The following are recepients of the 2014 Governor's Volunteer Service Awards.
Southern Illinois Award Recipients
Brent Miller - Adult
Brent Miller, his wife Holly, and their three children live in Ullin. For the past 11 years, Brent has served as a 4-H leader for the Ridge Runners 4-H club. Since being hired as the Ag teacher at Century he has combined the FFA and 4-H together by making a 4-H spin club called the century Ag Shack Traditions 4-H club. With his work at Century, his club has provided petting zoos at community events to promote agriculture, collected tab tops for Ronald McDonald house, hosted consecutive pink outs for breast cancer and a portable pink toilet to flush out breast cancer, bird feeders for an assisted living, building and donating drug training boxes to the Illinois State police K-9 unit in southern Illinois. This year’s projects has been to construct barn quilts for a barn quilt tour. This will promote southern Illinois and its rich agricultural heritage. Also this year a senior citizen prom was held to give them an outing and to raise money for a caboose to be renovated for Ullin. Last year Brent and the Century ag students won the National 4-H Science Day Eco-Bot challenge and this year they won the National ESRI GIS grant award. The overall goal is to teach students to give back to their community to make it better through living to serve.
Claudia Blackman – AmeriCorps Member
Claudia Blackman is originally from Michigan, graduating from Central Michigan University with a BS in Education. She has livened in southern Illinois for over 47 years, receiving her MS from Southern Illinois University (SIUC). She is a retiree from SIUC, Department of Kinesiology and is currently an AmeriCorps Member working with American Red Cross in their National Preparedness and Response Corps. She has volunteered for the American Red Cross for 50 years, wearing many different hats, first teaching swimming and lifeguarding, then teaching first aid and CPR most recently preparedness and disaster response courses. In addition, you will find her responding to disaster, preparing to respond to disaster or helping individuals prepare for a disaster. She likes to think there is no task too small or too large that she can’t tackle.
John Flora, Sr. - Senior
John Flora was born in 1947 and grew up west of Tunnel Hill, Illinois and began his career with the Post Office Department in 1968. While he worked for the USPS, John was always involved in his community. He was on the City Council for 15 years, a Boy Scout Leader, and Lions Club President. John retired December 2, 2002 and immediately started concentrating on being charitable; he knew he wanted his to work and help people in their daily lives. John himself, as well as his wife and son suffered with various dental problems, so he knew he could be an ally to people like him and his family. He formed Create A Smile Dental Foundation, which is a NFP Organization. The mission is to help low income people pay for dental work. He decided to open a thrift store as a fundraising project for the foundation, but was forced to restock inventory after two devastating fires. Create A Smile reopened July 21, 2013, and the store is doing well, and is making a profit which is donated to the Foundation. John has always believed that the success of a NFP does not rest on one man alone. The true success of a foundation is the community.
Geanette Wilson – Senior Corps Member
Geanette is a 77 year old widow, after being married 54 years, having 14 biological children, and partially rearing 9 additional children. She worked in the medical field 45 years, where she was an LPN, and retired in 1997. Geanette started an after school math tutoring program, with 20 students, called “Tutor Time Math” in 2001 and received a Service Mark from State Secretary Jesse White. She then she founded IMPACK in 2005 and serves as a full time volunteer director. IMPACK serves over 200 children plus adults as a nonprofit agency. Geanette has received the City of Sparta Good Standing Award three times, the Chamber of Commerce Volunteer Service Award, and has been inducted into the Rotary Club as an Honorary Rotarian.
Nicole Doornink - Youth
Nicole Doornink has been a life-long volunteer. In middle school, she accumulated Young Authors and Do the Right Thing Awards. At the conclusion of her middle school career she was awarded with a Presidential Community Service award to recognize her 250 hours of service that year, in addition to both the American Legion Citizenship Award and the Daughters of the American Revolution Citizenship/Historian Award. Entering High School, she continued her service by conducting a bake sale which raised $1,500 for the Feed My Starving Children Organization. She also participated heavily in Edwardsville Peer Influence Club and became a Council member her sophomore year. On behalf of this group, she was asked to conduct a campaign that raised 5,000 pairs of shoes for The Shoeman Water Project while teaching elementary through high school students about the importance of making healthy decisions. During her sophomore year, her school Orchestra teacher also asked that she conduct the Spring Concert as a fundraiser for her organization of choice. Thus, Cans for Hope Concert was created which collected thousands of canned goods as well as $2,500 for Soup for the Soul Kitchen in Cottage Hills, IL. She has kept in touch with this organization as their Student Fundraising Chair and a regular soup kitchen volunteer. In addition, throughout high school she has been serving as the student representative on the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. At the end of last year she took on a project to create Edwardsville District 7’s First Annual Red Ribbon Run 5k, 1 Mile Fun Run, and Health Fair as a fundraiser for this group. It was a very successful event with over 150 registered runners, free food, and fun for all ages. This May, she will graduate and spend her summer planning the Second Annual Red Ribbon Run.
East Central Illinois Award Recipients
Jeff Carns - Adult
Jeff Carns was born and raised in Champaign, Illinois. After graduating from Champaign Central High School, he attended the University of Illinois and studied Accountancy. For the last 25 years he’s worked as an accountant for the University of Illinois. In April of 1997 a friend asked Jeff to help out with the local soup kitchen because they were short-handed that week. He continued to volunteer each Saturday and shortly thereafter became the Saturday Crew Chief. When the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen formed, replacing the previous organization in 2009, he assumed responsibility for Sundays as well. Each week-end, in all manner of weather, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen volunteers serve their guests soup, sack lunches, coffee, drinks, etc. from their van. Jeff lives in Champaign with his wife Paula and an assortment of dogs, cats and ducks.
Rebecca Moss – AmeriCorps Member
Becky Moss from Monmouth, IL is just beginning her career in public health. She will complete her Masters in Health Science from Western Illinois University this summer. She is currently completing an internship at the Knox County Health Department where she is gaining experience in health education, emergency management and quality improvement. While her public health career is just starting, Becky has been volunteering in different capacities for over a decade. Her most notable volunteer experiences have come from her Peace Corps service as a secondary education volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa and as an AmeriCorps member at the Knox County Health Department where she has helped restructure the Knox County Health Department’s Volunteer Management Program and updated the Volunteer Link Newsletter. Becky is committed to helping people improve their quality of life and she will accomplish this through her career in public health and volunteering.
Mr. John’s School of Cosmetology, Esthetics and Nails - Business
Mr. John’s School of Cosmetology, Esthetics and Nails celebrates its 50th year in 2014. Over the past 50 years, giving back to the community has become a core value of Mr. John’s. With locations in Decatur and Jacksonville, this has given access for students from both campuses to volunteer for numerous community service projects; Ronald McDonald House in Springfield being one of the many. Once a month family members staying at the Ronald McDonald House are treated to free haircuts, manicures and pedicures from the students at Mr. John’s School. Mr. John’s volunteers or donates its services to the following areas throughout the year: Free haircuts for Salvation Army Christmas Baskets, Northeast Community Fund and VA rehab programs, Breast Cancer Awareness fund raising including “Kiss a Pig”” and Relay for Life, Cooking and serving food at the Good Samaritan Inn food line in Decatur, fundraising for CASA and Midwest Youth Services to raise awareness for child abuse, Blood Mobiles, sponsoring local youth baseball and football teams, sponsorship for a resident of Teen Challenge of Illinois, hosts Cut-a-thons to raise funds for persons with medical financial needs, Big Brothers and Big Sisters Bowl a Thon, and Dove Inc., food and clothing drives during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mr. John’s emphasizes instilling the future professionals with the value of service to humanity is the best work of life.
Jami Hemmenway - Senior
A native of Eureka, Jami Hemmenway is an Assistant Professor of English at Eureka College, alongside her husband, Professor of Philosophy Dr. Scott Hemmenway. Her innovative classroom techniques earned Jami the Helen Cleaver Distinguished Teaching Award from Eureka College in 2009. Jami’s professional passion has always been teaching and nurturing young adults, but a sermon encouraging congregation members to “find a need and fill it” helped Jami realize that her personal passion was feeding hungry children. In the fall of 2010, she launched the Eureka SnackPak program, which provides at-risk kids with a nutritious, calorie-dense sack dinner to eat over the weekend. Delivered in a respectful way every Friday to kids whose parents have given permission, SnackPaks fill the gap between Friday’s lunch and Monday’s breakfast for many kids. Initially providing 23 SnackPaks to local grade school children each week, Jami and a small group of volunteers now pack and deliver an average of 118 SnackPaks every week to local children living in—or on the brink of—poverty. To supplement the children’s nutrition when school is not in session, Jami also assembles SnackPaks during the summer months and distributes them at the community food bank each week.
Jack Sunderlik – Senior Corps Member
Jack Sunderlik is a retired high school teacher and coach of forty years from Springfield. In 2012, he was awarded the Distinguished Volunteer Award at the Springfield “Good as Gold” ceremony by the Junior League of Springfield and University of Illinois at Springfield. He was also awarded the Senior Hero of the Year by the American Red Cross. In July of 2012, Jack received a letter from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, for service and commitment to the Springfield community. For two years, Jacked served the Dubois Elementary School as a Foster Grandparent and was known to all of the children as “Grandpa Jack.” Recently, Jack was transferred to the McClernand Elementary School and now works with special needs children in their classrooms.
Rebecca Wiggins - Youth
Rebecca “Becca” Wiggins is currently a seventh grade student at Lutheran School Association in Decatur, Illinois. Her dedication has earned her the nickname, "Soldiers' Angel." Since the second grade, Becca found a calling in her heart to support the brave men and women serving our country. She started her mission by sending packages with much needed items to soldiers across the world. In addition, she realized how important it was for our soldiers to hear from home and started writing personal letters to these very special people. She has supported several soldiers from Illinois, as she has adopted more than one hundred American soldiers. Still, Becca felt called to do more for those who served their country. Becca has also raised funds to purchase 12 laptops for disabled veterans with voice activated software. Becca has earned many honors and awards for her noble efforts. Most recently she was awarded the Illinois Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross Youth Hero Award – this region covers 13 counties in the Central Illinois area. On a recent school trip to Washington D.C. she was selected for the honor of laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
West Central Illinois Award Recipients
Kassie Courson - Adult
Kassie Courson was born and raised in Macomb Illinois, and is the Director of Courtyard Estates of Bushnell an Independent/Assisted Living facility for seniors 55 and older. Kassie is the Founder and President of McDonough County VIBE (Volunteers Interested in Benefitting Everyone). VIBE is her passion since she founded it in 2010. Within 4 years VIBE has given away $346,000 to not for profits for persons in need in McDonough County. Kassie is also a member of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Committee in McDonough County, Co-Chair for the Macomb Heritage Days Festival, Member of Rotary, Member Spoon River Collage Health Advisory Committee, Vice President of CUBBULL, Inc. and an active member in both Macomb & Bushnell Chamber of Commerce’s.
Diversified Services - Business
CGB Diversified Services, Inc. provides crop insurance and marketing services to the American farmer in over 30 states through network of direct and independent agents. Their mission is to help our nation’s producers, and the agencies that serve them, manage their risk, enhance their wealth, and improve their quality of life. Their home office is in Jacksonville, IL, where over 80 employees provide administrative, marketing, and adjusting services. Their roots run deep in central Illinois and their employees live the vision of being “world class in all respects”. They are very passionate about supporting their communities in which we live and participating in bell ringing for the Salvation Army, providing and serving monthly dinners at the homeless shelter, providing Christmas gifts for the shelter, and participating in Bowl for Kids’ Sake. They have also done projects and fundraisers for Big Brother Big Sister, the local food pantry, Crisis Center and Ronald McDonald House. They are also totally committed to raising funds for the Prairieland United Way.
Alex Cole - Senior
Always helping his friends and neighbors, volunteering is part of who Alex Cole is. He has volunteered with Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Habitat for Humanity and building sets for theater groups. As president of the North Morgan Water Co-op since its establishment in 2000, Alex has developed relationships necessary to address the lack of safe and available treated water. Testing of 575 wells revealed that 84.3% of the wells were contaminated. Recent drought conditions have created additional water shortages for residents of the 220 square miles of northern Morgan County. Alex works with the USDA, signs people up, tests water quality, establishes construction contracts, keeps government records, conducts meetings, obtains land usage easements, installs water lines, helps process monthly bills and investigates customer leaks. Alex and his wife Mary installed 99% of the 647 meters already in place. By building over 100 miles of interconnected water system with multiple sources of water, the co-op has created a system that will continue to provide safe, clean water to for decades to come. Currently, an additional 34.2 miles of pipe is almost finished and another phase is in the planning stages. Alex served in the Air Force Reserves for 34 years, married his high school sweetheart, Mary, and they have three children and four grandsons.
Vi Heinz – Senior Corps Member
Besides taking part in her many interests, Violet (Vi) Heinz provides services for the community through her dedication to volunteerism. Vi has been a dedicated volunteer at the Unity Point Methodist Center in Peoria. In her tenure as a volunteer at Unity Point Methodist, she has transported patients to various locations throughout the hospital but in recent years has worked in the ambulatory surgery department assisting in surgical prep work. In addition to the volunteer tasks, Vi arrives at the hospital by 5:30 a.m. each Monday and Wednesday to assist in the service league. When not working at Unity Point, Vi has other volunteer duties through Illinois Harvest. Vi has volunteered routinely on Fridays delivering food items to local non for profit agencies that in return distribute food to those in need. Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service encountered transportation issues at getting items to the building for distribution. Through the generosity of Illinois Harvest and Vi Heinz, the issue was resolved. Illinois Harvest provided the means of transportation and Vi provided her services to ensure that items were picked up and delivered to the site. Vi was a true heaven sent in the Friendship House's time of need and continues to be a valuable asset.
Hailea Hadsall - Youth
Hailea Hadsall is a senior at Macomb High School and has volunteered for more than 1,000 hours in her community the past four years, participating in many service projects including a Murder Mystery Dinner for the Typhoon Haiyan Relief. When Hailea was in eighth grade, her family business was destroyed by a fire. Through the family store she discovered her passion to help others. She is involved in The First Tee, where she learned the fulfillment of volunteerism. At The First Tee she was able to teach kids how to play golf and learn valuable life skills. Through these skills kids can learn how to live a productive healthy lifestyle. The Nine Healthy Habits are fundamentals taught by the first tee to help children live a healthy active life. During the camp she helps teach these values and applies them to golf. She believes golf is a powerful sport that can teach kids many lessons and skills. Hailea is excited to continue her involvement in volunteerism in a community service organization at McKendree University in the fall.
Northeast Illinois Award Recipients
Clayton Muhammad - Adult
Clayton Muhammad is the Director of Communications for the City of Aurora, the second largest city in the state of Illinois. A former teacher and school district administrator, Clayton is the founder of Boys II Men, a nationally-recognized youth movement. Founded in 2002 in the City of Aurora, Boys II Men is a male empowerment initiative that works with males across the spectrum – from boys in Pre-K to young men earning their Ph.D. Boys II Men is proud to have a 100% graduation rate each year. Boys II Men has gone on to receive national recognition and to serve as a model for similar programs in communities across the United States.
Da-Eun (Shira) Choi – AmeiCorps Member
Shira Choi, originally from Los Angeles, California, graduated from Occidental College in 2013 with a major in chemistry. As an Illinois Public Health Association AmeriCorps member, Shira served at Heartland Health Outreach in Chicago, IL. Shira served primarily as a medical home advocate at Heartland – educating people who are homeless about their eligibility for Medicaid as a result of the Affordable Care Act and helping them enroll in Medicaid. Additionally, she assisted individuals not qualified for Medicaid in navigating the health insurance marketplace. Shira also worked as a care coordinator – providing participant referrals and information about additional services as needed. Shira assisted with the diabetes support group and was the lead of the participant engagement committee – a newly formed work group committed to alleviating long wait times in the clinic by providing patient activities and resources most helpful for those who are homeless. Through her experiences as an AmeriCorps member, Shira has realized her passion not only in medicine but specifically, for working with vulnerable populations. Shira will be applying to medical school this summer and she hopes to become a physician who is committed to harm reduction and crisis prevention. Moreover, her year as an AmeriCorps member has taught her the great value of service and in the future, Shira plans on continuing volunteer work.
Fifth Third Bank Chicago - Business
Fifth Third Bank has a rich legacy and strong history of community support. In 1948, it became the first financial institution in the U.S. to establish a charitable foundation. Today, it continues to invest the time and resources to help build a better tomorrow, with particular focus on financial empowerment, hunger, curiosity, and serving the veterans and military community. Everyone at Fifth Third Bank takes great pride in using the bank’s financial and human capital to create positive change in each one of the cities, towns and neighborhoods it serves. In 2011, employees started an annual effort to help veterans and our local military community in Illinois. Since that time, employees have organized annual efforts including care package drives, fundraised for scholarships and volunteered with local veterans organizations. Every year, on Veterans Day, the bank hosts a “Veterans Day of Appreciation” event in the Great Hall of Union Station. (www.53Vets.com). In three years, the bank has packaged and sent over 7500 care packages to soldiers serving in Afghanistan, volunteered hundreds of hours to help local veterans organizations, sponsored five dogs rescued from high kill shelters that have been trained and certified to help veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury, sponsored and underwrote the 2013 Vietnam Moving Wall exhibit in Aurora, underwrote over 100 Thanksgiving dinners for active military families through the USO of Illinois, and have raised and donated over $300,000 to fund scholarships for the families of soldiers wounded or lost in action through the Folds of Honor Foundation. These collective efforts are annually led by Andrew Hayes and the bank’s marketing team John Edburg, Kenya Lee and Armenta Mason. Veteran employees of the bank, integral to making this entire effort meaningful and impactful, include Joseph Carter, Dave Hamby, Craig Pratt, Edward Schrank, Rashell Sisley, and many others.
Patrick Hayes - Senior
Pat Hayes is founder and Chairman of Fabric Images, Inc., Elgin, IL. He is active in his community through participation in the Elgin Chamber of Commerce, as past Board Director, Past Chair of the Economic Development Committee, and Past Moderator of the Chamber Workforce Development Committee. His efforts in promoting Workforce Development through implementation of WorkKeys and the National Career Readiness Certificate within the Elgin community has led to his active participation in the introduction of this tool statewide. He is active in the support of linkage of Government, Education as well as Business and Industry in creating a commonality of purpose in keeping our American Workforce in a leadership role, globally. Pat has also been involved in his industry trade association, the Industrial Fabrics Association International, as a two term past Board Director, a speaker at major International Trade Events, as well as writer for several trade publications. He was recently awarded the distinction of Honored Life Member by IFAI.
Sharon Black – Senior Corps Member
Sharon Black, 68 years old, was born in Chicago in the Pilsen neighborhood. Sharon moved to Joliet and after a couple of years in retirement, and decided she wanted to go back to work but was unable to find employment, so she decided to volunteer because she wanted to make a difference in someone’s life. Some friends recommended joining Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program. Sharon became a Foster Grandparent in 2013 and now, two years later, she can’t imagine not being with her kids every day. Sharon works at Woodland Elementary School on Joliet’s east side. The school is located in an impoverished neighborhood where families with children have almost next to nothing. Sharon works with children who need extra help with reading and math to perform at grade level. Sharon appreciates the daily opportunities and challenges she faces when going to school every day.
Bradley Wilinski - Youth
Bradley Wilinski is a seventh grade student at Woodland Middle School in Gurnee, Illinois. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at age seven, he soon realized that speaking up was the best way to educate others about this often misunderstood disorder. He started by speaking to his classmates, and soon was speaking to hundreds at Tourette Syndrome Association events in New York and Illinois. Bradley has been featured in two documentaries about Tourette syndrome, one airing nationally on PBS, and one distributed to schools. He has been the subject of newspaper and TV interviews, helping to bring awareness to thousands. In 2013, Bradley was named the Tourette Syndrome Association Youth Ambassador for Illinois. As a Youth Ambassador, Bradley travels to schools giving presentations to students and staff, helping increase awareness and understanding on behalf children with Tourette Syndrome. He has even spoken on Capitol Hill to Congressmen and the CDC about the need for education, research and funding. Bradley's goal is to continue to educate and advocate for those affected by Tourette Syndrome.
Northwest Illinois Award Recipients
Jeff Metheny - Adult
As a Noncommissioned Officer in the Army, Jeff Metheny’s number one job was to take care of soldiers. During a tour in Afghanistan, Jeff received several injuries that resulted in medical retirement. While it was difficult to lose something so dear to him, Jeff felt it was his duty to continue to do his job—take care of soldiers. He feels that although he does not wear a uniform any longer, he is not released from his obligation to care for his fellow soldier and veteran. In the two years since his retirement, Jeff has been fortunate enough to be able to assist our veterans in obtaining their benefits, through an often confusing VA system. Jeff continues to counsel soldiers and veterans about their benefits, has delivered over $1.5 million of surplus military clothing to our homeless Veteran population, and mentors veterans going through the Vet Court program in Winnebago County.
Ronald Happach – AmeriCorps Member
Ron Happach is a retired Professor of Industrial Education from the Sauk Valley College in Dixon, IL where he taught classes in math, H.V.A.C. (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and Quality Control Engineering while holding a position as second manager at Barcol Overdoor in Sheffield, IL. Ron began his volunteer service at IYC-Kewanee twice a week in November of 2009, since there was such a great need for tutors he increased his time at the center to three days a week. In February of 2011 Ron became a minimum time AmeriCorps Member and continues to tutor and mentor youth at IYC-Kewanee in that capacity. Beyond his AmeriCorps service at IYC-Kewanee, Ron provides many volunteer hours with a variety of other organizations. Ron has been married to his wife Lorraine for 58 years. They raised six children, four boys and two girls, who are all married with families of their own.
Wal-Mart Distribution Center #7024 - Business
Walmart Distribution Center 7024 in Sterling, Illinois actively seeks out and responds to a variety of volunteer requests supporting communities in the Whiteside and Lee County area each year. The facility’s management team is involved in eight community boards and associates volunteer in many local organizations. In the past year, the Walmart Distribution Center’s 900+ associates have donated more than 3,600 volunteer hours to nearly 40 nonprofit organizations. In addition, the company provided $34,000 in community giving grants from the Walmart Foundation. Some of volunteer efforts by these Walmart associates include assisting those with disabilities with home repairs, landscaping and community beautification projects, hosting fundraising events for schools and organizations, painting park benches and performing general maintenance work for local parks. Since opening in 2006, Walmart Distribution Center #7024 has provided more than 25,000 hours of volunteer time and donating more than $200,000 to assist local organizations. And they are not done. These associates are committed to the communities they live and work and are always looking for more ways to support their neighbors in Whiteside and Lee Counties.
Laurie Tyler – Senior Corps member
Laurie Tyler tutors adults with a unique balance of creative, individualized and tried-and-true approaches. Laurie has been a member of RSVP for 10 years, and has been a tutor with the Black Hawk College Literacy is for Everyone Program (LIFE) for even longer. A dependable and committed tutor, she has worked with dozens of adult learners over the years. Importantly Laurie has been a resource for tutors of adults and children and for the RSVP Education Coordinator. Last September, she was a featured speaking at our monthly Tutor Talk (which Laurie faithfully attends). She shared her “Tutoring Best Practices” with almost 20 other tutors. The handout she created is now a standard part of the Tutor Training Program. Because of her wisdom and experience, Laurie has become a source of inspiration and resource for other tutors.
Jenni Eastman - Youth
Jenni Eastman is a junior at Wethersfield High School in Kewanee. She became involved with the Stepladder Tutoring Program, part of the Sunshine Community Services Center when it was initially organized and she has been a participant ever since. Jenni thoroughly enjoy working with the students after school and has been as happy as the students have been with the progress they have made. Jenni has seen them not only become better students, but also more confident in all their actions. In addition to tutoring, Jenni is involved with band, basketball, the school play, key club, and church activities. She plans to attend college to become a pharmacist.