: University of Illinois Extension Effingham County

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Elizabeth Weidner, a freshman at Teutopolis High School, is the proud daughter of Matthew & Jennifer Weidner, and sister to Ethan, Eric and Evan. She has been involved with 4-H for six years and held a variety of leadership positions. Elizabeth was the first member in Illinois to use technology for judging her projects at the County/State level due to cancer. Most recently, she completed the training “Speaking for Illinois 4-H” as an ambassador for the program while in treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Despite her disease, Elizabeth has taken leadership skills gained in 4-H projects such as citizenship, communications, leadership and health to advocate at the local/state/federal levels! One project she designed this past year donated an estimated 50,000 (personal care/food/drink) items to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in St. Louis for families’ use. Her platform “Crowns Fight Cancer” was formed as a direct result of the skills gained through the 4-H program, community groups she’s belonged to, and her titles/awards with the county fair, Miss America and American Cancer Society Beauty of Hope pageants. Ms. Weidner is involved with the national docu-series titled “The Promise” about the truth behind childhood cancer. She continues to inspire, motivate, and advocate for those affected by the disease. “She’s Just a Girl Changing the World, One Rhinestone at a Time.”

Northeast Award Recipients

Adult: Terri O'Neill Borders – Lemont For service to: Lemont Township/Village of Lemont

Terri O’Neill-Borders settled in Lemont in 1994. She immediately began volunteering at two churches and schools while managing her own company as well as coaching youth sports. After the passing of her father, Martin J. O’Neill Sr. in 2005, Terri founded Hope and Friendship Foundation. Her goal was to become a conduit of assistance from those who can help to those that need help in her community. Hope and Friendship Foundation now has outreach events throughout the year for anyone in need. Terri created two arms of Hope and Friendship: Team Compassion which helps to those battling cancer by offering financial, emotional and physical support to those in the battle; and (not)INVINCIBLE which focuses on addiction, depression, and other related issues for the youth of Lemont. Terri became the Lemont Police Chaplain in 2007, assisting officers and community members at any hour. She has worked at the Village of Lemont and has held the position of Community Services with Lemont Township since 2010, also assisting needs in the community with her “day job”.

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AmeriCorps: Alfreda Baran – Chicago For service to: Illinois JusticeCorps/Will County Self-Help Legal Center

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Alfreda Baran is Chicago born and raised. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois - Chicago, a master’s from Chicago State University and recently an MBA from St. Xavier University. A paralegal certificate from Roosevelt University, plus many years working as a Department of Justice paralegal and in other positions, have helped with her Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow position. Alfreda and her husband have four grown children, one grandchild, and have had numerous cats. Alfreda’s parents taught the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community. In fact, Alfreda’s sister is still involved in an organization for people with limited sight their parents help found over 30 years ago. Alfreda enjoys helping people understand legal procedures and providing legal information. Alfreda mentors volunteers and interns at the Legal Self-Help Center and is grateful to the courthouse, library, and Illinois JusticeCorps staff, for their nurturing these past two years.

Business: West Monroe Partners – Chicago For service to: CommunityHealth

West Monroe Partners, a national business and technology consultancy, is a long-time partner of CommunityHealth. Over the past decade, the firm has supported CommunityHealth by helping to create a reliable technology infrastructure, thereby allowing their team to do what they do best—provide high-quality care to those in need. West Monroe’s corporate social responsibility program is known as the 1+1+1 Program. Each year, the firm sets a goal to donate one percent of its time via volunteering, one percent of its talent via pro-bono work, and one percent of its treasure (profits) via charitable donations. The partnership with CommunityHealth highlights their commitment to serving their hometown of Chicago. The needs of Chicago communities are complex and they are proud to partner with the CommunityHealth team as they not only provide compassionate care, but empower and promote healthier local communities.

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Senior: John (Jay) Olriksen – Schaumburg For service to: Hanover Township

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Jay Olriksen and his wife Sue reside in Schaumburg. They have two daughters and three grandchildren. Jay retired in 2010 and began volunteering at Hanover Township Welfare Services Department. In the beginning, he volunteered 3 to 4 days a week. He stocked shelves, bagged food items and made sure clients were welcomed and treated with dignity and respect. He volunteered to drive the Food Van three days per week picking up food donations as well as gifts for more than 2,000 children, backpacks and supplies for 1,275 children, meal boxes and more. Without Jay's dedication to his community, many of these programs would not be possible. Jay started summer and after school projects for the children with the help of his church and Township. He built birdhouses, carved pumpkins, made Valentine’s Day cards as well as plays Santa and always makes sure that anyone who enters the building feels welcome!

Senior Corps: Toni Lieteau – Plainfield For service to: Catholic Charities

Toni Lieteau was born in Chicago and received her BA and Master’s degrees in Pennsylvania. Toni has always worked in public relations and marketing. While living in Pittsburgh, she worked at the University of Pittsburgh’s medical school and at the Allegheny County government. She moved to Los Angeles where she was employed at UCLA and later at Loyola Marymont Law School. When she returned to Illinois, she worked as the Vice President at a community hospital. Before retiring she was Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations at Indiana University Northwest. Toni started volunteering for the Foster Grandparent Program at Catholic Charities upon retirement, where she has served for the past three years at St. Andrew the Apostle. Toni began setting up the school library her first summer. Toni says this is just the start of a program that will exist long after she is gone.

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Youth: Arnav Bedi – Naperville For service to: PowerMinds NFP

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Arnav Bedi is 17 years old and currently a Junior at Neuqua Valley High School. Arnav started, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides free online tutoring and free homework help, with the intent of enabling deserving youth and adults achieve their educational goals. His passion lies in helping others and finding every opportunity to see how he can make this world and our communities a better place to live. Since its launch around a year ago, Arnav has been able to sign-up more than 100 volunteers to tutor online at in a wide range of subjects. Numerous deserving kids have taken advantage and benefited with the tutoring services that Arnav and his network of online tutors provide. Through PowerMinds, Arnav is changing lives and enabling deserving kids who cannot afford tutoring services to succeed and excel in their studies.

Northwest Award Recipients

Adult: Audrey Adamson – Moline For service to: Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois

Audrey Adamson believes volunteering is a way to vote every day on the kind of community you want to live in. Outside of time with her amazing family and work at WIU-QC with career development and disability resources, Audrey commits her energy to community organizations. As the volunteer Moline Girl Scouts Service Unit Coordinator for five years, she provides guidance and resources to troop leaders. She is completing seven years of Logan Elementary PTO executive board, where she helped implement engaging and accessible events for families. She is also involved in the middle school PTA, high school Music Boosters and will soon be serving on the school board. Audrey volunteers with the Dress for Success career center and as a referral partner, empowering women to achieve economic independence. She is also a mentor through Lead(H)er and a member of the League of Women Voters and Mom’s Demand Action.

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AmeriCorps: Sergio Herrera - Des Plaines For service to: Illinois Campus Compact-Rockford University

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Sergio Herrera is a proud AmeriCorps VISTA for Illinois Campus Compact at Rockford University’s Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement. He has a passion for the Rockford community and always puts servicing over his own personal benefits. A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University’s Master program in Political Science, a first generation college student and prior recipient of 2018 Iowa’s Governor Volunteer Award. He is a loyal volunteer of Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, volunteered at Rockford University’s Alternative Spring Break trip, participated in Rockford Goes Bald, Community Engagement Fair, various volunteering events and started Rockford University’s Youth Mentoring Initiative with Rockford Police Department in mentoring youth and encouraging them to go to college. He is a great resource for promoting volunteer opportunities as he believes that everyone can make time to help others.

Senior: Les Virtue - Galena For service to: Galena Area EMS District

Les Virtue doesn’t consider himself unique as a volunteer; they come from all walks of life. He started his volunteering with the Galena Territory Fire Department on March 1, 1990. At that time, there was no such thing as EMR’s (formally known as first responders) in that fire department. So in January 1993, when the first class of EMR’s started, he was in it. In 1996, he became an EMT and joined the Galena Area EMS. He gives credit to his employers who support volunteerism and the understanding of how that builds a strong community. As a school teacher, he instills the value to his students of volunteering giving purpose and meaning to life. “You do what you can; when you can.”

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Senior Corps: Gary Winkie – Rockford For service to: AARP

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Gary Winkie grew up as an Iowa farm boy. On the farm, he learned that volunteering was a very important part of life and imperative for their small community to thrive. Currently, Gary and his wife Marlene live in Boone County, Illinois and are active members of their church where they volunteer a great deal of time serving the community. Gary has been an RSVP volunteer for 15 years served more than 4,000 hours doing Free Tax Preparation for AARP in Winnebago and Boone Counties at sites such as Kenrock, Boone County Council on Aging, Cherry Valley Library, NIAAA, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, LifeScape and the Rockton Library. During his tenure, Gary has worked his way up to becoming AARP’s Administrative Coordinator. He is training other coordinators so the program will be a secure asset to the communities of Winnebago and Boone Counties.

Southern Award Recipients

Adult: Janet Scheller – Hamel For service to: Hamel Elementary School

Janet Scheller is 34 years old and a resident of Hamel, Illinois. In December of 2012, Janet received news that her second child, Allison, would not live long after birth. Allison was born on December 22 and lived almost 24 hours. The miracle of Allison’s life has inspired Janet, which has in turn inspired a community. Janet founded a nonprofit organization in 2014 called Allison’s Angel Gowns, who provides burial garments free of charge to hospitals in all 50 states. Janet also serves as the President of the PTO at Hamel Elementary School. In honor of Allison, who would be in kindergarten this year, Janet raised the money to purchase and install a new playground structure for the children at Hamel Elementary to enjoy for years to come. In her free time, Janet enjoys baking, dancing, crafting and playing with her daughters Olivia and Ellie.

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AmeriCorps: Pasha McNeil - Washington Park For service to: Dunbar Elementary School

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Pasha McNeil is a second year AmeriCorps member in the city of East St. Louis, Illinois who volunteers in the East Saint Louis School District 189 at Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School. Pasha’s afternoons are spent at the Orr Weathers Center, a subsidiary of Griffin Center after school programs located in the housing complexes in the city of East St. Louis. Upon graduating from Belleville East High School, Pasha received a certification from the National Tutoring Association. Pasha is a well-rounded individual who lives with passion, dedication, and grace. Her first volunteering experience took place at Kingdom Adventures day camp and after school program. Her dream of becoming an early childhood teacher is only a matter of time. Pasha McNeil’s passion for service will make way for her future goals.

Business: ARTIGEM Replacement Services – Belleville For service to: Franklin Neighborhood Community Association

Artigem was founded in 2001 and began ARS Cares, the charitable branch of the business, in 2011. Over the years, ARS Cares has helped dozens of local organizations with a particular focus on their passion project working with the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association and Franklin Elementary School. Artigem has partnered with the FNCA and school staff since 2015 to provide educational support such as tutoring, mentoring, and camper sponsorship for the neighborhood's disadvantaged yet amazingly bright students who need extra love and encouragement to succeed. ARS Cares continues diligently working with this program purely for the kids and believes that it really does take a village to ensure that everyone succeeds, no matter income level or familial situation and Artigem counts the ability to be a part of this immense kindness as a true blessing.

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Senior: Darlene Azar – Edwardsville For service to: Franklin Elementary School

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“Let’s Do Something Amazing” is a vision of Darlene Azar to positively change the lives of children. After retiring and living on Kauai, she returned to Illinois and learned of the challenges facing the children of Franklin Elementary School where 85 percent of the K-6 students are at the poverty level and living in vulnerable conditions. Known as a person who gets things done, Darlene rallied support from friends nationwide. Donations of almost 700 articles of clothing, over 10,000 food items for snacks and weekend backpacks, classroom supplies, and books poured in. Darlene lead the group in creating an ice cream social, collection of 100 toys for Christmas, staff luncheon, STEM family night, and other activities. This summer, 125 children will attend summer camp through the $5,000 she collected. Teachers and staff can now concentrate on teaching and most importantly, students are able to focus on school rather than hunger.

Senior Corps: Ophelia Jackson – Alton For service to: Foster Grandparent Program-Lovejoy Elementary

Ophelia Jackson is from Alton and has lived there all of her life. She and her late husband raised their two children there and have been blessed with four grandchildren. This town and its people have contributed significantly to her life and shaped her into the woman she is today. After retiring from TCI Cable Company of 20 years, she lost her husband and battled breast cancer all in the same year. It was Ophelia’s sister, Delores, who helped her find a new journey. Delores is a Foster Grandma and encouraged her sister to join the program. That was over nine years ago, and Ophelia still wakes up every day excited to serve the children of her community. She has played a direct role in the development of new lesson plans which lead to higher test scores and an increase in homework return rates. Ophelia’s dedication to her town continues to motivate her daily and inspires others to use their gifts to pay it forward.

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Youth: Isaiah Haynes - East St. Louis For service to: East St. Louis School District 189

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With an electric smile and endearing energy, it is no wonder that younger children look up to Isaiah Haynes. Tenth grader Isaiah volunteers extensively with his neighborhood center and church in East St. Louis. He also devotes hundreds of hours each year as a youth advocate and leader in the community. Isaiah serves on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council and is actively involved in the East Side Aligned (an Illinois 60by25) movement. In both these efforts, he advances youth voice to ensure community work is informed by and led by young people who are engaging in decision-making processes with adults. His organizing efforts have led to community sessions on reclaiming power, healing our trauma, and living better. “For people who are negative because it is easy, remember that whatever you do doesn't have to be easy, just worth it," inspires Isaiah, student within the East St. Louis School District.

West Central Award Recipients

Adult: Leslie Murphy – Mapleton For service to: Illini Bluffs Elementary PTO

Leslie Murphy works as a legal assistant for the Attorney General’s Office in Peoria County. She lives in Mapleton, Illinois with her husband, Ryan, and their three children. Leslie has been a strong advocate for children and education by volunteering as the Illini Bluffs PTO president for 5 years. Leslie is family focused and she has coordinated family engagement activities to promote literacy, parent involvement, recycling, 21st century learning and school improvement. She has worked to implement community-based activities to raise funds to provide library books, school supplies, field trips, playground equipment, technology, and classroom materials for the staff and students of her community. Under her leadership, Leslie initiated a golf outing and chicken dinner community event that has raised over $40,000 in the past three years. She finds ways to get the parents and community involved and her work with the IBES PTO has been amazing.

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AmeriCorps: Kari Rogers – Canton For service to: SIU School of Medicine, Office of Regional Programs

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Kari Rogers is serving as a full-time AmeriCorps member in Canton, Illinois with the SIU School of Medicine Office of Regional Programs. One of the main projects Kari supports in her current position is SIU’s Health Career Opportunities program which prepares high school students, especially in rural areas, to go into health careers. She also assists various community health, volunteer coordination, and emergency preparedness efforts of partners such as Graham Health System, Spoon River College, and the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce. Kari’s prior experience includes three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda during which she taught English and coordinated health education programs. She then worked for three years as a community liaison and program planner for refugee shelters in south Texas. She is now finishing her master’s degree in Public Health as a Peace Corps Fellow at Western Illinois University through the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.

Senior: Virginia Schneider – Princeville For service to: Illinois Valley Fuller Center for Housing

Virginia Schneider is a retired hairdresser, and at eighty-five works as a home caregiver for a disabled woman. Virginia and her husband Donald were married for twenty-eight years and raised five children. When she is not volunteering or working, Virginia enjoys having coffee and catching up with her friends at a local diner and she frequently travels to Las Vegas with her niece. Needing to fill a void after the death of her sister Irma in 2017, Virginia became a volunteer with the Fuller Center. Since that time, Virginia has been involved with the “milk cap” collection drive raising $5,000.00; she works the Fuller Center’s Riverfront Market booth selling t-shirts and giving information about the services the center provides; she works the Fuller Center concession stand at various concerts, she participates in yard cleanups for veterans and widows, and she volunteers at various fundraisers throughout the year. Virginia is a true asset to the Fuller Center.

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Senior Corps: Barbara Richmiller – Quincy For service to: Adams County RSVP

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Barb Richmiller, daughter of Anna and Warren, who served in Patton’s Third Army, shares their German work ethic for doing. Retiring as a Registered Nurse, she became a University of Illinois Master Gardener, tended the Public Library Garden, and still gives gardening talks to groups; once for Blessing cardiac patients. A blood donor, she joined Red Cross Disaster Team, and now serves Canteen for “12 Hours of Giving”, and a 1:30AM breakfast for departing Honor Flight Veterans. At Blessing Hospital, she assists patients, families, and staff in small ways. As ICU/Surgical Hostess, giving facility tours for new employees, or guiding people to desired areas, she helps the hospital and she benefits as well! RSVP volunteers save communities dollars into 7 figures. Volunteers live healthier and longer! We need physical and social activity that keeps the mind engaged. She’s in!

Youth: Sierra Lucie – Basco For service to: Hancock Village

Sierra Lucie is 13 years old and attends 8th grade at Nauvoo Colusa Junior High School. Sierra began volunteering at Hancock Village at the young age of nine, in which she volunteered with her local school summer program as a ‘Volun-teen’. Sierra had recently been crowned as ‘Miss Quincy’s Preteen’ at this young age and made her platform ‘Smiles for Seniors’, as she had a great passion for bringing Hancock Village residents joy and happiness. In 2018, Sierra was crowned ‘Miss Macomb’s Outstanding Teen.’ As Sierra grew and developed through these new accomplishments, she never lost sight of her purpose and desire, to bring smiles to seniors. She has helped to organize unique engagement opportunities and has connected other groups that she is active in, to also serve the residents at Hancock Village. Despite her full and busy schedule, Sierra consistently devotes so much time, effort, and thought into bringing joy the senior residents that she serves. She is excited to continue her passion for service and giving back to the senior population.

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