Governor's Hometown Awards Winners - 2019


Governor's Cup Winner

Williamsfield – “Playground Barn-Raising Project”

WilliamsfieldThe Playground Barn-Raising Project represents an ambitious volunteer-led effort to “Raise the Funds, Raise the Barn, Leave a Legacy” in Williamsfield, where families previously drove 25 miles roundtrip for a modern park playground. This collaborative project of two volunteer organizations, the Williamsfield Parks Association and Williamsfield FFA Alumni & Friends, raised $150,000 from donors and recruited 77 volunteers who gave 2,032 hours in 2018 in efforts to raise a multi-level playground barn and other play features in the village park, which lacked modern playground equipment. Volunteers from teenage FFA members to 70-year-old farmers raised that barn with a dedication to serve that runs deep in this 600-resident town. This inspirational barn-raising promotes physical activity among youth and embodies the power of volunteerism. It makes life better in Williamsfield, where this legacy landmark shows the community’s commitment to healthy, happy futures for youth, its biggest asset, and agriculture, its driving industry.


Elk Grove Village - “Elk Grove Village Cares”

Elk GroveElk Grove Village Cares is a community-based strategy to tackle opioid addiction, help those in need and make our community stronger. This program takes a multi-pronged, community-based approach to the disease of addiction to include the placement of Narcan kits in public spaces so Village employees and citizens can step in to save the life of an individual who may be suffering from an overdose; partnerships with treatment and recovery providers where addicts who present themselves at the Elk Grove Police Department will be placed at a detox and recovery facility; personal follow-up by Village social services personnel with individuals who seek treatment services through the Village; ongoing work with Elk Grove Village-based interfaith organizations to offer counseling programs that cater to those in recovery and their family members; a public education campaign to remove the stigma attached to opioid abuse and addiction, and raise awareness about the disease of addiction.

Harrisburg – “Summer Food Service Program”

HarrisburgThe overall concept of the project is quite simply feeding the less fortunate. The Harrisburg CUSD #3 Summer Food Service Program provides a healthy meal free of charge to children, age 18 and under. By utilizing grants and community donations the district is able to also provide activities and incentives such as family fun day to encourage participation. 

Will County – “MicroPantries; Take What You Need, Leave What You Can”

Will CountyMany families are living paycheck to paycheck or have trouble making their benefits make it to the end of the month. MicroPantries came about to help provide the necessities to get people to that next paycheck. They provide that meal for the family that has run out of food but don’t have the means to feed their family until tomorrow. Take what you need, Leave what you can. MicroPantries bring communities together to help those in need. They allow neighbors to help neighbors. There are no sign ups and no strings attached. If you are in need, a MicroPantry is there to provide you with the food, toiletries, or pet products you may need. If you have extra, you are encouraged to drop it in your local MicroPantry. Located in public areas, anyone can access them 24/7.  

Project Winners

Aurora - “National Night Out 2018”

AuroraMore than 6,000 residents joined in celebrating National Night Out in the City of Aurora in 2018, forming bonds with their neighbors, getting to know their neighborhood police officers, and interacting with City officials on a personal, one-to-one basis. About 320 volunteers from neighborhoods throughout Aurora, supported by the City’s Neighborhood Group Support Initiative staff, worked to put on the festivities. There were police officers, firefighters and city officials at every event, interacting with residents in a casual setting. The events featured community picnics, costumed characters, “bouncy” houses and fun for the whole family. 2018 was the 35th annual National Night Out gathering in the City's neighborhoods, and Aurorans celebrated at 42 event sites – more National Night Out activities than any other City in Illinois.

Carlyle – “Go Green”

CarlyleMembers of Troop 688 from Carlyle, Illinois organized an event, volunteers, and arranged with the Army Corps of Engineers to clean up Riverside Park in Carlyle, Illinois. They made arrangements to have items donated through a community drive necessary to promote in their community.  Members of Troop 688 recruited 34 volunteers from the Carlyle, Illinois community to help with the efforts. They created and displayed signs educating the community about the importance of environmental stewardship. They took the lead and organized the time line of the clean-up and instructed then empowered the 34 volunteers to successfully clean up the park. After properly disposing the trash and recycling they left nothing behind except the lessons on stewardship and a desire for those present to share what they had learned that day with their families and neighbors in order to create a sustainable desire of caring for the environment.

Channahon – “Living Learning Garden”

ChannahonThe project began with the idea of creating an outdoor classroom that would allow students to learn while enjoying and appreciating the outdoor environment and the wonders of nature. Under the direction and guidance of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, this vision was expanded to include a Living Learning Garden for students. Two spaces were designed and created through the collaboration of the Three Rivers School administration and the Master Gardeners. One space has a hardscape surrounded by a Pollinator Garden complete with outdoor seating and chalkboard for students and teachers. The adjoining space is the Butterfly Garden designed specifically to attract Monarch butterflies. Master Gardeners, after planting and maintaining the gardens throughout the summer months return at the beginning of the school year and teach students about the life cycle of the Monarch butterflies. Classroom teachers expand on the lessons with extension activities related to the various food sources (plants), metamorphosis, pollination (bees), and the migration to Mexico. 

Colfax – “Colfax Restoration Project”

ColfaxOur project has a simple mission statement: Proud of our past, committed to our future. We are trying to improve the appearance of our town especially our Main Street to not only provide a good impression to visitors and our community members but also to draw new business to the town.  Primary efforts include revitalize empty space into a Colfax Memorial & Green Space on Colfax’s Main Street; repair and do facelifts on buildings that will continue to remain on Main Street; hold semi-annual clean up days for the community identifying specific projects as well as offer assistance to people in the community that need help with their properties; continue to look for opportunities to offer events for the town not only for community members but other surrounding communities as well. With all of the above efforts, our goal is to draw new businesses to Colfax and new community members.

East St. Louis – “Parents United for Change-School Transportation Safety“

East St. LouisParents United for Change (PUC) is an advocacy group that seeks to support parents, students, and teachers in Greater East St. Louis. Since its founding in 2014, PUC has organized around various issues that affect East Saint Louisans. Most recently, the group set out to problem-solve the unsafe walking routes many youth face as they travel to and from school. The effort, called the School Transportation Safety Initiative, used community organizing strategies to identify short and long term solutions to the problem: they helped children cross busy streets and supervised unsafe commutes while simultaneously lobbying for legislation that established new bus routes in the district. After years of advocacy, the group was successful in passing House Bill 5195, which allowed busing for students in areas with patterns of high crime, even if youth lived within a walkable distance of the school.

Glendale Heights – “Glendale Heights Mayor's Center for Senior Citizens Volunteer Initiative Program”

Glendale HeightsVolunteers have long been an invaluable resource to our community, and every minute of their dedication counts! Workforce demographics and busy schedules required a change in the way we thought about volunteerism. The Mayor's office launched a Volunteer Initiative Program (VIP) to revamp our connections with resident volunteers and promote enhanced volunteer experiences for all ages. A subset of the Mayor's VIP program is the Center for Senior Citizens Volunteer Initiative Program. This subset gives senior citizens an additional driving purpose to get out and make a difference, to interact with their peers, and to make new friends. Whether a senior is interested in giving an hour of their time or seeking a long-term volunteer experience, we will work closely with our seniors to find a match to their interests. To date, the Center has 134 registered volunteers. In 2018, 61 individuals volunteered for a total of 1,848.75 hours.

Joliet – “Old Joliet Prison Tourism & Restoration Initiative”

JolietIn 2002, the State closed the Joliet Correctional Center. Although this iconic facility was internationally known through its storied penal history and depiction in films and television, fifteen years of abandonment saw physical decay, vandalism, neglect and four separate arson fires. Despite much talk about making productive use of the property, nothing occurred until late 2017 when the City successfully petitioned the State for an intergovernmental agreement to manage the property. In 2018, a coalition of volunteers was formed to begin the process of restoring the site and creating a permanent tourism opportunity for local, national and international visitors.  After months of effort and thousands of hours of volunteer labor from residents, local trades and contractors, the facility was opened to the public in August 2018. Approximately 3,500 visitors attended the opening, and public tours have been conducted since attracting thousands of visitors from across the globe.

Lake Barrington – “Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores BraveHearts Program”Lake Barrington

BraveHearts and the Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores joined forces on August 11, 2018 to educate the community on veterans’ issues. The Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores BraveHearts event created an ideal joint community venue for the Village of Lake Barrington Shores and Lake County residents to learn how equine-assisted therapy provided by BraveHearts directly aids and impacts veterans. Fun activities such as “Hug a Donkey” and “Meet a Mustang” created an educational and interactive program for all attendees that highlighted how the BraveHearts program provides cognitive, social and physical benefits for veterans. This program was developed by the Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores as an ongoing commitment to enhance community education and awareness of Veterans’ issues and local groups who provide support to Veterans.

Mattoon – “Fit-2-Serve: Community Bridges”

MattoonFit-2-Serve, located in Mattoon, Illinois, is a grassroots, faith-based not-for-profit established in 2008. Their mission is to equip people for works of service, and their vision is to be a catalyst for a vibrant collaborative community. Their target audience is our local area schools, in which over 750 youth participate monthly in one of the five Community Bridges programs. Through these longitudinal, experiential service learning programs that begin in kindergarten and extend through 5th grade, an awareness and understanding of an individual's value, dignity and worth, is developed. Middle and high school youth are trained in leadership roles by interacting with the elementary students through participation in the programs. Their belief is better equipped youth become engaged adults that positively impact our community. Fit-2-Serve strongly feels equipping the next generation to serve will transform our community and break the generational poverty cycles running rampant in so many rural communities.

Park Forest – “Veterans Closet & Resource Center”

Park ForestThe Veterans Closet and Resource Center is located in Downtown Park Forest and supported directly by the Veterans Commission of Park Forest. The Veterans Closet and Resource Center serves any Veterans with proper identification with completely free goods and resources. The Veterans Closet and Resource Center was conceived from the mission of the Veterans Commission which continues to aggressively pursue its support of Veterans regardless of their residency and especially where federal or state resources do not exist. In 2018, the Veterans Closet and Resource Center was able to serve 213 Veterans, donate 1,414 hours of volunteer time, donate $36,801 in volunteer labor, received approximately $23,737 in the form of a donated vehicle and store space and an additional $16,000 in donations from a resident with a total monetary donation of $76,538.

Roselle – “Flags for Roselle”

RoselleFlags for Roselle is a community display of patriotism in which the Village, Lake Park High School, Roselle American Legion Post 1084, Boy & Girl Scouts of Roselle, and the Roselle History Museum play a major role. On five holidays throughout the year (Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, Patriots Day, and Veterans Day) students and other volunteers “plant” 3 x 5-foot U.S. flags in the front yards of subscribers throughout the Village – and return at dusk to remove them. All flags are constructed by Lake Park High School students, with the cost of materials covered by annual subscription fees. Any extra proceeds are granted back to the five partnering organizations. In 2018, the program officially became incorporated into its own non-profit organization, Flags for Roselle NFP. The program continues to expand patriotism and community collaboration reaching towards the ultimate goal of, “a flag in every front yard of Roselle.”

Schaumburg – “Monarch Butterfly Initiative”

SchaumburgThe Schaumburg Monarch Butterfly Initiative was started by three friends that share a passion to preserve the iconic monarch butterfly. Over the past year, they recruited and trained over 60 volunteers, gained support from the local park district and municipal government, raised over $3,500, assisted the park district to make the dream of constructing a butterfly rearing and education station come to life, conducted educational programming, raised and released almost 600 monarchs, encouraged the dedication of monarch way stations, and brought awareness about the monarch population to the entire community. While logging over 2,300 volunteer hours, they also partnered with residents, teachers and local members of the “Monarch Mama’s of the Midwest (Papas WelcomeToo)” and touched the lives of people of all ages and walks of life.

St. Clair County – “Summer of STEM”

St. Clair CountyThe Summer of STEM Project was multi-faceted but centered on the need to have more girls experiencing science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the St. Clair County community in order to empower them into STEM futures. Girl Scout volunteers ran the activity room at the FLL Jr Robotics Expo in April. Over 30 teams participated in this annual event. Another aspect of the project involved running STEM sessions as part of the O'Fallon Public Library summer reading program. Another component of the project involved providing STEM activities to over 100 girls that attended camp at Horner Park. The final part of the project was a 3-day FIRST Lego Robotics League Junior camp which involved over 30 K-3rd grade students.

Project Honorable Mentions

Maryville – “Maryville Farmers Market”

MaryvilleThe Maryville Farmers Market was started by volunteers to provide the Village of Maryville residents the opportunity to purchase locally farmed, produced or manufactured goods in their hometown. Additionally, while supporting local farms and businesses, the market fosters a strong sense of community and connection to food sources. Maryville lacks a grocery store and access to fresh foods, and the market fills this gap during the growing season, especially to those with limited access to transportation. Through market events and weekly interaction, the market provides education in food economics, local farming practices and healthy eating. All proceeds from the market are donated back to the community through the local food pantry, fire department and school-based initiatives. 

Mascoutah – “Helping Mascoutah Weekend Meals Program”

MascoutahGirl Scout Troop 2255 took the lead in serving with the Mascoutah Meals Program in order to raise funds and awareness for the program's efforts to make sure no child goes hungry.  The girls hosted a food drive in the community and used their cookie booths out in the community during Girl Scout Cookie Season to bring awareness to the Mascoutah Meals Program and to collect donations and money from cookie sales to support the program.

Urbana – “Urbana Park District Advisory Committee”

UrbanaThe Urbana Park District has continually sought ways to make our services better and to provide the kinds of parks and programs that our community needs. To do a better job of that, the park district established the Urbana Park District Advisory Committee (UPDAC) to create a better link with our citizens and communicate more directly with residents to plan, implement and improve our services. Most recently the group gave many hours of volunteer service in regular meetings, helping staff to host public input meetings, and connecting staff to residents to increase the effectiveness of our 2018 strategic planning process. In addition, UPDAC was the impetus for and a driving force behind a study done to improve our services to the under-represented populations in Urbana. As a result of this study, a shift in staffing and program offerings has made real impacts into the provision of services that we provide ALL our residents. With the help of UPDAC, our slogan of "You Belong Here" is now truly meaningful.

Vermilion County – “Step Up Vermilion County”

Vermilion CountyWhat happens when a diverse group of community leaders gather together to fill in the gaps?  A lot! Lives have been saved, connections made, communities impacted, families brought back together, youth empowered.  “Step Up” Vermilion County focused on three specific areas; Parenting and Family, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health. A group of over 200 community leaders worked on these key issues in 2018 to create success stories that continue impacting lives in Vermilion County today. The mission of Step Up Vermilion County brings the community together identifying and addressing current challenges facing the county. Together we have empowered growth and development to create positive outcomes in economic, educational, social and spiritual aspects of our community. Together we have impacted over 60,000 lives. What follows is our unique story that has come from a single question, “Will you step up to tackle the toughest challenges in our community?”  The answer, a resounding “yes”.  Together we are Step Up Vermilion County.