Governor's Hometown Awards 2020


Governor's Cup Winner

Decatur – “Young Leaders in Action”


Young Leaders in Action (YLIA) is a youth-led initiative of 108 Macon County high school students wanting to positively benefit their community. Sponsored by The Community Foundation of Macon County and Decatur Rotary Club No. 180, young adults widen their philanthropic view and leadership skills by participating in community service projects, monthly planning meetings, educational workshops, and more. Leaders from across the country unite to serve as a team for a one year membership commitment, working with adult leaders through community partnerships to effectively target issues of interest, develop an action plan, and implement positive change within their community. Examples of the group’s outreach include sack lunch distribution, collecting Christmas gifts for local foster children, an international youth-led conference open to other area high school students, and more.


Village of Barrington - “The Barrington Dreamway”

Elk Grove

The Dreamway Project is a creek restoration along Flint Creek and its riparian corridor between Route 59 and Hart Rd. The stream flows through property of the Village of Barrington, Barrington Park District, and School District 220. 

The project included 3,165 feet (6,330 for both sides) of stream bank and channel stabilization and restoration (including grading and installation of rock toe) and the installation of 23 instream riffles/cross vanes, as well as a riparian buffer. Restoration included tree and shrub cleaning across 5.82 acres, prairie and savannah seeding of 4.41 acres, and installation of approximately 625 wet prairie plant plugs. This project improves soil stability, in-stream and wildlife habitat, and the overall green infrastructure of this branch of Flint Creek. It highlights the benefits of collaboration between three government bodies along with volunteers in the non-profit sector. This project reflects that the passion of one can benefit us all. 

Village of Flossmor – “MLK Day of Service”


The Village of Flossmoor’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is an all day service project in which the village and the village of Flossmor Community Relations Commission partners with area non-profit organizations, local businesses and government agencies to sponsor an extensive, volunteer driven event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On the national Day of Service, January 21, 2019, hundreds of volunteers of all ages reported to 20 project locations throughout Flossmoor and the surrounding area. Projects included providing meals and shelter to members of South Suburban PADs at Flossmoor Community Church; making ”tie blankets” with Fee the Warmth for families in need; writing letters to military veterans and senior citizens; a community wide food drive sponsored by Jack and Jill of America, South Suburban Chicago Chapter; and more. The Village of Flossmoor joined the Martin Luther King, Jr National Day of Service in 2015. 

Albion – “The Hope Center”

Will County

The Hope Center in Albion, IL is a not for profit organization that focuses on serving food, clothing, shoe and household needs through donated items of residents of Edwards County, as well as southeast Illinois. They assist with job opportunities, counseling needs, the pregnancy and crisis center, suicide prevention counseling, points of contact with government officials and Veterans Affairs, have a SafeKids Worldwide program, and began working with food commodity banks for food distribution monthly as available. 

They have a prison ministry and have helped people get into Teen Challenge. They rely solely on volunteerism for running the center and donations, both monetary and items/goods, and are the local Toys for Tots program coordinators. They seek out ways to benefit their community through educational opportunities. 

Project Winners

Trout Valley - “COVID-19 Help Team"


This project began with one family in the Village that was severely impacted by COVID. The daughter had contracted the disease and infected her parents and her grandmother who lived with them.​ The daughter became seriously ill and was in the ICU for more than two months. The mother and father also became very sick, needed to be quarantined, and could not care for themselves or the grandmother who later died.​ Once neighbors became aware of this tragic situation, they wanted to help this family even though they may possibly be exposed to the virus themselves.​ This generous gesture of the part of a few individuals led to a community-wide volunteer effort to help others during the pandemic -- not only those who are ill, but seniors in town who are self-isolating and not willing or afraid to leave their homes - by making meals or picking up groceries and prescriptions.​

Mount Carroll – “Arbor Day Palooza”

CarlyleThe Mount Carroll City Council recognized that the community needed a tree replacement program to replace 100+ trees taken down because of the Emerald Ash Borer, disease and storm damage. Since Mount Carroll has been recognized as a Tree City for 26 years, the council decided a special event should highlight this project in an effort to retain the character of the town and obtain donations. 

The idea for ARBOR DAY PALOOZA was born.​ The plan was to start a Tree Replacement Fund, seek grants, and have a special tree planting event to thank donors. The community bought in and many volunteers came forward to assist. 

The project received $13,486 in donations which was used to plant 52 new trees on city property, hold an Arbor Day tree planting ceremony in the new, soon to be dedicated, Stone House Memorial Park and host a tour of the Stone House site.​

Lewistown – “Music in the Park”

ChannahonMusic in the Park is a community service event that takes place in and around the town square of Lewistown each Thursday evening throughout the summer.​ The event is offered free of charge, with participants of all ages bringing their blankets and lawn chairs to listen to a wide range of local musicians sharing their talents in the city-owned Gazebo, from 7-9 p.m. Its stage also serves as a forum for other community events and concerns, promotes dialogue among citizens, brings family members of all ages for shared time together, and generates yearly donations for youth services in the community. During the summer of 2020, Music in the Park became a means for the residents of this area to reach out to each other, despite isolating conditions, to provide a safe and positive outlet for human connection, to invest in the future of our youth, and to reaffirm pride in our community during troubled times.​

Tower Lakes – “Raingardens and Bioswales Project​”


Through the construction of two engineered raingardens and a wetland restoration, the Village of Tower Lakes (The Municipality) and Tower Lakes Improvement Association (The Homeowners Association and landowner) jointly desired to achieve three major goals for Tower Lakes as a community.​ 1. Reduce non-point source pollution reaching the lake and the aquifers below the lake, from unfiltered storm water runoff running directly into the lake, and the subsequent consequences of pollutants and nutrients entering the lake.​ 2. Reduce volume of storm water entering the aging infrastructure of the drainage systems of the village but detaining and infiltrating storm water through the construction of raingardens and bioswales​. 3. Increase community awareness of the positive impact of raingardens and bioswales in the community, through education and demonstration, with the goal of encouraging the construction of smaller projects within private households. ​

Village of Shumway – “5 & 2 Soup Kitchen“

East St. Louis

Enduring Freedom Ministries, Inc. (EFM) is a missions in a small community in Illinois. We feed and clothe families in​ Effingham county and surrounding areas.​ It has grown so much that we wanted to educate families on how to make wholesome meals by starting a soup kitchen, so the soup kitchen was established in June of 2019.​ Once COVID-19 happened, however, the importance of feeding families a good hot meal and suppling groceries was much more of a need. That is when the idea of building a new commercial kitchen was born.​

Tiskilwa – “American Legion Hall​”

Glendale HeightsThe Tiskilwa Historical Society tackled the project of restoring and renovating the dilapidated American Legion Hall that had not been in use for more than twenty years. The goal was to create Gallery on Galena, a pleasant venue with the dual purpose of educating the public and paying tribute to the past. The building would need a new roof, windows, siding, plumbing, and much more. ​On the main level, half the floorspace would be dedicated to local veterans as well as their auxiliary organizations; the other half would honor the memory of fifteen country schools, their teachers, and school boards who served rural Tiskilwa residents for many decades. ​

The Tiskilwa Historical Society tackled the project of restoring and renovating the dilapidated American Legion Hall that had not been in use for more than twenty years. ​To store the overflow of Tiskilwa artifacts from our other museum venue, the lower level needed to be transformed from a damp, mud-filled space with broken windows to a clean well-lighted place. ​

Robinson – “Kiwanis Harmony Park”

JolietLed by Kiwanis Club of Robinson, the Harmony Park project is a recreation and educational installation comprised of a series of outdoor musical instruments each designed to harmonize with the others. ​Also installed nearby is a little free library book box, and large benches. The installation is designed to be used by people of all ages, and is accessible to those who may have disabilities. ​It offers the community a place for mental play and musical fitness and enhances the quality of life of the community, especially families with special needs. ​This project gives our children and families the opportunity to play together to create beautiful music. The project was initiated in 2016 and fully completed in 2019.​

University Park – “Town Center Revitalization”Lake Barrington

The Town Center Complex was built to serve as both a community center and commercial shopping center. Though initially filled with businesses throughout the 1980's, a decline in economic development across the South Suburbs, deferred maintenance, and a lack of funding led ultimately to a loss of tenants and decline in facility conditions.​ Upon election, Mayor Joseph Roudez, III, the Village Board, and Village Manager prioritized the revitalization of this critical community asset.​Completed elements of the Town Center Revitalization Project included the reconstruction of the facility's parking lot, improved access to ADA parking spots, safety and drainage improvements, a community garden, and general landscaping improvements. Throughout this time, between November 2019 and December 2020, this project contributed to an increased occupancy rate at the Town Center Complex, from 10% to the current rate of 100%.​

Carlinville – “Make Carlinville Beautiful”

MattoonThrough its mission of “beautification with a purpose,” MCB aims to recreate and restore pollinator habitats while simultaneously making the City of Carlinville (more) beautiful.​ MCB began as a family project, led by Randy and Mary Tinder, Carlinville natives mourning the recent loss of their adult son, Billy, and seeking to lift their own spirits as well as those of the community. MCB quickly grew to include other family members, friends, and eventually garnered community-wide support.​ Today, more than 48 volunteers have planted 45 local pollinator sites, are planning an extensive Sculpture Garden and plantings at the Carlinville Amtrak station and continue to take on new opportunities to beautify the city.​ These efforts were formally recognized on Sept. 23, 2019, when the City Council unanimously approved the Bee City Carlinville resolution, paving the way for the city to become the first Bee City, USA, in the state of Illinois. ​

Hawthorne Woods – “Brierwoods Preserve Restoration​”

Park ForestFormerly an 11.5-acre thicket of overgrown vegetation, Brierwoods Preserve, located within the Village of Hawthorn Woods, is our newest, public open space project. This restoration initiative supports the habitats of both a 4.5-acre oak forest and a 7-acre wetland ecosystem.​ This preserve offers an oasis for woodland animals, the threatened Monarch butterfly, and other pollinator insects. It is an urban forest nature preserve consisting of walking trails and an observation deck, accessible to all mobilities. ​

This significant environmental endeavor could not have been completed and cannot continue to be maintained and enhanced without extensive efforts from the following diverse volunteer groups: Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Greenest Region Corps, Ancient Oaks Foundation, Aqua Illinois, Rotary Club of Long Grove/Kildeer/Hawthorn Woods, Boy Scout Troop #92 along with six Eagle Scout candidates, Girl Scout Troop #1409, Fox Tribe Indian Princesses, Hawthorn Woods in Bloom, and the Hawthorn Woods Sustainability Committee.

Lasalle – “Celebration of Lights”

RoselleLa Salle’s Celebration of Lights began as a small project to offer a new Christmas activity for residents but has since grown into something much greater through sheer community will and spirit​. Mayor Jeff Grove helped kickstart the project which, during its inception in 2013, consisted of a gravel road through the City’s Rotary Park with roughly 10 displays that residents could drive-through with their families. It has since grown to over 1.5 miles with over 300 displays.​ The ultimate goal of the Celebration of Lights has never been more important than at the end of 2020 when the holiday traditions many look forward to every year had to be canceled or drastically changed.​ While it would require a lot of adjustments, the city of La Salle was driven to continue to offer the event and provide a safe and enjoyable event that appealed to people of all ages and backgrounds. ​

West Dundee – “The Wall That Heals”

Schaumburg"The Wall That Heals" is a Vietnam War Memorial Touring Replica and Mobile Education Center that intends to honor and welcome home our Vietnam Veterans. From July 4 - 7, 2019, the Village of West Dundee and American Legion Post 679 brought The Wall to Randall Oaks Park. 

Over 12,000 people attended the events.  The Wall contains the names of 58,272 soldiers killed in the Vietnam War​. Veterans and families openly wept as they found the name of a loved one or friend who didn't make it home, and walked through our Healing Field display of 1,587 American flags with the names of the POW/MIA still missing from the Vietnam War. ​It is a rare moment in our lives when we get to correct a mistake. We may have failed to honor our Vietnam Veterans when they returned home, but "The Wall That Heals" ensures we won't repeat that mistake.​

Macomb – “Genesis Garden”

St. Clair County

In response to the multi-faceted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Genesis Garden, a small, local non-profit​organization in Macomb, IL, pivoted its 2020 programming to meet new and evolving food insecurity challenges facing​ many Macomb residents.​ With help from AmeriCorps Members and VISTA Volunteers, Genesis Garden mobilized community volunteers and local resources to secure and distribute 97,585 meals to 650 school-aged children through​ its Summer Meals Program and made 7,220 grocery deliveries to 2,995 individuals, through its Genesis Food Response.​ It developed and implemented Kids Cook!, an 11-week online cooking program, teaching local youth basic cooking skills, and it established 5 public-access Victory Gardens to make seasonal vegetables, herbs, and flowers available to all residents in beautiful, open space.​ In all, more than 330 local individuals volunteered and collectively​ served more than 2,510 hours to make Macomb a more resilient and hopeful community!​

Village of Godfrey– “LaVista Disc Golf Course”

MaryvilleLaVista Park in the Village of Godfrey, Illinois is located between Illinois Route 3 (West Delmar Avenue) and Illinois Route 100 (The Great River Road). ​LaVista consists of 93 acres and a one-mile trail that winds through a natural area that traverses the limestone bluffs that are a showcase of the Riverbend Area.​ As a highlight to its natural beauty and rolling terrain, an 18-hole disc golf course was envisioned.  A Godfrey business owner championed a significant fund raising campaign and volunteer effort to make the disc golf course one of the best in a 50 mile radius.​

Village of Lake Zurich – “Kuechmann Arboretum​”

MascoutahThe Village of Lake Zurich, in partnership with the Ancient Oaks Foundation (AOF), has transformed 7.8 acres of underutilized forested open space into the only certified nature arboretum in Lake County. ​In an ever-expanding metropolitan area protecting open-spaces for wildlife, education, and conservation is only increasing in importance. This multi-pronged conservation effort has over 28 different species of trees with the oldest tree being over 275 years old! ​In partnership with the AOF and community volunteers, the Village has endeavored to rehabilitate an abandoned walking trail, remove invasive species, install pollinator vegetation, picnic tables, benches, and more. Throughout 2020, volunteers dedicated approximately 300 hours to the project. ​

Village of Bensenville – “Green in Bensenville”

UrbanaTo be a steward of the environment is to take responsibility, to manage, and to protect. ​The Village of Bensenville for the past four (4) years, has painstakingly implemented various programs, green alternatives and given choices to its residents to rethink how they dispose of, recycle and reuse the items that could be re-purposed responsibly, such as free mulch, cooking oil drop off, holiday lights and holiday tree recycling, document shredding, pumpkin smashing, etc.​ Changing attitudes is not a simple undertaking. It requires introspection, understanding, and passion from people that want to implement these changes. It is important to see the potential, recognize the needs and figure out ways of educating and including regular, tax-paying citizens without jarring and sudden changes that can feel drastic, to their lives. Earth's resources are finite but collectively we can recycle them into infinite possibilities for the residents of Bensenville. ​

City of Marion – “Senior Citizens Center”

Vermilion CountyMayor Mike Absher of Marion states that while 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, in times of great hardship, outstanding people, through their work, rise to the challenge of making a positive difference. The Marion Senior Citizens Center had the opportunity to expand its services and be a beacon of light for so many of our most vulnerable population during this time.​ They immediately adapted, increasing their monthly meals from 1,500 to over 5,000 and worked to develop a new weekend food program to fight hunger. ​The center immediately adapted to broaden their services to include food boxes, drive through flu clinics, information on local resources and programs, washable masks, hand sanitizers and transform services that were once only offered in person in a safe manner whether curbside, over the phone or at the local drive-in. Working with volunteers, businesses, and organizations they have made a huge impact in our community. ​

Chicago – “Chicago Connected”

Vermilion CountyLaunched in June 2020, Chicago Connected is a groundbreaking, multi-year program to close Chicago’s digital divide and ensure that 100,000+ students and their households have access to broadband internet.​ 

This initiative, born out of families who shared their firsthand struggles to connect during the COVID-19 crisis, is a best-case example of how parents and partners can come together to solve a longstanding problem.​ 

This unique partnership among Chicago Public Schools, the City of Chicago, internet service providers, philanthropy, and three dozen community-based organizations has already connected nearly 60,000 students.​

Moline – “Mercado on Fifth”

Vermilion County Mercado on Fifth is a weekly Friday night summertime "market" series that creates economic opportunities for minority owned businesses while simultaneously increasing community involvement and pride. ​Located where Moline's downtown meets Moline's Floreciente neighborhood, Mercado on Fifth's 300 volunteers welcomed an average of 1,000 people per night throughout the summer of 2019. Patrons enjoyed food and drinks from local vendors, multicultural entertainment, community networking, educational programming, and enrichment activities for children. ​Located where Moline's downtown meets Moline's Floreciente neighborhood, Mercado on Fifth's 300 volunteers welcomed an average of 1,000 people per night throughout the summer of 2019. Patrons enjoyed food and drinks from local vendors, multicultural entertainment, community networking, educational programming, and enrichment activities for children. ​Mercado on Fifth is also a resource and catalyst for aspiring entrepreneurs. Since 2016, Mercado on Fifth has inspired and supported over 25 new minority-owned businesses. In 2020, Mercado on Fifth met the challenges of the pandemic with a series of small business "cash mobs" (observing all IDPH mitigation guidelines) that brought attention to small minority-owned restaurants and shops. In addition, Mercado on Fifth facilitated a grant program for minority owned businesses in the City of Moline. ​

Rockford – “Building New Opportunities”

Vermilion County The “Building New Possibilities” project in Rockford, Illinois brought public high school students and families in need of affordable housing together in a groundbreaking, dual-purpose partnership.​ Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity was grappling with how to bolster their manpower to meet growing community housing needs in the face of an aging volunteer force, and Rockford Public School District was grappling with how to provide experiential-learning that would strengthen career-readiness for their trades students. The two entities came together— along with an immense amount of community support— to have construction trades students at Rockford’s Guilford High School build a house from the ground up as part of their academic year curriculum.​ During the 2019-2020 academic year, 32 16- to 18-year old students constructed a multi-level, four-bedroom home, mastering the skills needed for post-secondary trades careers. Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity sold the home to a local family in need of safe housing and affordable homeownership opportunity.​

Moline – “Quad Cities Marathon”

Vermilion CountyThe TBK Quad Cities Marathon is a USA TF Certified Race run on the fourth Sunday in September. Relying upon more than 1500 volunteers, the many activities of the race weekend attract runners and spectators from around the world.​ The 26.2 mile run starts and finishes in beautiful downtown Moline. The course captures the essence of our nation's heartland with a consistent connection to the Mississippi River.​ The weekend includes 5 races traversing 4 cities, 3 bridges, 2 States, and 1 Island. It is a popular qualifier for the Boston Marathon. A dedicated race committee, over 1500 volunteers, and countless hours of planning with local authorities and law enforcement ensure that the course will provide athletes with a superlative experience.​ The spectacular views they experience epitomize the charm of Illinois -- almost as much as the volunteers who make the event truly special.​

Elk Grove Village – “VFW Hall Elevator​”

Vermilion CountyThe idea for the Elk Grove VFW Hall Elevator project began after a community member watched a disabled veteran be carried up the stairs to access the Elk Grove VFW Hall (Post 9284).​ The goal of this project was to install an elevator at the VFW, which would allow elderly and disabled veterans to access the VFW Hall and its services. Prior to this project, the VFW had no ground floor entry and the only point of entrance into the VFW Hall was by staircase.​ To support the project, the Elk Grove community raised $178,953 through raffle ticket sales, along with many generous donations from the Elk Grove business community. The installation of the elevator in December of 2019 was the culmination of the efforts of an entire community to support our veterans by making the VFW Hall, our Veteran’s home away from home, truly accessible for all.​