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Governor's Volunteer Service Awards 2020

The following are recipients of the 2020 Governor's Volunteer Service Awards.

East Central Award Recipients

Adult: Teresa Bachtold – Forrest For service to: Harvest Call

Teresa Bachtold has been an instrumental figure in organizing a food backpack program for the Prairie Central school district. When she learned the school wanted to implement this program for their students, she reached out to see how she could help make the idea a reality. Teresa happily stepped in and began coordinating with her church’s local world relief, Harvest Call. Teresa organized and oversaw the program, making it a district-wide opportunity for students that provided needed food on the weekends. She worked with food banks, organized volunteers, and made sure the food was delivered to the schools so it could be distributed to students. The program gave students and adults in Prairie Central communities the opportunity to volunteer for a worthy cause as well. Prairie Central owes much of the program’s success and the wellbeing of their students to Teresa’s hard work and dedication to her community.

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AmeriCorps: Jalen Butler – Springfield For service to: Springfield Urban League

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Jalen Butler is a 2019 graduate of Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. She began her service with AmeriCorps in 2018 and has completed 600 hours of service. Some of her AmeriCorps service activities include tutoring at Jefferson Middle School, serving meals at the Brandon Site, and working as an office assistant at the Springfield Urban League. Additionally, Jalen worked as a Servant Leader Intern at the Freedom School summer reading program. Her volunteerism extends far beyond AmeriCorps, as she also serves at Westside Christian Church, where she is a member. Over the past nine years, Jalen has volunteered once a month at the Fireside Café. While in her senior year of high school, she participated in the Alpha Kapa Alpha Fashionetta Cotillion and was recognized with the service award for her volunteer work in the Springfield community. Jalen in currently a sophomore at Illinois State University where she is majoring in Accounting.

Senior: Shannon Nosbisch – Dieterich For service to: Effingham Public Library

Shannon Nosbisch is a Certified Dementia Practitioner and co-founder of Effingham Area Alzheimer’s Awareness (EAAA). This non-profit organization is dedicated to providing support and education to families living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia in Central and Southern Illinois. Since 2014, Shannon has presented to hundreds of lay caregivers on communication strategies, caregiving approaches, and dementia education. She also spearheaded the Forget-Me-Not Resource Center Project which partners with seven Illinois libraries to purchase and highlight resources available on dementia and caregiving. Shannon writes the monthly article, Forget-Me-Not Spotlight, to generate awareness of resources to the community. She also volunteers at the Forget-Me-Not Memory Cafe in Effingham. Recently, Shannon presented to business leaders on dementia friendly business practices. Additionally, EAAA’s model and services have become a template for rural areas serving their population affected by dementia. Shannon has also counseled and provided technical support to libraries and organizations around the country.

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Senior Corps: Valerie Beguin – Towanda For service to: Fostering Dignity

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During her twenty-year career with DCFS as a child abuse investigator, Valerie Beguin became aware of an unfulfilled need. The necessity for a project like Fostering Dignity became clear during years of removing children from abusive environments, witnessing children gather their belongings into trash bags before being transported to a licensed foster home. In 2013 with a network of volunteers, including Val’s husband Dan Duback and son Bob Beguin, Fostering Dignity, a non-profit 501C3, launched. Over 6,000 backpacks were made available to DCFS child abuse investigators by generous volunteers Cheryl and Bill Budde. A simple five-dollar backpack became a dignified carrier, banishing the message that a child’s belongings are garbage. Fostering Dignity’s mission is “to bring comfort to a victim of child abuse at the time he or she is most vulnerable.” Valerie acknowledges gratitude to the service organizations, churches, businesses, and individuals who support their mission with donations. Fostering Dignity can be reached at or by phone only at 309-728-2696.

Youth: Aja Capel – Urbana For service to: 4-H

Aja Capel is a 16-year-old Urbana High School senior and 6-year member of Champaign County 4-H. She is Illinois’ 2019 Top Youth High School volunteer. She became the change she wanted to see by creating a grassroots organization, See Me in STEM, to excite, engage, and empower minority youth, especially girls, to see themselves in STEM. Aja worked to provide STEM exposure events, camps, and classes. Her vision is to transform the face of STEM by creating a world where kids can see themselves in STEM, and society can see the STEM potential in every kid. Having disrupted the status quo and created a fervor of inquisitive enthusiasm within her community, NBC News Learning recently profiled her. Aja’s message to young people is “find a way to serve your community, and your life will be made richer because of it. Seek significance over success!” Visit for more information.

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Northeast Award Recipients

Adult: Scott Milliman – Chicago For service to: Literacy Volunteers of Illinois at Illinois Youth Center Chicago

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Scott Milliman is originally from Crystal Lake, Illinois, but relocated to the City of Chicago after serving 5 years in the U.S Army in various leadership positions. Upon separating from the U.S Army, Scott pursued his Bachelor’s in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While working and going to school full-time, Scott spent his evenings volunteering with the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois within the Illinois Youth Center-Chicago tutoring incarcerated youth in math. In addition to his role as a tutor, Scott played a pivotal role in helping foster a program to provide support and assistance to dozens of youth as they pursued their high school diplomas, GEDs, as well as their interests in higher education.

AmeriCorps: Kiamara Rodriguez – Chicago For service to: Center for Disability and Elder Law

Kiamara Rodriguez is a recent AmeriCorps VISTA alumnus and Civil Litigation Professional who served as Housing Preservation Coordinator at the Center for Disability & Elder Law (CDEL). In this role, Kiamara was responsible for the coordination of CDEL’s housing related legal services and community programming, building capacity, increasing efficiencies and maximizing legal service impact and delivery, and service to helping low income seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans live safe and stable lives. Prior to and since the conclusion of her national service, Kiamara remains dedicated to CDEL’s mission and success, serving in a variety of capacities. Continuing her role as Litigation Paralegal to the immediate past Executive Director Mark Hellner, she also provides paralegal, administrative, and other support services to CDEL’s new leadership, attorneys, and staff, as well as grant reporting functions. Through continued service, Kiamara seeks to further pro bono legal culture and ensure equal access to justice.

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Business: Abbott Laboratories Legal Department – Abbott Park For service to: Ascend Justice

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Each year, approximately 8,000 people seek an Order of Protection through Cook County’s Domestic Violence Courthouse. While the courthouse offers many resources to survivors of domestic violence, not nearly enough resources are available to those in need. Abbott recognized the need for assistance and partnered with Ascend Justice to organize “Abbott Clinic Days” throughout the year where volunteers staffed Ascend Justice’s Order of Protection Clinic. Abbott volunteers worked directly with domestic violence survivors to complete petitions seeking an emergency order of protection, draft affidavits outlining the abuse, and accompany survivors to court. Abbott and Ascend Justice are also developing a training video so volunteers can be trained online, thereby expanding Ascend Justice’s ability to bring in new volunteers to help more people. Abbott is proud of its partnership with Ascend Justice and its volunteers are dedicated to continuing to help people facing domestic violence.

Senior: Donna Adam – Des Plaines For service to: Clean Up Give Back

Donna Adam identified a great problem in her community—that being the trash in parks, forest preserves, and streets. She had a simple idea: to bring groups together to help beautify these areas. She founded Clean Up-Give Back.Org. Its mission is to facilitate trash cleanup campaigns that are helpful to the community and the environment. Schools, companies, clubs, friend groups, and individuals have responded to the mission. Under Donna’s leadership, Clean Up-Give Back operates several programs including a very successful national “Flexible Service Program” for individuals needing service hours.

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Senior Corps: Shirley Cassens – Harvard For service to: Senior Services Associates, Inc.

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Shirley Cassens is a lifelong resident of McHenry County. When her 2 boys started school, she drove a 64-passenger school bus. She and her husband, Jim, traveled with “Tell the World” Choir. For 10 years, he helped set up and she drove the bus every Sunday, January-May. Shirley drove a 10-passenger bus for Dial-a-Ride. She enjoyed the riders. She was then asked if she knew who could use day-old baked goods. So, bi-weekly, she picked up a car-full and delivered to area non-profits. Shirley learned TLS Veterans needed help with the Food Truck, so she got involved. She enjoys saying “Thank You” to our veterans monthly. Senior Services asked if she would like to take people to doctor appointments, so she began driving. She says, “There has been times in my life when I have needed help; I am thankful for those who have helped me and given me rides.”

Youth: Kiran Mohan – Buffalo Grove For service to: Crescendo for a Cause

Kiran Mohan is a recent graduate of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. He is the Founder and President of Crescendo for a Cause, a non-profit organization with a mission to improve music education in underserved communities and utilize music performance as a vehicle for advocacy and community service. Crescendo for a Cause has raised over $40,000 worth of musical instruments and supplies that benefit underprivileged children in Chicago. Through his non-profit, he also organizes volunteer therapeutic music performances for assisted living facilities, memory care programs, juvenile detention centers, and veterans’ homes. In light of the physical limitations surrounding COVID-19, Kiran expanded his initiative through volunteer virtual music performances by student musicians to his therapeutic music audience. Kiran has researched music’s neurological impacts and detailed his unique perspective on how music can change lives in his book, The Multiverse of Music. He will attend Harvard University in the fall.

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Northwest Award Recipients

Adult: Dan Portz – Fulton For service to: River Bend CUSD 2-Fulton High School Robotics Program

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Dan had a vision four years ago to bring FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), a competitive robotics program, to the students in the River Bend School District. While mentoring and coaching with other parents and River Bend staff through the years, he has guided teams to design and build robots, raise funds, design and market their team brand (The Gear Grinders), and participate in community outreach projects to earn specific awards. His vision has “short-circuited” more robotics programs and classes in the district which has impacted hundreds of students at all age levels. Dan has chaperoned field trips to area businesses, colleges, and the Field Museum in Chicago for students to find a connection between their education and careers. Dan’s involvement has mobilized the team to compete at the state level the past two years. His drive has also brought the first ever robotics competition last year to Fulton High School.

AmeriCorps: Linda Bolls - Kewanee For service to: Abilities Plus

Since the beginning of her service with Abilities Plus, Linda has shown a special love for serving this unique group of adults with disabilities. She provides living skills training, helps guide their computer skills, and transports clients on shopping trips, luncheons, and other special events in the community. Linda has also created ways to incorporate various ideas for the skills she has used for 20 years as the Director of The Salvation Army. She has some of her clients singing and ringing the bells at Christmas. As a semi-retiree and Grandmother of 6, she takes great pride in her service. At her own expense, she attends Special Olympic competitions, A Night to Remember, bowling club, and she also finds time to be advisor to the Kiwanis Aktion Club for her Abilities Plus clients. Linda will be transferring her educational award to her grandchildren.

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Senior: Ted Brolund - Rockford For service to: Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity

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Ted was born near Stillman Valley, and lived in Rockford, Illinois for most of his life. He graduated from East High School and the Allied Institute of Technology in manufacturing engineering. He was drafted into the Army and served during the Korean War. Later, he worked for W.A. Whitney Company for 43 years and served as President for 25 years. Ted also is a member of The First Evangelical Covenant Church where he served on numerous committees and boards. He led volunteers to build over 20 homes with Habitat for Humanity. Ted’s passion came from his love for Jesus Christ and engineering. Ted also served on boards of Swedish American Health System, Taylor University, Kids Around the World, Salvation Army, Youth for Christ, Leadership Prayer Luncheon, National Machine Tool Builders Association, the Swedish American Operating Committee and Gideons International, and is a Fellow in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Senior Corps: Marjorie "Midge" Murphy – Rock Falls For service to: Dillon Elementary School

Marjorie “Midge” Murphy, a wife and mom of nine children, retired from a successful career as the Head of Customer Service at Lawrence Brothers Manufacturing. While most envision a relaxing retirement, Midge began a second career as a Foster Grandparent at 65. She served every school day until these last few years, allowing herself some days for rest. Midge also volunteered at CGH gift shop every other Sunday until last year. As Nancy Reagan wrote in her book, To Love a Child, “There is something about the love of grandparents that transcends the parent/child relationship; it seems a fact of nature that the very young and the very old cannot resist the warmth offered each to the other.” Midge and the students that she has touched are prime examples of this! Midge has encouraged over two decades’ worth of Rock Falls students and is not ready to quit just yet.

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Youth: Lucy Kuelper – Rio For service to: #MoveOver Project

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Lucy Kuelper is the 13 year old daughter of an Illinois State Trooper. In 2019, she began the MOVEOVER project to bring awareness to Scott's Law in Illinois. Through social media, she was able to spread the project across the nation and several other countries. Her goal is to spread awareness through education and protect those serving their communities. Lucy has shared her message through public speaking engagements, working with law makers to successfully strengthen current laws, and educating citizens on move over laws. Lucy was recently honored at the Illinois State Capitol and discussed her project with both sides of Congress. She hopes to one day serve her country in the military, study communication and political science, and continue to give back. She enjoys involving other young people in her project and encourages today's youth to stand up and use their voice to make a difference.

Southern Award Recipients

Adult: Michael Moyers – Herrin For service to: Christopher Elementary School

Michael has volunteered his time to make sure the students at Christopher Elementary School experience several opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise. He has planned, organized, created, and coordinated multiple events for the students, parents, and school district. Along with organizing several school carnivals and community events, he set up two charity events per year to earn money and food for the less fortunate and to raise money for scholarship opportunities. Michael IS the school’s PTO and does all of the work voluntarily. He is able to bring his community together while putting smiles on children’s faces throughout the entire school year.

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Business: PNC Bank – Fairview Heights For service to: East St. Louis School District #189

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PNC Bank is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the U.S. The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, focuses its philanthropic mission on education, emphasizing early childhood education, and community/ economic development. PNC Grow Up Great®, their cause that began in 2004, is a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative helping prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in life. Since introducing PNC Grow Up Great within Greater St. Louis in 2010, PNC has invested more than $5 million and logged more than 7,500 volunteer hours to benefit early childhood education throughout St. Louis, including Metro East. Recent local contributions include a grant to the Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership to support “Ready, Set, Enroll,” a screening, referral, and enrollment effort for children from birth to age 5.

Senior: Melody Shimada – Carbondale For service to: Carbondale Public Library

Melody Shimada has always loved books and reading is a mainstay of her life. When she moved to Carbondale in the early 1990s, one of the first things she did was get a library card. Soon after, she began volunteering at the Friends of the Library book sale. A few years later, Melody became the sales co-coordinator. After years of outdoor sales, a building owned by the library became available. Melody took advantage of the opportunity and shaped the space into one of the most inviting book sales in Southern Illinois. She was also the force behind alphabetizing fiction and biographies. Melody considers the time she spent sorting books as therapy and payback for the joy books gave to her. She considers book sorting as a selfish endeavor. Melody is a zoo archaeologist by training. She fills her days with books, gardening, hiking, and weaving.

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Senior Corps: Deserie Gibson – Belleville For service to: SWIC Programs and Services for Older Persons

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Deserie Gibson began her volunteer service in the Senior Companion Program in 2006. She has provided over 20,000 hours of service during the past 14 years, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. For the past 8 years, Deserie visits her client who has dementia, assisting with daily tasks and keeping her from harm. This client would have gone into memory care long ago if she didn’t have special attention from her Companion. Deserie feels called to help others. She spends her free time visiting others in the nursing home with their church ministry. She said, “Going where I can go, to help where I can help, is my mission.” The impact that a Senior Companion can make in the life of one individual, keeping them from a nursing home for just one year, saves upwards of $75,000. The impact Deserie has on the life of her client and family-priceless.

Youth: Elijah Gunter - Scheller For service to: Sesser Jr. Football

Elijah Gunter is the son of Brian and Angie Gunter. Elijah has 4 siblings, 3 brothers and 1 sister. Elijah loves to volunteer his time, especially when it comes to teaching sports and helping kids grow into great young men and women. Elijah has assisted with the Sesser Junior Football League since it began in 2017. Elijah has also volunteered his time in the Valier First Baptist Blue Bird basketball program and this year’s Illinois youth and government program in Springfield. Elijah is majoring in Special Education and says volunteering and being around kids has made it easy to make teaching a career.

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West Central Award Recipients

Adult: Daniel Luthi – Washington For service to: American Red Cross

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Dan Luthi has served Central and Southern Illinois as an American Red Cross volunteer for over 7 years. Within his first few months, Dan assisted in recovery efforts for a tornado that struck his hometown of Washington, IL. Today, he works as a full-time pediatric nurse while volunteering 20+ hours for Red Cross. He uses his nursing experience to serve disaster related health needs, while dispatching volunteers to regional disasters. In the 2019 fiscal year, Dan dispatched 20% of the regional disaster hotline calls. He also serves as Co-lead for the regional Disaster Action Team Program, mentors new volunteers, and is a resource for regional staff. Dan’s style of sharing information is thorough, contextual, and kind. When asked about his motivation to serve, Dan stated, “It’s important for me that neighbors are taken care of and that they get what they need, whether it is medication or a hug.”

AmeriCorps: Deja Jenkins – Galesburg For service to: Illinois Justice Corps/Knox County Courthouse

Deja is from Chicago, Illinois, and received her B.A. from Knox College in 2019, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in Psychology. She recently began her second term as Illinois Justice Corps Fellow for Knox County, and she's been breathing life into the county’s operations since she started! Deja is an award-winning playwright and avid volunteer in her community, wherever that may be. During her schooling, she studied abroad and worked with refugees seeking asylum at the Khora Community Centre in Athens, Greece. Deja was recently awarded $15,000 in grant funds from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts’ Access to Justice Commission and has dedicated this year to modernizing and expanding legal self-help services throughout the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Deja embodies the dedication and tenacity needed in public service to get things done, and she is honored to have been chosen for this award.

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Business: JIMAX Group – Peoria For service to: Tireless Project

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The JIMAX Group of Illinois upholds service to their community as a key pillar of their operations and is integral to the resiliency of their neighborhoods and company ethos, providing a wide range of volunteer opportunities that align with their core competencies. The Tireless Project was initiated in 2015 with a stated objective of engaging the community to reduce persistent illegal dumping of tires and provide a no-cost environmentally conscious outlet for their disposal. JIMAX has worked diligently to improve the process, engage new stakeholders and partners, and increase outreach in the community, collecting over 20,000 tires since inception. JIMAX donates equipment and a location for the project, as well as provides necessary planning and support, in addition to company employees donating their time. JIMAX could not hope to achieve the success of this program without the “tireless” assistance of employees and other local volunteers who graciously donate their time.

Senior: Joel Estes – Knoxville For service to: Blessings in a Backpack

Joel Estes is the recently retired Visiting Instructor and Chair of the Educational Studies Department at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Prior to his eight years at Knox, he had a 36-year career in public education as a teacher, coach, principal and district administrator, the last nine years as Assistant Superintendent in Galesburg C.U.S.D #205. While at Knox, he has been the college advisor for the local chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, a student/community organization that provides weekend food for Galesburg students. The number of children served has grown from 42 to 460 in nine years. Blessings raises over $50,000 annually to purchase food for the children. Besides feeding students through the course of the school year, this program builds valuable connections between the community and college, developing scores of young philanthropists and leaders in the college organization. Though recently retired from Knox, Joel continues his work with Blessings.

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Senior Corps: Lloyd Lawber – Griggsville For service to: Pike County All Wars Museum

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Lloyd Lawber is a Vietnam Veteran who was injured during his service and has been disabled during his life. His disabilities however never changed his will to help others. He ran his own construction business and volunteered for many projects that helped Pike County. Lloyd volunteered with Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Special Olympics. He was on the county planning commission, built a house for Habitat for Humanity, implemented a new playground for local grade school, worked 10 years at the Dana-Thomas House, and is on the board of directors with the Pike County Historical Society. In his spare time, he drives other veterans to doctors’ appointments. Lloyd also opened and is director of the Pike County All Wars Museum where they honor all veterans from all wars. His proudest program that he started is called Morning at the Mess Hall, where veterans enjoy coffee and donuts and share stories.

Youth: Abigail Oakley – Quincy For service to: Quincy Art Center

Abigail Oakley is from Quincy, Illinois and has been very involved in her community. She participated in the Beaux Arts Ball and was crowned queen for raising the most money for a fundraiser in December 2019. Abigail was also involved in the Quincy Art Center by volunteering during the summers of 2017, 2018, and 2019. She has also been involved in many organizations at Quincy Senior High School. Abigail was the Corresponding Secretary of National Honor Society, Drum Major of the QHS Marching Band, and Vice President of the Concert Choir; as well as a member of Beta Club, the QHS Orchestra, and other musical ensembles. Abigail also went on two mission trips to Guatemala through St. John’s Anglican Parish. She was involved in Operation Serve Youth Volunteer Organization and served as a junior and senior leader. Abigail is now a freshman at Butler University studying English and Political Science.

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