Governor's Hometown Awards Winners - 2018

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Governor's Cup Winner

LaSalle County – “Vietnam Moving Wall”

LaSalleThe LaSalle County Veterans Tribute Group wanted to honor Vietnam Veterans for all they have done and properly welcome them home. Many of them came back to unimaginable disrespect and needed to be shown that the community and country honors them for their sacrifices on and off the battlefield. Many of the current generations can’t fathom having 58,318 casualties in war or even what a draft was like. Who would lie about their age to go to war at the age of 16 because they felt a sense of duty to their country? This is what close to 8,000 visitors experienced when they visited the Vietnam Moving Wall. The group had signs to educate as well as a field of close to 3,000 American flags to signify the losses from Illinois. It was truly a moving experience for all.


Aviston - “Vintage Hall Renovation”

AvistonBuilt during the time period of 1905-1907, the old Aviston Village (Vintage) Hall withstood the test of time. For many years, it was the center of Aviston government and the center of Aviston volunteer organization activity. In the 1980s and 1990s, the brick structure fell into disrepair. Groups moved out of it and went to new locations, including the government offices. There was talk of tearing it down and getting rid of the building forever, relegating it to history. There were those that kept a dream of restoring this building to its former glory and purpose, but also useful and beautiful far into the future. Besides the dream, it would take a lot of money, volunteer effort and time. A group was formed to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Aviston and once the celebration was concluded, the group kept working to restore the old Village Hall, now called Vintage Hall. It is now a beautiful building that can be used for meeting up to 75 people, bringing the past and future together.

Lemont – “Haunted Central”

LemontHaunted Central opened its doors on October 27 and 28 to raise money for the District 113A Educational Foundation and the Hope & Friendship Foundation in Lemont. Transforming Central School, which has been closed since 2012, into a haunted house took weeks to complete, but was well worth the time and effort of over 200 volunteers. It is truly a collaborative community event involving SD 113A staff, numerous local businesses, Lemont High School, the Lemont Fire Protection District, Lemont Park District, Lemont Police Department and members from across the community. The Haunted Central event raised over $18,000 in ticket sale profits and hosted over 2,000 guests over the two-day event. The proceeds from the event funded innovative educational programs through the Educational Foundation and helped local families in need through Hope & Friendship Foundation.

Oak Lawn – “Oak Lawn Community Garden”

Oak LawnThe Oak Lawn Community Garden is much more! It is in itself a celebration of a continuum of multi-organizational programs and events setting the stage for the development of the garden and fantastic ongoing outgrowth. Oak Lawn in general and the three sponsoring organizations in particular–The Village, Oak Lawn Park District and Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123- have a rich history of collaboration addressing need in the community with combined resources and volunteer efforts resulting in significant impact. In addition to meeting short term needs of re-purposing blighted green space, re-establishing a senior center and creating an impressive horticultural footprint; we are addressing long term needs by expanding our food network for needy families and acting as a catalyst for our Family + Community Resource Network. The ½ acre site is a point of pride in the community and an outstanding example of cooperation, community support and enduring outgrowth.

Project Winners

Aurora - “Lighting Up Our Neighborhoods”

AuroraIn its meetings with community groups, the Aurora Neighborhood Group Support Initiative (NGSI) team kept hearing the same concern – families in inner-city areas were feeling unsafe in their homes because of the darkness along unlighted alleyways. Working with neighborhood group leaders, local aldermen and other agencies, the NGSI determined that these neighborhoods, home to recent immigrants and hard-working families, would benefit from security provided by additional lighting around their homes. The Neighborhood Group Support Initiative developed a plan to purchase security lighting systems, and with the assistance of volunteers from the non-profit Rebuilding Together Aurora agency, the lights would be installed for free at 130 homes in lower-income neighborhoods. The “Lighting Up Our Neighborhoods” project already has shown success, and has enabled hundreds of Aurora residents to once again feel safe and secure in their homes.

Cicero – “Keep Cicero Clean Day”

CiceroIn 2006, the Town of Cicero enacted an annual program titled "Keep Cicero Clean". Town of Cicero elected officials, town departments, community volunteers and school districts come together for this special program. In an effort to perform a town-wide clean up in one day, groups are sent to various areas in the town to clean the streets of the town. They solicit the help of residents, community groups, school district teams and groups, as well as town departments like Public Works and the Water Department, to make this day a great success. Officials also ask residents to use the week prior to the event date to place unwanted trash in the alleys for a special pickup operation. At the end of the event day, there is a large picnic in the park where most of the lunch items are donated from businesses in the area for the program.

East St. Louis Township – “East St. Louis Community Tennis Association - 40 Days of NonViolence Initiative”

East St. LouisDuring the 40 Days of NonViolence Initiative, a partnership with the United States Tennis Association revealed a need and desire for youth to learn about and play the game of tennis. But there were no playable tennis courts in the city of East St. Louis. Fast forward to now: there are state-of-the-art tennis courts in East St. Louis. Free professional tennis lessons are being administered to the youth, teenagers, adults and seniors by the U.S.T.A. Moreover, the opportunity to explore East St. Louis’ unique and rich tennis heritage was integrated into The Initiative’s efforts. This ongoing initiative continues to build excitement and great potential to expand current and develop new partnerships.

Edwardsville – “Growing with the Garden”

EdwardsvilleFor her Girl Scout Gold Award, Growing with the Garden, Makenzie Keiser helped teach area children how to grow vegetable gardens with the YMCA Early Childhood Development Center in Edwardsville. After working with staff to design and build three raised bed gardens at the facility’s children’s playground, she taught students about the importance of vegetables and how they are cultivated. Makenzie helped the students start growing seeds indoors and how to transplant them to the garden. Finally, she assisted the children with harvesting and tasting their produce.

Edwardsville Township – “Kelan's Wheelchair Accessible Swing“

Edwardsville TownshipThe Community of Edwardsville rallies behind a local child's Make-a-Wish to have a Wheelchair Accessible Swing installed at the Boundless Playground. The wish was not only to fulfill his wish to be able to swing and play at the park, but for other children, with similar disabilities, to experience the same joy as him. The Community volunteered their time and money to raise the additional funds needed to complete the project. This wish will forever provide joy to children for years to come.

Hanover Park – “Greenbrook Tanglewood Neighborhood Revitalization”

Hanover ParkIn 2016, Habitat for Humanity brought “Neighborhood Revitalization,” a community reinvestment model, to Hanover Park’s Greenbrook Tanglewood neighborhood. Residents, Habitat, the Village, Keeneyville School District, community organizations, and businesses are working together to revitalize the neighborhood and help residents based on a 4 point workplan (based on resident surveys): 1. Housing programs for affordable homeownership and home repair. 2. Family and Education partnerships for youth initiatives. 3. Clean-up/Green-up events to encourage pride and positive use of greenspace. 4. Jobs/Economic Development to help residents access jobs/training. In 2017 the NR Coalition recruited 32 community organizations/businesses to implement change. Over 500 elementary school students, 150 high school students, and 140 residents participated in programs: the Little Free Library, Community Garden, Tanglewood Summer Camp, and Every Hand Makes a Difference Weeks.

Limestone Township – “Moms Who Care: Limestone Community High School”

LimestoneMoms Who Care is a group of volunteer moms who provide fundamental needs to Limestone Community High School students. Fundamental needs are items necessary to be successful in high school—personal hygiene, school supplies, food, and clothing. These items are provided free of charge to students in need. Parents, teachers, or students themselves may refer a student to their guidance counselor for verification of need and entry into the program. The majority of students are on free/reduced lunch, homeless, or emancipated. Volunteers staff a room housed in the high school. Students in need “shop” the room to receive needed items at no charge. All items are donated by the community. The key to the success of the room is the Facebook page where the community learns of desired items for donation. In 2017 over 130 students were enrolled in the program and shopped monthly to stock up on essential items.

Madison County – “Beautification of Triad Middle School Student Courtyard”

Madison CountyFor her project, Beautification of Triad Middle School Student Courtyard, Girl Scout Katharine Housewright made improvements to the school courtyard which was built in the 1960's and had not seen many updates. She started by painting a map of the United States and the Preamble to the Constitution in vivid colors and updated bike racks with colorful, protective enamel. She researched and used paints that would last close to a decade for a more lasting impact. Katherine encouraged others to act alongside her by sharing her progress on social media and sending out press releases to local newspapers. Katherine said, "Going through this project has given me so much experience and has allowed me to begin a tough but worthwhile journey of bettering the world around me."

Morrison – “Loft 112”

MorrisonLoft 112, a local artist retail cooperative, was created by the Morrison Area Development Corporation (the city’s economic development partner) in 2017. The community’s strong connection to the arts combined with an annual arts-community event, became the major reasons the group considered creating a retail art gallery. The project received strong support and Loft 112 opened December 15, 2017. The Loft opened with ten artists and is now home to more than 50 including several alumni. The Development Corporation and the City Council wanted to develop an arts, cultural and entertainment district-the only one of its kind in the region. In June 2017, the Council approved a resolution establishing such a district which is initially promotional, but the development corporation is working to create financial incentives for entities that decide to establish a business within the district. The unique success of the Loft 112 is based on using all volunteer staff.

Mundelein – “Veterans Appreciation Dinner”

MundeleinThe Mundelein After School Coalition (MASC) hosted its first annual Veterans Appreciation Dinner on April 28, 2017. MASC is a volunteer organization composed of three Mundelein area school districts, the Mundelein Police Department, the Mundelein Park District, and other volunteers working together to create a great community. MASC students collaborated to create a community event with the intention of strengthening the connection between themselves and military veterans in the area. With the cooperation of the Mundelein Police Department, schools, and private businesses, the event was planned and executed. MASC students got the opportunity to serve and interact with over 175 veterans and their families. The event was successful and MASC students were able to demonstrate their respect and admiration for the sacrifice all military veterans make to our community and our country. MASC students have made a commitment to continue this event for coming years.

Oak Brook – “9/11 Memorial Healing Field”

Oak BrookTo honor the 2,996 men, women and children who died on September 11, 2001, the Village of Oak Brook and the True Patriots Care Foundation hosted the Healing Field flag display. For five days, 2,996 flags were posted in perfect rows and columns in an awe-inspiring tribute to honor those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Healing Field is a promise to those who lost their lives and their families that “we will never forget” and a reminder that we all have a role and responsibility to keep our homeland safe and pledge that a tragedy such as 9/11 will never happen again. Over 12,000 people attended the events and walked through the flags. Survivors and families of those lost openly wept at the flags of friends and loved ones. Police, fire and airline personnel paid silent tributes to their brothers and sisters who perished saving others.

Royalton – “Royalton Community Garden”

RoyaltonFor their project, Royalton Community Garden, Girl Scouts were approached by Royalton Mayor Christy Powers to start a project that the youth in their community could take part in. Jacquelyn Walter and Cara Wilson enlisted local youth and planned, planted, and maintained a community garden. Through working on this project the girls found that they were capable leaders and enjoyed working in the outdoors.

Urbana – “Friendship Grove Nature Playscape”

UrbanaThe Urbana Park District constructed the Friendship Grove Nature Playscape at the Anita Purves Nature Center. This unique and interactive playscape engages children of all ages in imaginative and active outdoor play with nature. The playscape is a hands-on, kid-directed outdoor play space for our kids where fun in nature is led by their imagination and ingenuity. Together, parents and their children are immersed in nature as they comfortably explore, experiment, socialize, and manipulate the environment. The playscape provides a multitude of accessible play opportunities for a variety of physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional abilities. There are four main features or “anchor pieces” as well as additional play features that change with the seasons. Hundreds of volunteers, program participants, and the general public participated in meetings, special fundraising events, planning & design meetings, and donated either funds or in-kind materials and play things to make the playscape a reality.

Waterloo – “Share the Feast”

WaterlooIn 1991, the Waterloo Lions Club saw a need in the community to offer a warm, free, and complete Thanksgiving meal to those in need. It was prepared and served in a borrowed school cafeteria with dine-in, carry-out, or free deliveries. “Share the Feast” is an annual Thanksgiving Day meal, free to anyone wishing to join. It is organized and served by 30 volunteers that have dedicated 120 hours to ascertain event perfection. Various local businesses contribute by supplying paper products, turkeys, pies, and many other food and monetary donations. Though this was not created as fundraiser, the costs are usually always covered. Overages were saved as start-up money for next year. The word “need” requires something essential. Maybe it’s a meal, or maybe it’s companionship. Over 300 free meals were served last year to those in need by the Waterloo Lions Club and community volunteers.

Project Honorable Mentions

Beckemeyer – “Train Depot Restoration”

BeckemeyerIn 2013, a member of the Beckemeyer Community Development Club (BCDC) discovered Beckemeyer's original train depot in the woods along the Kaskaskia River. The depot was used in the Village beginning in the early 1900s. Years later, circa 1962, it was sold to an individual and moved to the country to be used as a clubhouse. After discovering the depot, the BCDC purchased it and moved it back to Beckemeyer to the BCDC Park. Numerous volunteers and man hours were spent to restore the train depot to its near original state. Volunteers were utilized in installing a new roof, ceiling, walls, windows, flooring and painting the exterior. Railroad tracks and a replica of a mailbag catcher were added to the front of the depot to make it as authentic as possible. The original pot-bellied stove and safe that were used in the depot were refurbished and put back in the depot.

Harrisburg – “Free Summer Lunch Program”

HarrisburgHarrisburg Unit #3 school teamed up with the city of Harrisburg and legislators to provide free lunches to anyone 18 or under all summer. While there is some funding available, the program is costly and without the support of Mayor McPeek, the city and legislators, it would be impossible. Harrisburg not only has an on-site facility, but they also deliver meals to certain “mobile sites” each day so that every child has the opportunity to receive a nourishing meal each day of summer break. The program has been supported with donations and allowed to grow to not only offer meals, but giveaways, tutoring and reading groups and fun days. This program has served well over 10,000 meals last year and expect to surpass that amount this year.

Marion – “Girl Scout Silver Award Carnival for Lighthouse Shelter”

MarionFor their project, the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois Troop #8893 hosted a fall festival carnival for younger children to support the Lighthouse Shelter in Marion, Illinois. The Lighthouse Shelter is a homeless shelter in Marion. During the Spring of 2017, the Lighthouse Shelter suffered from flooding. The Girl Scout Troop #8893 had attendees to the festival brought items to donate to the Lighthouse Shelter.

O’Fallon – “Nomenclature for Nature”

O’FallenThe Girl Scout of Southern Illinois Troop #915 member Victoria Birchem helped make updates at the O'Fallon Community Garden in her "Nomenclature for Nature" project. Through this project, she was awarded the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve. In 2017, Victoria worked with the O'Fallon Garden Club, its president and board, to create a catalog/database of the garden plants and species. After the new plant species labels were installed, Victoria helped coordinate public garden tours and organized a program for local Girl Scout troops to tour and learn more about the O'Fallon Community Garden. These updates provided the O’Fallon Community Garden with new learning opportunities for the community and visitors to the garden.

Stockton – “Fall Into Stockton Event”

StocktonThe Stockton Chamber is organized to promote economic growth in the Village of Stockton by supporting local businesses and special events while encouraging hospitality, beautification, and community pride. Fall Into Stockton is an annual event whose sole purpose is to support and highlight local businesses and increase economic development in the community. The Stockton Chamber has been the sponsor of this event, in its current form, since its inception in 2011. Each year, the event grows in business participation as well as public attendance. Throughout the years, the Chamber has made it their priority to incorporate all its members in the events during the year. Fall Into Stockton fills the streets of downtown with businesses, entertainment and specialty foods. The Chamber strives to integrate business and entertainment all in one through this ever growing event. The goal is, and always has been, to bring the general public, as well as capturing the neighboring communities and tourist population, to our small community in order to experience the business opportunities outside the "normal" venue and business week.