Governor's Volunteer Service Awards
Illinois' Volunteers of the Week
Maxwell Yang- Volunteer of the Week (January 31, 2022)
Helping others, bringing joy through music, and spreading appreciation for Asian American culture was the primary goal when Sound of Wishes came to be as a nonprofit organization. As the Director of the Western Instruments division, Maxwell Yang lead his team by composing, arranging, and performing music at many performances to raise funds in order to help charities to support community need. Through countless stories Maxwell has heard from family and others, living in poverty or under-resourced conditions is something that is never easy to get out of. His parents were both born and raised mainly in China and lived in conditions less fortunate than he was used to. They mentioned that the times where someone lends even a small amount of help have impacted their lives greatly. This inspiration led to Maxwell’s interest and involvement in volunteering.
From the organization’s beginning, any proceeds from fundraisers or donations have gone to the Make-A-Wish Foundation or Feeding America to help people with limited resources or children with critical illnesses. Since being a part of the group, they have raised over $10,000 for those organizations with about $4,000 raised from their Covid-19 Relief Project for Feeding America. They released weekly videos and helped provide meals for communities who needed help with obtaining food during the pandemic. Additionally, a main goal of the group has always been to promote cultural awareness and diversity through appreciation of the Chinese arts and music. With the performances being a mixture of both Chinese and American music pieces, we are able to cultivate interest in their group and culture, as a result.
Maxwell was proud of being part of the Chinese community and the identity that it brought with it. Cultural diversity and awareness are some of the reasons he joined the Sound of Wishes. His volunteer service has been able to impact the community by not only broadening the knowledge of their culture, but their community as well. Namely, we perform at many events dedicated to Asian American communities through the Coalition for Better Asian American Community, such as at the CBCAC Asian American Census and the ‘Belonging in Chinatown’ event to empower these communities living in Chicago. At one event dedicated to announce the passing of the TEAACH Act, requiring Illinois school curriculums to include Asian American History, Sound of Wishes performed and met with local officials like Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton to talk about the group and what can be done to further Asian American acceptance in the community through music.
Ruby Arun- Volunteer of the Week (January 18, 2022)
Ruby Arun founded Mission:MathMinds (www.missionmathminds.org) in June 2020, a 501(c)3 non-profitand Presidential Service Certified organization dedicated to improving math literacy and providing more access to underprivileged girls. The needs that Mission:MathMinds (www.missionmathminds.org) fulfills -mentoring, math, service, female relationships, and mathematical understanding - have been passions of Ruby’s since she was a little girl. She has had opportunities to create relationships with female teachers that she admired and coaches that inspired her to learn mathematics more deeply, and she has recognized that this is not what the majority of female students experience, with this possibly being a factor in why many female students have negative feelings towards math learning, or negative outlooks as far as theirability to be “good” at math.
Creating opportunities for others like she had been given directly resulted in the creation of Mission:MathMinds. She has created something out of others’ needs, not her own. She has combined her two passions - math and volunteering - into something with the capacity to bring others alongside her in service. These lifelong passions of hers didn’t spark the action to create Mission:MathMinds; rather, it was observations made and accounts from her peers about learning during the COVID-19 pandemic that inspired all the work that has followed. Ruby’s friends and peers were affected firsthand by the pandemic. As mathematics is a subject that builds on top of itself, it is vital for previous topics to be understood to advance further in the curriculum. Without the normal opportunities to collaborate with their teacher and classmates together, it became more difficult for her friends when they were “stuck” on a concept or procedure.
Ruby was able to help her friends over Zoom as they worked on assignments together for hours. It was here where the model for mentoring, using Zoom to connect girls of different ages and experiences, was first formed. After talking with her parents, she realized that this was most likely a need not just for her friends, but for many female students in her town, district,state - and possibly the nation. This need for connection, when the connection was stripped from us, can persevere outside of a global pandemic. The technology we have to connect with one another at the push of a button can be used to connect female students in different states, and all across the United States. This is an idea that can last and flourish regardless of environment, economic status, and world crises.
Gary Spaulding- Volunteer of the Week (January 11, 2022)
Gary Spaulding enrolled with AmeriCorps committing to serve at the Salvation Army on Clear Lake in Springfield, IL last year, for 900 hours a year. He completed over 1000 hours by the end of November, and has likely put in way more hours than that. He organizes and runs the Food Bank for the Salvation Army at that location and does much more than a volunteer would be expected to do. The Food Bank at the Salvation Army is an “on demand” program, meaning those who are served by the program are able to come into the room and choose their own food, knowing what their family will eat and enjoy. They are assisted by other volunteers who help them shop by reminding them of the limits of each category of items they provide.
Gary enjoys what he does, and says he would do it again, especially being able to help the families of veterans. Gary has been at every function, training, orientation, and activity the AmeriCorps Program for the City of Springfield has made available. Next year he will be taking on a larger role in AmeriCorps as a full-time member and well deserves the recognition as an AmeriCorps Member who is making a difference in the City of Springfield. The biggest motivation for Gary is the education award that is available, which he plans to use for his grandson to help with college bills.
Rogelio Villa- Volunteer of the Week (January 3, 2022)
Rogelio Villa serves with The Mission Continues, an organization whose vision strives for all veterans with a desire to continue their service to be part of a nationwide movement to transform communities. Rogelio is a veteran of the Army National Guard, and has held on to that same desire to serve others in his community today. He previously volunteered with the YMCA Urban Warriors in Chicago to connect veterans with at-risk youth. While working to organize group support sessions on the weekends, he was introduced to The Mission Continues.
He helped by incorporating community leaders, veterans and local community members to get involved in projects. He also worked in the Little Village Community via community gardens in order to beautify the community and help local organizations engage in outdoor programming. Rogelio is a dedicated volunteer who has sacrificed sleep and his free time on the weekends while juggling family commitments and his full time job.
Elizabeth Barth- Volunteer of the Week (December 27, 2021)
Tinley Park eighth-grader Elizabeth Barth is a passionate and kind volunteer who during the holiday season thought of a way to give back to veterans and say thank you for their service. Elizabeth gifted handmade blankets and gift baskets to Manteno Veterans Home residents on Wednesday morning during a special coffee and cookie gathering in honor of her service project, Warming Up our Veterans.
Elizabeth, several of her friends, and sometimes her mom, Julie, spent around five hours each day for four weeks selecting, cutting and tying fabric to make 180 blankets, one for each veteran at the Manteno home. She collected more than 180 donations, ending up with a surplus of funds and plenty of blanket scraps, which she plans to turn around into gifted neck pillows and handmade wreaths for the 87 residents at the LaSalle Veterans Home.
“They just did so much for us,” Barth said. “They were willing to give their life for us and for our safety. I wanted to make them smile and make them feel appreciated.”
Kennedi Bickham- Volunteer of the Week (December 20, 2021)
In Chicago's 18th ward, there are 13 elementary and high schools that service families who live below the national poverty line. Many of the families struggle to pay for clothing, shoes, school supplies, books, textiles and furniture. One volunteer, Kennedi Bickham, believes that all people should have a good quality of life and access to basic needs. Through her service, she learned that there are many people in the community who are working hard and being responsible with what they have, but are still falling short with being able to purchase items for their families.
In 2010 while in her scout troop meeting, Kennedi was given an assignment that required each troop member to go through their closets and fill up a bag with items that they had not worn in a year. All of the members did what was asked and came to the next meeting with their bags full of stuff. After sorting the donations, the members were allowed to "shop" the tables and take the items that they wanted for no cost and leftover items were donated to a local shelter for women and children. Thus, it was at Kennedi's scout meeting that the project "Swap and Share" was born
Since Swap and Share’s inception in 2013 more than 900 community members have been served, 287 volunteers have served the community, thousands of donated items have been collected, more than 18,000 pounds of clothing, shoes and textiles have been recycled and re-used, 6 shelters have been serviced, and 1,865 volunteers hours have been logged. Kennedi has also received three grants to support her project.
Kennedi's service has demonstrated that you are never too young to make a difference in your community. At a young age, Kennedi learned the very important lesson of the necessity of having wise and resourceful mentors in her life. She cherishes the mentors that she has and pays it forward by mentoring younger students at her school, church and within other organizations. A challenge that Kennedi has experienced is dealing with the negative stigma that many people attach to second-hand items. To overcome this challenge, Kennedi had to educate and raise awareness of what it means to be environmentally responsible as consumers. She worked with the We Organization, participated in WeDay, and partnered with Savers to learn more about sustainability and educate other volunteers and community members.
Terry Smith- Volunteer of the Week (December 13, 2021)
Terry Smith has a passion for preserving natural resources in his community. As a certified Master Gardner and Master Naturalist with the University of Illinois Extension, Terry has dedicated his time to volunteering among the prairie, forests, community food and botanical gardens in Coles County. Through his dedication to conservation, Terry has become an essential volunteer for a host of community non-profits including Grand Prairie Friends, a conservation land trust which preserves, manages and restores over 1,200 acres in the region. His time with Grand Prairie Friends has produced safe trails, monitored for endangered bat species, educated scouts and planted native pollinator gardens.
When not conserving nature, Terry dedicates time to youth outreach in his community as a 4H robotics team leader- their most recent accomplishment was the building of a “farmbot”, currently on display at Mattoon’s Cross Country Mall. Rounding out his compassion for others, Terry is an active volunteer in Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center’s “Plant a Row for the Hungry” garden program.
“Where there is a wheelbarrow, there is a way”, and Terry’s community-minded spirit, love of people, and “handy man skills” makes him an excellent organizer and leader in volunteer efforts.
Grace Schell, Remembering Grace's Kindness- Volunteer of the Week (December 6, 2021)
To spread kindness, compassion, generosity, love, faith, smiles, giving freely of one’s time and talents, and being the best version of yourself… These were the things Grace Schell instilled in herself and those around her. She saw a need within her school, community, and the world to be more than she was the day before to change someone’s day for the better. Grace’s focus was always to make someone feel better and to help others in need no matter the circumstances. It is for these reasons that Serve Illinois would like to honor Grace’s memory as our volunteer of the week.
Grace used her track and cross country platform to touch the lives of athletes all over the tristate area. She would take her message to meets and make contact with other athletes in order to instill in them to #BeLikeGrace. Grace used all forms of social media to create kindness in real time. She would post and encourage those as well as reach out to those in need or troubled. She made sure to take time to pack extra snacks, work with those with disabilities, and focus on the needs of others even if that meant her needs came 2nd or even 3rd.
Graces impact has now gone across the world. The message #belikegrace has been in 4 separate countries supported by Olympic runner Genevieve Lacruze and Grace has received state recognition by Senator Jill Tracy and Senator Dick Durbin. Grace has taught others that the quality you put out into the world truly means something and your life can impact others if you are just willing to try. Additionally, Grace’s life is memorialized through the #BeLikeGrace Scholarship which is awarded yearly to a high school senior who exemplifies the following pillars: faith, kindness, generosity, compassion, positivity, and striving to be the best version of yourself.
Toni Miller- Volunteer of the Week (November 29, 2021)
In 2015 a group of individuals in Monroe County, IL came together to form a non-profit to serve families and residents in need throughout the county. They provide food security, housing, rent/mortgage assistance, medical assistance, clothing, utilities and job coaching, budgeting and more as a volunteer driven organization. Approximately 4 years ago Toni Miller, who retired from the local public school district as first a bus driver and then guidance secretary for many years, joined the organization to volunteer as a member of the food security committee. She had previously volunteered at the St. Louis food bank and once she was retired, chose to volunteer in her own community.
Upon her joining House of Neighborly Service, Toni began coordinating the emergency food pantry. She inventoried and coordinated with local food drives at schools, scouts and churches. She shortly afterward began bi-weekly trips to a local Pizza Hut and gathered, packaged and froze pizza weekly to provide for those in need and give them an extra treat. She then developed a relationship with a St. Louis Panera Bread Company and gathered their day old bread and pastry items on a weekly basis. She also packaged and froze those items as well. All of this was then distributed weekly to families in need, a weekly delivery to the seniors in the low income apartments in two towns in our county, and she developed relationships with local butcher shops to gather their meat contributions and she was sure to shop with them as well.
During the pandemic, Toni packaged numerous "COVID bags" of food and hygiene items as families were struggling greatly. The organization offered a cooking class prior to the pandemic and she made sure food items were available to those attending along with groceries to take home. The cooking class focused on serving those families who depended upon food pantries and needed way to provide nutritious, delicious and budget stretching menus. For the second summer, she has worked on feeding our families through our summer lunch program which has not been easy as the pandemic affected the ability to get plentiful food items and budget friendly items. This summer she is in full control of this program and is feeding 125 plus families each week with meat, vegetables, produce, dairy and other items needed. She is coordinating all of this simultaneously, without losing energy, with no complaints.
Ryan He- Volunteer of the Week (November 22, 2021)
The Douglas-Hart Nature Center in Mattoon offers several summer camps to youth ages 5-11. There were many students enrolled in these popular programs but not enough counselors. Ryan He, who had previously attended and enjoyed these camps, volunteered as a junior counselor for three camps over this past summer. Since many of the young campers had been learning remotely and unable to play and learn together, Ryan worked hard to facilitate a fun and enriching experience for the campers. Ryan was an astounding role model for the campers. He had a positive attitude, was punctual, and created a safe environment.
Ryan also volunteered with The Whiteside Garden in Charleston, a five-acre garden with many rare plants. Ryan helped weed the bog garden for several hours over the summer. His work helped make sure the delicate plants in the bog garden were able to grow and thrive. Ryan also volunteers with the Charleston Community Band to put on outdoor concerts as a band member. These concerts are well-attended and much appreciated by the Charleston Community (and a much-needed community boost).
During the pandemic, like other areas in the state of Illinois, the east-central Illinois area desperately needed personal protective equipment. Ryan used his own 3D printer and the skills he learned from the UIUC 3D maker lab to make 3D-printed face shields and donated them to both the local community and to Carle Foundation Hospital in Champaign County. These face shields were able to provide an additional layer of protection against COVID. Over the course of many months, Ryan donated 100+ face shields to Carle Hospital, 20+ face shields to Sarah Bush Health Center in Coles County, and many more to Eastern Illinois University, friends and neighbors, and his own high school. His donations have been crucial in protecting the community.
Nate Curtis- Volunteer of the Week (November 15, 2021)
Nate Curtis is a dedicated classroom volunteer with the Glen Ellyn Children’s Resource Center, an organization that serves children from families seeking academic support. Nate volunteered right before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, and the following school year he stepped up to tutor again through an online format. Most recently, he volunteered as an intern/teaching assistant (in-person) for GECRC's summer program.
All of GECRC's students meet low income and academic risk guidelines and most come from refugee or immigrant families. Annually, the program serves nearly 200 students. Nate demonstrated best practices by insuring the students' safety and keeping them engaged in the classroom. A great majority of GECRC's students come from minority backgrounds, and Nate's cultural sensitivity helped create a comfortable environment for the kids.
Nate makes sure to entertain and join the students in activities they are passionate about, such as activities including sports and gymnastics. Nate also helped the students prepare presentations about community heroes. He is very much set on providing his best efforts for the sake of the students and the organization. Nate is always willing to step up to challenges and help deescalate difficult situations.
Nate's name is often mentioned in high praises among GECRC's staff. He displays a positive, kind, and fun attitude and makes sure that energy is present wherever he goes. He has a way of getting the students excited about the work they are doing and makes sure they are happy to be there.
George Galvan- Volunteer of the Week (November 8, 2021)
As a retired educator, George Galvan has devoted his time to addressing the needs of his senior community through service. George has volunteered for several agencies within the Arlington Heights Senior Center. One of these agencies is Catholic Charities, an institution that provides a number of services to help keep seniors in their homes. Before Catholic Charities discontinued their Money Management program, George would meet with clients to help them with their financial needs, such as paying bills. He was also a receptionist for Catholic Charities, assisting clients and directing them to the help that they needed.
For sixteen years, George used his time and talents and volunteered in various ways to support seniors; whether it was to help raise funds, assist seniors with their financial matters, or to deliver a meal to a homebound resident. His leadership and creativity are evident in leading current events group, which filled to capacity, on a weekly basis for fourteen years. Many of Catholic Charities clients come from different backgrounds.
George has had a great impact on the senior community. He also served on the Arlington Heights Senior Center Inc. board, which is the fund-raising body for the Arlington Heights Senior Center. Through his volunteer efforts, the Arlington Heights Senior Center Inc. board has raised thousands of dollars to donate to the Senior Center for senior residents to benefit and enjoy. The Arlington Heights Senior Center houses eight separate agencies. One of these agencies is the Nurses Club Lending Closet. The Lending Closet loans out durable medical equipment to residents in our community. The Arlington Heights Senior Center Inc. board, through their fundraising efforts, is able to purchase medical equipment for our Lending Closet upon request.
George has received the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteering over 4,000 hours to one organization, and has served a total of 6500 hours. George exemplifies what it means to give back to your community, and his compassion has certainly made an impact on the lives of others in his community.
Jillian Neece- Volunteer of the Week (November 1, 2021)
Jillian Neece has been serving as an AmeriCorps member at Severson Dells since March of 2021. In her brief time serving, she has made a huge impact on their Community Science programs. She has supported 75 volunteers in their efforts to collect data on plants and animals around Winnebago County through training in the classroom and in the field, support in data entry, data analysis, and answering any questions along the way.
Jillian’s leadership in this program has significantly improved volunteer engagement and retention and the quality and quantity of data collected. This data helps inform natural resource management across the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County and education programming at Severson Dells Nature Center.
In June and July, Jillian went above and beyond in the wake of the Chemtool Fire in Rockton, IL. She attended a public information session the week after the fire and saw firsthand just how uniformed the public was and how much misinformation was out there. The following day she asked if she could take on the huge project of translating the large quantities of environmental data being released by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. In the weeks that followed she translated hundreds of pages of data into two blogs.
This work was noticed by the Illinois Association of News Broadcasters who invited her to speak at their annual conference in Rockford. After that experience she created a document to help reporters navigate the wide range of local, state, federal and nonprofit agencies and the data and information they have.
Jagger Barnes- Volunteer of the Week (October 25, 2021)
Jagger Barnes is a strong, thoughtful, compassionate, dedicated, and service-minded 15 year old. She is on the SaLT: Service and Learning Together leadership board, and she takes every opportunity to make a difference putting service above herself.
During the pandemic, SaLT was unable to provide service-learning trips to students. In May of 2020, SaLT was inspired to pivot their efforts to serve the local community, and Shop N’ Drop was created in the areas of Highwood and Highland Park, IL. Shop N’ Drop is designed to engage community members to support local families facing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jagger soon became the strongest youth force making this project a reality.
Jagger’s role as a dual language speaker has been to contact all 100+ families that they serve each week! With adult support, Jagger check-ins with every family to makes sure they needs are being met and to see if there is anything special they might need that week (i.e diapers, cleaning supplies, certain foods, etc.) She even translates important information regularly regarding vaccines, job searches, or rent concerns. As a student leader for SaLT, Jagger has given hundreds of hours to Shop N’ Drop, but after understanding some of the greater needs of our families’ children, she also took on two other special projects - Love2Learn and DreamBIG.
Love2Learn provides free, weekly, one-hour, one-on-one, in-person math/reading tutoring by high school students for K-5 children. DreamBIG provides free, weekly, one hour, one-on-one/small group, in-person coaching sessions by high school students for K-6 children. Jagger provides each family with a trusted and compassionate translator and friend. Her commitment has been amazing as she did not miss a beat each week calling and connecting with 100+ families since May 2020. Throughout some of our families’ darkest days, she has been a source of light and hope.
Jagger has she also has taken every opportunity to join other service events. Jagger was an amazingly strong participant in the service-learning trips to Orlando. She provided care and comfort to terminally ill children at Give Kids the World. Jagger also went to New Orleans to work with local nonprofits to help restore and learn about this city’s unique communities and culture. Jagger is motivated daily to make a difference for others. She sincerely identifies her work in service as her life’s purpose. She is truly a LIGHT for those she works wit and so many others in her community.
Jeanne Vance- Volunteer of the Week (June 28, 2021)
Jeanne Vance has been a volunteer for AmeriCorps Seniors for four years. Jeanne has been a valuable volunteer and works at a school developed by her daughter, Wanikka Vance, called the Foundation 4 Advancement. Foundation 4 Advancement is a private school that strives to develop a child to his/her full potential! Jeanne provides the children a nurturing environment and engages the children to work hard to believe in themselves. Jeanne works daily as a volunteer not only helping with the curriculum, but also with work assignments for the children. She also assists the children one on one with tablet training. Jeanne is always pitching in to help by assisting with lunch, sanitizing the stations, and keeping the facility clean.
Jeanne Vance has been a volunteer for AmeriCorps Seniors for four years. Jeanne has been a valuable volunteer and works at a school developed by her daughter, Wanikka Vance, called the Foundation 4 Advancement. Foundation 4 Advancement is a private school that strives to develop a child to his/her full potential! Jeanne provides the children a nurturing environment and engages the children to work hard to believe in themselves. Jeanne works daily as a volunteer not only helping with the curriculum, but also with work assignments for the children. She also assists the children one on one with tablet training. Jeanne is always pitching in to help by assisting with lunch, sanitizing the stations, and keeping the facility clean.
Marilyn Hermann- Volunteer of the Week (June 21, 2021)
Marilyn Hermann remembers the day well—March 10, 2020. As an AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP volunteer, she spent several hours a week at the Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights leading groups in quilting, conversation and mind bender games, as well as contributing her own crafts to the home’s gift shop. On that day she learned that due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the home would be closed to all outside visitors. Marilyn couldn’t return that week or at best “not for a while.”
Marilyn took a deep breath and decided that a lockdown would not get in the way of connecting with the home’s residents, most of whom were now close friends. It was only a matter of getting creative. "I was missing all my friends and visits since in a normal month I would have visited, at that time, in nine units—some every week—and others twice a month,” she said. “The one I was missing most was the ‘Coffee and Chat’ group every Thursday morning.” Marilyn knew there was more than one way to connect. To keep the residents engaged, she re-designed her “Chat with Marilyn” program from in-person to weekly emails, which she sent to the activities director who, in turn distributed them to the Coffee and Chat participants now confined to their rooms.
Her audience has expanded to several residents she has yet to meet. Now they can’t wait to connect with her face to face. Those whom she knows from the “in-person” days have said they can hear her voice when they read her newsletters. Now, Marilyn’s weekly chat pages have extended beyond the walls of the Lutheran Home. She shared them with relatives and friends, who, in turn sent them to their friends. As it turns out, she has made new friends living in other senior facilities out of state.
Marilyn hopes that by Christmas 2021, everyone’s life will have returned to normal, so she can resume her favorite volunteer project which was sadly missed last year—becoming Mrs. Santa Claus for all the unit parties.
Stefan Cudjoe- Volunteer of the Week (June 14, 2021)
Stefan Cudjoe has volunteered his time and talents with Chicago Cares, Chicago’s leading volunteer mobilizer, for the past two years. He is an energetic volunteer leader for a program called Real Talk, which brings together community members and volunteers to discuss current events and issues facing their communities.
Through the program, Stefan does an incredible job building connections between both volunteers and community members, and he creates an encouraging space for everyone to build empathy by sharing their perspectives and lived experiences. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stefan even innovated with Chicago Cares to provide the program virtually! In doing this, he helped volunteers maintain a space where they could safely connect while physically social distancing. Stefan is an exemplary volunteer with Chicago Cares, and they are so grateful for his continued service!
Aparna Ramakrishnan- Volunteer of the Week (June 7, 2021)
Aparna Ramakrishnan is a high school student dedicated to making a difference. After her own struggles with mental health, she is committed to providing mental health education and accessible resources for students. She created a peer-led nonprofit called Beyond Charity that provides mental health presentations and drives discussions on healthy coping strategies. As a result of her efforts to destigmatize mental health, she has given 22 presentations domestically and internationally to over 6,000 students. Additionally, she also worked with Representative Mussman and Yang-Rohr to create HB1778 which mandates schools to include mental health resources on the backs of student identification cards. After testifying before multiple committees, her bill, the Beyond Charity Law, recently passed both the Illinois House and Senate.
Aparna has changed the face of mental health through her efforts and created a community where students are empowered. Her volunteerism, persistence, and kindness make her a perfect candidate for volunteer of the week. She plans to continue her nonprofit and legislative efforts throughout her life, hoping that nobody will have to endure the same challenges she did.
Ron Novak- Volunteer of the Week (May 31, 2021)
Ron Novak, aka Grandpa Ron, has served as a Foster Grandparent for 10 years at Franklin Elementary in Sterling, IL. He says this is the most rewarding work that he has ever done. On March 12th, 2020 all Foster Grandparents were sent home by the schools along with all the students. Grandpa Ron had been assigned one student to work closely with that year. As the year began, the student had difficulties reading and had made so much progress until the dismissal of school. With the student’s parental permission, Grandpa Ron made a home visit to see his student and encourage him to keep up the good work. He was even able to give his big sisters tips on how to help their brother continue to succeed in his studies.
Grandpa Ron cannot make it through Walmart without having one of his past students stop him to say hello. Grandpa Ron is loved by the entire staff at Franklin and goes above and beyond to spread sunshine with his co-volunteers and volunteer site.
Stan Cebrzynski- Volunteer of the Week (May 24, 2021)
Stan Cebrzynski of Wonder Lake, IL joined Senior Services Associates as a volunteer in 2016. He served as a Friendly Visitor, a program that connects eligible seniors over 60 years of age, living in Kane, Kendall and McHenry Counties with carefully screened volunteers who want to make a difference in the lives of seniors. Since 1996, this program has been making friendship matches, while successfully connecting volunteers with hundreds of seniors in need of companionship..
After volunteering as a friendly visitor, Stan was bit by the volunteer bug and hasn’t stopped ever since. Stan enrolled as an AmeriCorps Seniors member (previously volunteering with AmeriCorps RSVP) and has taken on a variety of assignments. Stan has worked with Catholic Charities as a Meals on Wheels delivery volunteer, drives seniors to necessary medical appointments, and when asked, also picked up food and other essential items during the COVID-19 shelter in place order. Stan also finds time during the holidays to deliver meals and gifts to local seniors. To date, Stan has recorded almost 700 hours as an AmeriCorps member.
Hasumati Patel- Volunteer of the Week (May 17, 2021)
Mrs. Hasumati Patel has been volunteering her time and talents to the Westview School Community since December, 2016. After raising 3 children that each attended Westview decades ago, Mrs. Patel came across an article about the elementary school in a community newsletter. The article indicated that the school welcomed volunteers from the community. As an individual who likes to contribute to her community, Mrs. Patel met with the principal to determine how she might be able to help.
Since then, Mrs. Patel has been spending 2-3 hours in the morning, 3 days per week, working with students in small groups. She plays games, supports children with assignments, reads books aloud, and listens to students from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade read aloud to her. Children appreciate her gentle and nurturing manner and for many, she has become a surrogate grandmother!
They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and Westview School is so appreciative to have Mrs. Patel as a positive, contributing member of their school community!
Chris Brown- Volunteer of the Week (May 10, 2021)
Chris Brown is from Le Roy, Illinois. 13 years ago, on April 1, 2008, he lost his eyesight. Chris is very intelligent and knew that he did not want losing his sight to stop him from learning and living. He has overcome so much adversity. He is a passionate reader and uses assisted technology to read, use social media, and function independently. He has been a volunteer at Le Roy Elementary School (his childhood school) for several years now.
Last year he asked to work with the students. He listens attentively and interacts with students in a sincere way. The students absolutely love reading with him. Not only does he listen to students read, but he also has lunch once a week with a small group of 3rd graders. They assist him with getting his tray, walk to a quiet room, and they engage in meaningful conversations. He lets them share parts of their lives and tries to guide them with practical ways to deal with peer pressure and social situations. He genuinely cares about their well-being and goes out of his way to connect with all students. He also spends one afternoon a week in the classroom assisting with writing and math. He moves about and helps in whatever way he can.
Since the schools shut down during the pandemic, Chris graciously provided his email so that students could still check in with him. Some of the students are sending audio recordings of them reading to him. When he was sent one of these recordings, he responded with, “I could only listen for a few seconds and had to stop the recording because tears were flowing.” He eventually was able to listen to the whole recording.
The Le Roy Elementary building is a pre k-6 elementary school in central Illinois. They have several students with autism, mental and physical challenges, and health compromised students. They are an inclusive school and their students are compassionate and interact with all students. Seeing their students assist Mr. Brown is the essence of the human spirit and goodness that they hope would be the standard everywhere in the world.
Annette Day- Volunteer of the Week (May 3rd, 2021)
For more than four decades Annette Day has been a volunteer and messenger for Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley. She has dedicated her time and skills to fundraising and outreach efforts that support the early identification and treatment of developmental delays in infants and children. As a weekly volunteer to the development department, she offers much-needed administrative support to the fundraising team by preparing materials for events, helping process donations and pitching in however necessary to keep the department running smoothly. Annette is also responsible for organizing assessment kits so therapists can evaluate a child’s development and establish an individualized treatment plan. By ensuring these kits are complete and organized, therapists have the tools to assess a child’s skills and set therapeutic goals for their future. Her volunteerism helps make it possible for Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley to serve 1,000 children each week across 64 communities.
As the mother of a child with cerebral palsy and a former Board member, Annette is an incredible ambassador for Easterseals. By sharing her personal experience and commitment, she inspires contributions that make a transformative impact on the organization. Annette also connects parent-to-parent and helps maintain a library of resources for families who are new to Easterseals. She helps parents, siblings and caregivers of children with disabilities find a community of support. She is thorough, dependable and uncompromising when it comes to the quality of her work and her dedication. Annette has logged more hours than any other volunteer within the organization, and is an integral part of the support system that helps build healthy families and empowers children to reach their goals.
Lisa Hickman- Volunteer of the Week (April 26, 2021)
The Douglas-Hart Nature Center is a non-profit, foundation-owned Nature Center in Mattoon, IL. Lisa Hickman has been an active festival volunteer at the Douglas-Hart Nature Center, helping fill countless festival positions with her family, organize festival prep, make festival donations, and even help create and run entire stations for the Haunted Hike Festival. Haunted Hike is the center’s biggest event of the year, where they transform their trails into a family friendly haunted house setting (with a different theme each year) so families can walk through and create memories together.
On top of all her other duties, Lisa has also been a huge help in redoing the park benches at another one of their properties, the Friendship Garden. The Friendship Garden is a small plot of land inspired by the English Tea Gardens that the Founder, Hellen Douglas-Hart, loved in her travels. Families can come to go on picnics, do photography, have weddings, go on walks, or attend some of the events hosted at the property. Thanks to Lisa’s help and attention to quality and detail, families will have a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the gorgeous plants, trees, and atmosphere that the Friendship Garden has to offer for many years to come. The Douglas-Hart Foundation is so grateful for everything that Lisa has done. She has helped staff so much and impacted families in the community greatly.
Ed Rubio - Volunteer of the Week (April 19, 2021)
Ed Rubio has been an incredible addition to the Housing Forward volunteer team in Maywood, IL. Housing Forward’s mission is to transition people from housing crisis to housing stability. They offer a full range of programs and services that are participant centered, integrated, modeled using best practices, and designed to reduce the length of time and impact of trauma associated with homelessness and housing instability.
In January 2021, a team was formed to assist with heavy lifting and moving needs for the organization, and Ed has been there every step of the way since its creation. For such a new team, it is incredible to have his enthusiastic support and willingness to help whenever he is called upon. Ed’s work with Housing Forward varies depending upon their needs. For example, he often helps with moving heavy furniture from the basement to the attic and helps move boxes from one office to another. Whatever the job, he is always quick to respond and more than willing to help. Ed is a main part of the reason why this team has been so successful and Housing Forward can’t thank him enough for the service and dedication he has provided to both the organization and their community.
Jo Fredell Higgins - Volunteer of the Week (April 12, 2021)
Jo Fredell Higgins has generously contributed her time, energy, and expertise to the Aurora community since moving there in 1971. She has combined her passions for literature, photography, and service to positively impact the lives of thousands of area residents.
For more than three decades, Jo has selflessly sought to make a difference in the lives of Aurora area residents, especially immigrants and children, through the Adult Literacy program at Waubonsee Community College. She first started as a volunteer and then later became a program manager. Through her leadership, 1,000 adults and children learn the English language each year. Jo also chaired the Aurora Township Youth Commission for 20 years and was named Chairman Emeritus by the Aurora Township Board of Trustees in January 2017.
She has been equally committed to the research and preservation of local history. She served 16 years as Chairman of the City of Aurora’s Grand Army of the Republic Commission, volunteered at the Aurora Historical Society, and has published texts on the unique history of communities such as Aurora, Naperville, DeKalb, Geneva and Montgomery.
Michael Sehr - Volunteer of the Week (April 5, 2021)
The John Howard Association (JHA) independently monitors correctional facilities, policies and practices, and advances reforms needed to achieve a fair, humane and effective criminal justice system. Their work drives change that improves the lives and outcomes for people in prison, and demands better use of limited taxpayer-funded resources. The organization reads every letter and email sent to them, and listens to all voicemails. In a typical year, JHA receives over 5,000 letters from prisoners as well as hundreds of calls and emails from their loved ones and advocates. Until the offices closed, Michael volunteered on a weekly basis, reading letters, researching and identifying accurate information, and drafting thorough responses. As a retired attorney, Michael has been assigned letters with more complex legal and non-legal questions as well as those that require a sophisticated understanding of statutes.
Prior to his volunteering with JHA, Michael regularly interviewed prisoners as part of lawsuits brought by the Uptown People’s Law Center. Building on that, he began volunteering with JHA three years ago, and since that time has continued to demonstrate a significant commitment to the people incarcerated across Illinois. His unique, holistic approach to writing letters and responses to prisoners involves going to great lengths to understand not only what the letter-writer is asking for, but also to pinpoint information that could make the difference for each individual.
In reading the letters, and visiting the facilities Michael has become passionate about prisoner access to legal information. Prior to the pandemic, Michael regularly participated in monitoring visits to state prisons, and during a visit would independently investigate the quality of each prison law library, interview staff and prisoners to identify the available resources and ways in which unmet needs impact people reliant on the library to further their cases.
Michael is a lifelong Chicagoan and a graduate of Loyola University and the University of Chicago Law School. His 40-year legal career included litigating cases in trial and appellate courts throughout the United States as well as serving as a senior officer in a major insurance company. Michael has also been an active volunteer with Interfaith Action Evanston soup kitchens and overnight shelters. Michael and his wife, Lisa, are also active members of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, most recently organizing the synagogue’s participation in the “Walk for Warmth” fundraiser for Evanston’s Emergency Overnight Shelter. Michael is a student at Northwestern University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute where he’s leads classes on World War II and the American Civil War.
Saretha Russell - Volunteer of the Week (March 29, 2021)
Saretha Russell is an exceptional volunteer who is admired for her hard work, team play, and positive attitude while serving at the Seasoned Circle Café located in East St. Louis, IL. Saretha is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, a United Methodist Community Center.
Many restaurants, grocery stores, and other outlets for food and essential items have been negatively impacted the COVID-19 pandemic, but that does not stop the fire and passion burning in Saretha’s heart. She remains a valuable asset and team player to the Seasoned Circle Café. Days after many sites and agencies shut down, Saretha remained committed by continually serving at the Café. At the café, she prepares well over 150 meals a day for the seniors that reside in the St. Clair county area. Saretha stated that, “We must take care of our seniors and we have to show them that we are there for them even if the doors are shut.”
Saretha is the first to show up and the last to leave, bringing her radio with her every day to make sure that she and others are dancing and boosting energy while serving. Many employees at the Café have stated that Saretha is a joy to have in the kitchen and that her happy spirit makes the days go by quicker. Saretha loves serving for AmeriCorps because she loves to serve and doing so makes her happy.
Hilary Graham - Volunteer of the Week (March 22, 2021)
Hillary Graham is a Cat Care volunteer with The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago. The Anti-Cruelty Society is a comprehensive animal welfare organization whose mission is to build a community of caring by helping pets and educating people. Hilary is an exceptional volunteer who has attended various cat socialization projects like: High Arousal Play, Spa Treatment, and In-Kennel Clicker (cat) training.
Hillary has an indomitable will to help the cats in their care remain social and her efforts greatly improves their chances of being adopted. Since attending the different trainings listed above, Hillary is now eligible to work in their Cat Rehabilitation Ward, where she puts her skills and boundless love for homeless cats to top use in a sensitive and difficult program.
Despite the often difficult situations volunteers find themselves in when devoting help in these tense areas, Hillary always maintains a bright, friendly and funny personality and this helps attendant staff just as well. Hillary is also a Foster Program volunteer and joined the COVID-19 Emergency Response Volunteer team. It is no surprise she is doing just as well as in these brave endeavors as well.
Sarah Dynia- Volunteer of the Week (March 15th, 2021)
In November of 2010, Sarah Dynia founded her own nonprofit organization, Stuffed Love, in Oak Lawn, IL. Although she was only in eighth grade, she recognized the importance of service and how she could contribute something to help others in need. Stuffed Love’s mission is to share “that little bit of hope” through hand-stitched heart pillows to all those that need it. Now, over 10 years later, Stuffed Love has continued to distribute thousands of hand-stitched pillows each year. So far, Stuffed Love has partnered with many organizations across the country and shared that little bit of hope with veterans, individuals with developmental disabilities, those facing economic difficulties, and more.
Currently, Stuffed Love’s biggest project is working with Conquering CHD, a national organization dedicated to support and advocacy for individuals and families affected by congenital heart defects. The hand-stitched heart pillows are distributed to 14 states in their Conquering CHD Kits and are used to prop up IVs, provide comfort after heart surgery, and as a treasured memento for the difficult times the family has survived. In addition to Stuffed Love, Sarah continues to volunteer in her community through organizations like the White Sox Volunteer Corps and Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program (HOBY). Her most important mission is to continue sharing that little bit of hope as a volunteer, community member, and aspiring physician. Sarah was also recently the winner of the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues Unsung Heroine Award.
Kurt Mohr- Volunteer of the Week (March 8th, 2021)
Kurt Mohr is the quintessence of a volunteer who gives for all the right reasons. After successfully completing Literacy Volunteers of Illinois’ required training in September of 2019, he started volunteering for the Jump Start tutoring program. He works with incarcerated youth at IYC-Warrenville. Kurt started out committing to 2 hours a week, but he enjoyed the experience so much he then signed on to 4 hours weekly. Now Kurt is serving as an AmeriCorps member, tutoring the youth at IYC-Warrenville 10 hours a week.
Kurt usually helps the youth with Math and Science. He says, “Math was always particularly difficult for me in school, and I went to college ill prepared for the math requirements of my chemistry major.” He took remedial math in college and goes on to say that “because it was so difficult, I can often understand where our students have problems… the same places I did.” The 1 to 1 interaction with students is what Kurt finds most rewarding especially when “they suddenly understand something they didn’t before.” Every day after working with the kids, Kurt says, “I feel a little younger than when I walked in!”
Kurt’s humility and humor define him. He is patient and passionate about tutoring the youth and guiding them toward a better future. Kurt is also a CASA volunteer and serves as an ELL tutor mentoring a young man from Venezuela who recently immigrated to the U.S. Kurt’s gifts are our treasures. LVI is grateful for all his hard work, and we are fortunate to have Kurt on our team!
Jessie Meyer - Volunteer of the Week (March 1st, 2021)
Jessie Meyer has been an active volunteer at the Share Food Share Love Food Pantry since its inception in December 2015. She has done intake for client registration, stocked shelves, received deliveries and picked up donations, coordinated fundraising, cleaned, carried food, assisted clients, and taken phone calls. If it needs to be done, Jessie will do it. She is kind and sweet, sensitive and respectful. Clients often remark on her warmth. She also manages the Pantry Facebook page.
When COVID-19 shut many pantries down and kept many of the regular volunteers at home due to being higher risk, Jessie stepped up and helped recruit and train new volunteers, along with continuing to ensure that everyone was working in a safe environment. She championed a new process allowing clients to stay in their cars while required registration information was taken and she worked tirelessly to make sure that those in need of food assistance still continued to receive the much needed food. She has juggled hours to her own work schedule as a hair stylist and part-time nanny to be able to pick up food every week and be at the twice weekly distributions. Her organizational strengths have proved invaluable in keeping the pantry operations running smoothly, even in the face of ever-changing pandemic challenges.
Jessie has always had a passion for helping those in need. At the Share Food Share Love Food Pantry, she puts the safety of both volunteers and clients at the forefront of everything she does. She is looking forward to the day when clients again can be invited back inside to choose their own food. Until then, she will continue to pack the bags with the food that she hopes everyone will use to keep themselves well fed and healthy.
Herman Barnett - Volunteer of the Week (February 22, 2021)
Herman Barnett is 71 years young and has been a Foster Grandparent for 6 years. AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers who serve within the Foster Grandparent program provide the kind of comfort and love that sets a child on a path to a successful future within their communities. Herman serves at Mt. Vernon, a Chicago Public School on the far southwest side of the city 5 days a week for 30 or more hours a week. Herman assists the teaching staff in the classrooms by mentoring and tutoring students in 2nd-8th grade.
Herman’s presence has had a positive impact on the children at his site, especially with the boys he tutors and mentors, acting as a strong black role model for them. He helps the children set educational goals, work through conflict resolution, and also coaches the boys and girls basketball teams at the school and the students who participate in the Special Olympics. Herman sacrifices his time on the weekend to attend games and other recreational activities with the students and staff as well. Herman also makes time to talk to students about important life choices and shares his own experiences on growing up in Chicago’s south side. Not only is he loved and respected by the students, but the teachers and community also love and appreciate his energy and dedication to the school.
Shriya Mehta - Volunteer of the Week (February 16, 2021)
Shriya Mehta is the founder of PERIOD @ Hinsdale, IL, a chapter of the national PERIOD non-profit organization that aims to combat period poverty through education, advocacy, and service in local communities. Although she is only 16, Shriya has a relentless determination to beat period poverty in the city and surrounding suburbs of Chicago.
Period poverty refers to an individual’s inability to afford or access feminine hygiene products, and it is a prominent, yet highly under recognized problem around the world. Research has shown that 1 in every 5 menstruators in the United States suffers from this problem, even though it arises from a natural biological process. Those suffering from period poverty can miss critical periods of school, acquire permanent health issues, and even die from their inability to acquire feminine hygiene products. Shriya recognized that this problem was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic with higher populations of homeless individuals in Chicago and decided to take action by founding PERIOD @ Hinsdale.
In merely 6 months, Shriya raised over $1,550 and donated over 3,500 feminine hygiene products to those in need. She has communicated with and donated to several shelters to help homeless women and victims of domestic abuse in their monthly struggles with period poverty. Recently, she even organized a no-contact toiletry drive to collect over 600 toiletry items to donate to shelters during the holiday season. Overall, Shriya has shown a deep sense of commitment and passion to help those in need, even during this time of crisis with COVID-19. Shriya always puts others before herself and deserves to be recognized for her passion, irreplaceable leadership qualities, and dedication to give back to her own community.
Dr. Jarmese Sherrod - Volunteer of the Week (February 8, 2021)
Dr. Jarmese Sherrod is a professor of Developmental English at Richland Community College in Decatur, IL, where she is an outstanding mentor, tutor, and cheerleader for her students. In addition to her work as an academic professional, she has also been an agent of selfless service in every community in which she resides. Dr. Sherrod is CEO of Sherrod’s Independent Mentoring Program (S.I.M.P., Inc.) that is operated for youth in grades 7-12, not only in Illinois, but also in Haiti. The goal of her program is to empower youth to become future leaders. These leaders learn character development, career planning, resume writing, team building, accountability, and community service skills necessary to become contributing members of society. 100% of the girls in the S.I.M.P., Inc. program have graduated high school.
Dr. Sherrod is also the youth leadership program facilitator for a local organization with over 100 high school members. This program is designed to develop young leaders throughout the county to provide leadership opportunities of service to their communities. The program is 100% student-led in all aspects and is so popular that there is a waitlist to get in. In her spare time, Dr. Sherrod works with high school students interested in joining the military to prepare for and pass the ASVAB test. Dr. Sherrod gives much of her time to helping others become a better version of themselves and to have opportunities to better their lives. Even with caring for two children of her own and working a full-time job in education, Dr. Sherrod gives her personal time to be a part of the lives of the youth in her community on a daily basis.
Roblyn Jones - Volunteer of the Week (February 1, 2021)
Roblyn Jones is a caring, helpful, and dedicated AmeriCorps member with the Lessie Bates Davis Seasoned Circle Café. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services to help move individuals and families out of poverty.
Roblyn volunteers in the Seasoned Circle Café located in East St. Louis, Illinois and provides a variety of services to enhance the senior program. The Café serves as a center for senior citizens to join in fellowship, build friendships, and enjoy recreational activities and hot meals. At the Café, Roblyn helps to assist with implementing activities that are engaging to senior citizens, serves meals, greets the senior citizens and their guests, and also helps keeps the Café clean and free of debris. The senior citizens at the Café all described Roblyn as kind, friendly, and lively. A few of the citizens have went on to say that Roblyn is the perfect host for Bingo because makes the game more fun and friendly.
During her previous years of service, Roblyn has provided outstanding assistance to the East Saint Louis School District’s After School 21st Century Program, LBDNH Day Care Center, and the agency’s Providing a Sure Start Program (PASS). Roblyn has also been an active participant in LBDNH’s yearly Back to School Program. Roblyn can be seen sitting and talking with the senior citizens and often engages in games and recreational activities.
Roblyn serves faithfully in her church and is an integral part of The Purpose Church in Madison, Illinois. Roblyn states that she loves being at the Seasoned Circle Café and volunteering at the Café has had a huge impact on her commitment to serving others. She plans to channel her love for service by achieving her lifetime goal of becoming a nurse.
Lou Stanke - Volunteer of the Week (January 25, 2021)
The Douglas-Hart Nature Center is a non-profit, foundation-owned Nature Center in Mattoon, IL. They have 2 miles of trails that travel through three different Illinois habitats: wetland, prairie, and woodlands, allowing families and the community to learn about nature, history, and spend time outdoors. The foundation also owns a tea garden and botanical garden in the local area.
Lou Stanke has dedicated well over 1400 hours to volunteering at the Douglas-Hart Foundation. He holds the standing for the most volunteer hours given out of any current volunteer at the Nature Center. Those hours have consisted of conservation work, special projects that have created helpful additions to the Nature Center (including a beautiful trellises for their butterfly garden, re-staining all of the Nature Center signs, and creating new signs for two of the foundation’s properties), countless festivals, special events (such as large volunteering fieldtrips for middle schoolers), and weekend hosting at least twice a month.
Weekend hosting is a crucial role that only certain volunteers can do. The Nature Center is open every day (aside from Sundays in the winter), but staff is normally only there Monday through Friday. Weekend hosts are key volunteers that give up part of their weekend so the Nature Center can be open to the community and looked after. Lou has allowed countless families to have access to the Nature Center, and the facilities and exhibits inside.
Lou is always known to be counted on when the foundation need a hand, even if it is on short notice due to unforeseen circumstances. He has been such a help to staff and the community, and the Nature Center could never thank him enough for all the help that he has given to them over the years.
Dr. Amit Sapra - Volunteer of the Week (January 19, 2021)
Dr. Amit Sapra is an assistant professor with the SIU School of Medicine in the Department of Family and Community Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. He has consistently worked with various volunteer organizations to improve people's health and well-being throughout his life. In 1985, as a 13-year-old, he became involved with "HelpAge India," a leading nongovernmental organization in India working for the disadvantaged elderly. Dr. Sapra was an active member for over 20 years, working with HelpAge's Mobile Healthcare program to provide sustainable healthcare solutions to the elderly and their communities where none was available.
In 2001 while working as an Orthopedic Surgery Resident in Delhi, India, one of the most devastating earthquakes hit western India. In addition to killing more than 20,000 people and injuring over 150,000, the quake left hundreds of thousands homeless. Dr. Sapra quickly organized a rescue medical team. He set up a mobile clinic and operation theater to treat patients who had suffered multiple musculoskeletal injuries and provided them constant care for weeks.
In 1995, following the Global Polio Eradication Initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO), India launched Pulse Polio immunization. Dr. Sapra was an active volunteer of the program, carrying out additional rounds of immunization for rapidly enhancing herd immunity against the deadly virus. He faced innumerable instances where he had to walk miles into India's remote villages without transportation. He worked with the program from 1997-2010 before he moved to the U.S. Due to the heroic efforts of healthcare workers like him, India was declared Polio free in 2011.
As a health care worker, Dr. Sapra recognizes that his primary obligation is to provide urgent medical care during disasters. Today amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sapra has tested hundreds of people with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 and continues to provide care for hospitalized patients at Memorial Medical Center and at SIU’s outpatient clinic. Dr. Sapra also plays a vital role in supporting current state efforts to stop the spread of the virus. He actively engages with and empowers everyday Illinoisans across the state to assist in COVID-19 outreach and prevention efforts. Naturally, he has been designated as the Illinois COVID-19 Prevention Ambassador by the Illinois government.
Rohan Jaiswal - Volunteer of the Week (January 11, 2021)
Rohan Jaiswal is a Neuqua Valley High School senior who volunteers by donating books through the organization My Book Wish, founded by the Jaiswal family. Since its creation in 2015, the My Book Wish organization has been working to redistribute books from affluent areas to underprivileged communities across Illinois in an attempt to bridge the gap in educational inequality. Since 2017, Rohan has been working to complete this mission as the president of My Book Wish alongside two friends, Elijah Darden and Namish Kaistha, also Neuqua Valley High School seniors.
The process begins with the collecting of the books, which is facilitated through book drives at local schools and libraries. The books are then sorted and allocated for donation based on age, reading level, theme, and condition. Finally, Rohan works with Elijah and Namish to coordinate donations to those in need across Illinois. My Book Wish has thus far donated nearly 4,000 books to schools, orphanages, and other nonprofit organizations for further distribution. Rohan has even coordinated a donation with Action in Africa to send books to Uganda! Regardless of where the donations go, the objective remains the same: spreading the joy of reading.
Patricia Taylor - Volunteer of the Week (January 4, 2021)
Patricia Taylor’s dedication and commitment to serving others resulted in hundreds of masks getting made and delivered to healthcare workers and nursing homes in O’Fallon, IL. She put in many hours creating each mask by hand – from the design pattern, to selecting material, to the actual sewing, and then finally mailing them out to those working on the frontlines and at a high risk of exposure. She also sent out the pattern she used over Facebook in order to inspire others to make masks if they had the means to and help in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Pat always volunteers her time in numerous capacities – such as her role in local rotary organization support and by acting as a mentor to others. Her contributions have made a powerful and lasting impression on all. She is a quintessential ambassador for her community and a positive role model for all. Her personal commitment to the morale of others is insurmountable and proven by her volunteering countless hours over the past five years. She also regularly provides support to the underprivileged. She has proven time and time again that she will donate her free time in order to help others. Her unconditional and continuous community service and volunteerism reflects her unselfish devotion to others and is in keeping with the highest traditions of service.
Vicki Coletta - Volunteer of the Week (December 28, 2020)
YWCA Metropolitan Chicago is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Vicki Coletta, a volunteer with the Project HELP program, embodies their mission for their community through her service. Vicki has been volunteering with Project HELP for over 20 years and the need for her leadership as a change maker in child abuse prevention is great. In DuPage County alone, there were 3,775 children reported as abused or neglected as of 2015. Abused or neglected children are at greater risk of academic problems, school failure, social and emotional problems, substance use, and juvenile delinquency.
In 2019, Vicki volunteered as a direct service parent mentor, advisory board member, and community representative. She gave 33.5 hours of her time to continuing education hours in order to qualify as a volunteer parent mentor, a standard required by Project HELP’s accrediting agency, which also helped their program earn the highest possible AAA rating. This past year she served two different families with weekly one-on-one parent mentor sessions, while also completing 29 home visits, directly serving families for 72.5 impactful hours.
Vicki also served over 20 hours to advise, advocate, and promote Project HELP. The monetary value of the hours she served alone is over $3,300. As a result of her service, Project HELP served 67 families (257 individuals) in the parent mentor program and 1,000 parents and caregivers through educational workshops in 2019. During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Vicki developed an idea to call the community to spread resources individually through wellness calls. As of today the program has completed over 165 calls to the community, connecting families with critical resources while also raising funds to send directly to families in crisis.
Samantha Feinberg - Volunteer of the Week (December 21, 2020)
Balance Boxes is a youth led registered 501(c)3 organization. Balance boxes provides students in low-income communities with academic and enjoyable activities. Each box is created with a designated theme in order to ensure the boxes can be made specifically to each child’s liking. Balance Boxes can include a variation of the following: books (picture and/or chapter books), educational games, school supplies, a theme-related toy, art projects, and games. The boxes also are equipped with an easy to make meal and/or kid-friendly snack to keep the child engaged in the activity. One of the unique factors of Balance Boxes is that each of the families are provided with information to register their child for free one to one virtual tutoring.
Samantha Feinberg is the co-founder of this organization. She is a 16 year old from Deerfield, IL and has provided over 850 students with boxes all over the state of Illinois. Through this effort, she has learned how to get strategic partnerships to further the reach of her organization and has already secured 75 of them! She has raised $28,000 and helped train 50 students to volunteer with the organization so they can give back to their communities as well. She has done this all during a global pandemic and has already achieved so much in just four short months.
Pete Troesch - Volunteer of the Week (December 14, 2020)
Pete Troesch is a long-time volunteer at the Prairie Aviation Museum in Bloomington, IL. With an all-volunteer staff dedicated to the preservation of aviation history through education, entertainment and inspiration, Pete coordinates the museum’s preservation and maintenance efforts. Starting up Wednesday Workdays, Pete organized and led volunteers to complete 305 projects in the past year.
Pete’s prioritizing efforts keep volunteers focused with a sense of purpose. Inside the museum – entrances painted, new displays mounted, building repairs made and handouts created. Outside – aircraft cleaned, buffed and polished, tires replaced, rust removed and new coats of paint applied. He also led the reorganization of the museum’s offsite hanger where larger restoration projects take place, allowing for increased storage when space is a premium. One of his biggest efforts was in the cockpit restoration of a T-33 Shooting Star along with work on the canopy and viewing stands. While the hard work in preserving this aircraft continues, this effort adds one more aircraft visitors can climb into and get the pilot’s point of view.
It is simple; Pete Troesch’s volunteer efforts with the Museum’s aircraft and exhibits keep visitors coming back. Word gets out quickly when a normally closed-up aircraft is now open for viewing or best yet, when visitors can climb into the cockpit and “strap on a jet.” Engine displays, rotating beacons, repair of ground power units, added computer displays, and the layout of the airpark keep Pete busy. He is the first to admit that he did not do all these things, but he is the organizing influence, welcoming personality, and “There I Was” storyteller that recruits and retains fellow volunteers. Pete’s efforts not only produce new incentives for people to visit, but do so in a safe and secure manner for visitors of all ages.
Ramsin Benjamin - Volunteer of the Week (December 7, 2020)
Ramsin Benjamin is a first generation Assyrian-American who was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where he attended Lane Technical High School. He currently resides in Skokie, IL and obtained his BA in Political Science from Northeastern Illinois University. Ramsin is a leading advocate in the Illinois Assyrian-American community. He served as the inaugural Executive Director for the Assyrian American Chamber of Commerce, growing the organization to 133 members throughout 22 different cities and towns and is also the current Treasurer for the Assyrian National Council of Illinois.
Ramsin is a co-founder and current Executive Board member of Vote Assyrian, a community civic engagement organization that strives to inspire and empower Assyrian-Americans to build a better future for themselves and their community through civic engagement. In that volunteer role, Ramsin was able to successfully obtain over $110,000 dollars in grant money for the organization to get Assyrian households counted in Illinois for the 2020 Census. Over the five year span of Vote Assyrian, Ramsin and his organization have successfully managed to register tens of thousands of new voters, over 5,000 of which came before the primary election in 2018. These new voters are often immigrants who are coming from countries where voting is prohibited as well, so being able to help them exercise their right to vote is truly a powerful act of service.
Tammy Moore - Volunteer of the Week (November 30, 2020)
When Tammy Moore finished nursing school last December, she knew 2020 would bring many new and exciting changes: taking the state licensing exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN), transitioning into the health care industry after two-plus decades working in finance, and more. Then the Coronavirus Pandemic hit. Despite the disruption however, Tammy says she’s still busy, volunteering every week with the American Red Cross and Northern Illinois Food Bank while also looking for a job as a newly-certified RN.
At the Food Bank, she helps distribute groceries twice a week via My Pantry Express (MPX), a pilot online food pantry program – something she finds immensely fulfilling, especially during such an uncertain time. “[The pandemic] is affecting so many people in so many different ways,” she says. “So many people – their jobs have been furloughed, they’re laid off, or they work hourly and their hours are reduced. They need help with groceries even more because they have less income now.” That need is what keeps her coming back.
“We’ve had people tell us, ‘I wouldn’t have been able to make dinner tonight without these groceries,'” Tammy shares. “And it just makes you want to help more.” Tammy still feels comfortable volunteering during the COVID-19 outbreak because of precautions the Food Bank has put into place, such as following social distancing guidelines, using gloves, and streamlining operations processes to reduce the number of people who come into contact with shared items.“ If you take the proper precautions – social distancing, washing your hands, using hand sanitizer – you can [volunteer] in a safe way while still helping neighbors who desperately need our help. I don’t want people to be afraid to volunteer.”
In times of crisis, volunteers like Tammy make all the difference in the ability to make sure no one goes hungry in Northern Illinois. Learn more about how Northern Illinois Food Bank is responding to the coronavirus pandemic and how you can help
Roxy Baker - Volunteer of the Week (November 23, 2020)
Roxy Baker has been volunteering at Sophia's Kitchen in Peoria, IL since 2012 and enjoys cooking for the hundreds who come each day to eat. All of the food she has available to her is donated, so she never knows when she arrives what may be in store for her that day. Sophia’s Kitchen quickly learned that Roxy can take any ingredient and make it into a delicious dish. In fact, Monday afternoons quickly became their personal version of the cooking show
Roxy makes Thanksgiving at Sophia's Kitchen very special with her delicious cranberry salad. She whips up enough to feed 500 people who come for a home cooked turkey dinner on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Usually, Sophia's Kitchen hosts this feast as a plated meal for their guests. Students travel over an hour from Pontiac to graciously serve as wait staff. Tables are decked out with tablecloths and decorations to add to the festivities as well. With COVID-19 restrictions however, this year the feast will be served as a carry out meal, and of course, Roxy's cranberry salad will complete it!
Roxy's giving heart is a major asset for Sophia's Kitchen, where they feed 200 to 500 people each weekday in one of the poorest zip codes in the U.S. Those who come to eat know they will be treated with dignity that starts with a meal made not just to fill a stomach, but to show they deserve good things too. Roxy is a fierce leader in spreading kindness and demanding respect for everyone. No matter what she is doing, it is certain that Roxy always acts as an advocate for those in need. Her work has led to many canned food drives, which are much needed as Sophia’s Kitchen has pledged to fill 1,000 Christmas baskets this upcoming holiday season. For information on how you can help, please visit www.CatholicPeoria.com
Jordynn Huskisson - Volunteer of the Week (November 16, 2020)
Jordynn Huskisson is a 10 year old 5th grade student who lives in Fisher, IL. She loves going to school and has been a straight-A student since kindergarten. In addition to her passion for learning, she is currently the Little Miss of the Midwest and reigns over 6 states, often traveling many hours. During her free time, Jordynn enjoys acting, singing, playing sports, and gymnastics.
Jordynn started her own 501(c) 3 organization called Blankets of Hope by Jordynn where she makes tie blankets for kids with cancer. She has made over 500 blankets since starting the project in August of 2018. While it may not sound like a lot, the amount of energy and time put into each blanket is monumental, often taking about 2 hours to cut and tie each one by hang. She personally delivers each one with a stuffed animal and a children’s book. She finds seeing the smiles on children’s faces the most rewarding aspect of her service.
Jordynn loves to volunteer and typically gets in about 25 hours a week, though she is now working creatively to find volunteer opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. She volunteers at food pantries, Feed our Kids, Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald house, St Jude, cancer benefits, Make a Wish, and The Alzheimer’s Network to name a few. Jordynn also tries to help others who support different organizations by asking people to donate and highlighting their acts of service on her social media.
Lonnie Ritchason - Volunteer of the Week (November 9, 2020)
Lonnie Ritchason is a U.S. Army Veteran who served from 1965 to 1969. Like most veterans, Lonnie has never stopped serving his country. Lonnie has been a workhorse for the True Patriots Care organization for the last 11 years. The True Patriots’ mission is to honor Troops, Veterans, and First Responders with the dignity and respect they deserve. The organization installs 3 X 5 ft. flags in what is referred to as "Healing Field" in order to remember our country’s heroes. They remembered and honored WWII Veterans & Rosie the Riveters in August at their "Remember 45 our Greatest Generation" tribute and have also held tributes that welcomed home Vietnam veterans, honored Korean War veterans, and each year on September 11th, they install 2976 Flags to memorialize the fallen heroes of 9/11.
In 2006, the True Patriots Care started to install flags at the funerals of our country’s fallen heroes as well. This aspect of the True Patriots Care in particular is very special to Lonnie. In the last two years, Lonnie has personally installed flags at the funerals of 93 locations in Illinois. As the organization said goodbye to 6 Police officers, 4 firemen, and 83 Veterans, Lonnie assisted in each one of the tributes no matter the time of day or weather conditions.
In addition to his work with the Patriots, Lonnie is always ready to help those in his community no matter the task. For example, when a friend needed a special needs ramp built, Lonnie acted quickly on the request and got it done. Lonnie also often assists an older woman he knows whenever she needs help and will drive over to her home. Most recently, Lonnie was going to meet a friend at his home and on the way he noticed a neighbor raking up apples so he helped pick them all up for him. Lonnie is truly a shining example of a veteran that is still serving and acting as a true patriot.
Joan Bortolon - Volunteer of the Week (November 2, 2020)
Joan Bortolon currently serves as the President of Land of Lincoln Honor Flight in Springfield, IL which honors WWII, Korean era, and Vietnam era veterans with a free trip to Washington, D.C. to visit memorials dedicated to their service. This hub was established in 2009 to show gratitude for veteran sacrifice and service. Joan was one of the original Executive Board members serving as Secretary from 2009-2013 and President from 2014 to present day. In its 11 years of operation, Land of Lincoln Honor Flight has served 4,639 Central Illinois veterans on 59 flights. Land of Lincoln Honor Flight is a 501(c)3 charitable organization with an annual operating budget of approximately $500,000, which allows for six flights each year. All staff are volunteer and no on-going funds are available for operations; all money is raised by donations from the general public. The administrative cost for the organization is less than 1%, so virtually every dollar raised supports the veteran flights.
Joan oversees the daily operations of the organization and the seven-member board; she helps plan and attends most fundraising events in the 25,000 sq. mi territory, makes public appearances to promote their mission, maintains the veteran waitlist, contacts veterans for flights, trains all guardians and volunteers, and tends to all details of the flight day itinerary. Joan has the proud distinction of having been on all 59 flights and meeting and thanking every single veteran served by this hub. Although all honor flights nationally were grounded in 2020, Joan and the Board are currently working on planning for 2021 and finding alternative ways to ensure the 700 veterans on the waiting list feel appreciated.
Joan was born and raised in Dolton, IL and earned her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Political Science at Illinois State University. She retired in 2017 from her Assistant Human Resources Director/Bureau Chief position with the Illinois Department of Human Services after 40 years of service with the State of Illinois. She is honored to be the daughter of a WWII D-day paratrooper.
Bill and Karen Hardesty - Volunteers of the Week (October 26, 2020)
Bill and Karen Hardesty are faithful volunteers of Catholic Charities of Coles, Douglas, & Edgar Counties. For over 20 years, they have been working an average of 3 days a week for 4-5 hours each. Since July of 2000 (when records started being kept), they have worked over 20,800 hours. Catholic Charities doesn’t have many employees, so volunteers are their lifeblood. If they had to hire additional employees, they wouldn’t be able to help their communities as much as they do currently.
Bill works primarily in the maintenance shop, repairing broken furniture so it can be sold or given away. By repairing the furniture, Catholic Charities not only receives more money, but they also don’t have to pay a disposal fee to remove it. Bill also helps with maintenance issues so they don’t have to pay for service calls. He is truly an asset to their team and knows more about their building than any of their employees do. Karen mainly helps by sorting and cleaning houseware items. These items are then taken to the sales floor for sale or donation to their clients. When she finishes with the housewares, she then works in the clothing section. Bill and Karen continue to donate their time to help others and have served Catholic Charities longer than any of their employees. They are an indispensable husband and wife team, and are both willing to do anything that is needed to effectively serve the many clients of Catholic Charities.
Louie Herrera - Volunteer of the Week (October 19, 2020)
Louie Herrera is an extraordinary volunteer for the Lakeview Pantry not only because of his dedication to the mission of providing food for those in need, but also because of his radiant and positive energy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic when not all volunteers felt comfortable coming into the pantry to donate their time, Louie was able to step in and provide service when it was most needed. He took on extra shifts and volunteered several days of the week. As an independent nonprofit, Lakeview Pantry relies greatly on their volunteers and the service they are able to provide to their communities.
Louie has been a Lakeview Pantry volunteer since spring of 2019, and has been an integral part of their mission. He helps out in many ways at the pantry, but his main role is acting as the pantry’s receptionist. This role is vital to the pantry’s success because Louie makes sure that clients have their questions answered and always feel individually recognized. He takes all of the pantry’s calls as well as aids clients during distribution. Louie has a way of brightening every day with laughter and making both fellow volunteers and clients feel seen and heard.
Cathy Schwartz - Volunteer of the Week (October 12, 2020)
Cathy Schwartz is recognized for her leadership skills and her positive impact on the Springfield community. Her work with the King’s Daughters Organization in particular has been truly rewarding to the city of Springfield and has highlighted Cathy’s selfless dedication to civil service.
Cathy became a member of the King’s Daughters Organization (KDO) in 2002 and was involved in its restructuring after the closing of their home for aged woman in 2006, which KDO had run for 111 years. She served as first vice president and then president from 2008-2010. As first vice president, she chaired the committee working with the Community Foundation and initiated their grant program which has now given over $1.5 million dollars to programs in order to enhance the lives of the elderly. Her presidency was marked with a focus on teamwork among members and a legacy of giving dollars through grants and volunteering.
Cathy has also served on the 125th KDO Anniversary committee and is currently chair of the History committee. During this time, the organization recognized much of their rich history was being lost. For example, 100 year old documents were not being stored properly and the categorization methods for these documents did not grant ease of access. As chair, Cathy set out to design a plan to combat these issues and put thousands of hours into the project. Thanks to Cathy and her team, KDO now has valuable documents such as board minutes, annual reports, news articles, pictures, and more in a searchable, digital format.
The impact of Cathy’s work on this project is immeasurable to her community. Residents will eventually have access to this precious information and will recognize not only the rich history of their community, but also the value of volunteering. In addition to her work with KDO, Cathy has also worked with Habitat for Humanity, the Springfield Figure Skating board, Springfield Parks Foundation, Springfield High School’s Red Black Gala, and Helping Hands Shelter.
Megan Philpot- Volunteer of the Week (October 12, 2020)
Megan Philpot has always been a go getter, but her participation in helping families during the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. When a local Facebook group called Springfield Families Helping Families was created, Megan immediately became involved and is one of the most active participants helping to support the needs of those posting on the page.
Not only does Megan work to help families within her community, but she also spends time each day delivering meals to children who are unable to participate in meal pickup at their school. She has even helped to organize 10 other volunteers to assist with this effort and works closely with the group to ensure efficiency in their delivery routes. When it came to her attention that most of the families the group was supporting would also be without food for the weekends, Megan worked in partnership to address this need by supplying breakfast as well.
Beyond her additional contributions to these newly organized projects, Megan continues supporting the organizations she participated in previously. She is still fulfilling her role as Secretary with Junior League of Springfield and acts a volunteer/board member for Land of Lincoln Bookshare, Downtown Springfield Inc, Jaycees, and Off Duty Springfield.
Jason Bates - Volunteer of the Week (September 28, 2020)
Jason Bates has worked consistently to improve his community and the lives of those around him. He is an active member and volunteer for many organizations including, but not limited to, the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, Heartland Connections, Galva Wall of Fame, The Three Saint Johns Knights of Columbus, Honor Flight of the Quad Cities, Galva Sons of the American Legion, and Shave for the Brave.
Jason is always the first person to step up and volunteer when there is a cause in need of help. Particularly, he has been heavily involved in making Henry County, Illinois a musically diverse destination. Between Heartland Connections and the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, hundreds of artists from all over the world, including Grammy winners and up and coming artists, have performed in the area. Jason has been instrumental in not only bringing these artists to Henry County, but also in showing the community that it is possible to experience world class music in a rural setting.
The most rewarding aspect of Jason’s actions is the fact that these concerts have become powerful community building events. As a result of their creation, many Henry County residents have become inspired to offer their time to new projects working to better the area. Over the past two years, over 15,000 people have been able to experience free, live music in part because of Jason’s contributions and his dedication to his community.
Vincent McKinney - Volunteer of the Week (September 21, 2020)
Vincent McKinney was first drawn to Scouting over 8 years ago due to a profound interest in nature. He has served countless hours helping others in some of the most demanding leadership positions, spent many weeks surrounded by nature, and lived by the motto of “Do a good turn daily.” Recognizing that there was an information deficit regarding environmental preservation in his school and community, 13 year old Vincent came up with the idea of creating the Wayne City School Herpetarium and forming a school herpetology club as his Eagle Scout Service Project.
Vincent’s efforts to enact these new resources for his school required many different fundraisers and promotional events. After a year of hard work, the Herpetarium now includes 14 large terrariums that house 15 different species and 19 total reptiles and amphibians. It also includes all of the food, medicine, and supplies needed to care for and maintain the reptiles and their enclosures. The Herpetarium also benefits the school because it educates students about different reptile species, teaches students about reptile behavior in a hands-on environment, and encourages respect for the animals.
Vincent’s creation of the Wayne City School Herpetology Club also gave dozens of students the chance to gain valuable leadership skills by being appointed to positions as Officers and Zoo Keepers to oversee the care and maintenance of the different species, along with dozens of general members who maintain the Herpetarium on a daily basis and give educational tours and demonstrations to other classes, schools, and the general public.
Vincent was recently chosen as the recipient for the Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award for the Greater St. Louis Area Council, and won the Jr. Herpetologist Award for the 2020 International Herpetological Symposium. Through multiple fundraisers, he has helped raise over $14,000, with nearly 2,000 volunteer hours donated toward his project to date.
Liz Linden - Volunteer of the Week (September 14, 2020)
Liz Linden works at London Middle School in Wheeling, IL to run CHiL—an afterschool program that provides homework assistance to high-needs students. As a special education teacher, Liz puts much of her time, patience, and emotional energy into ensuring the wellbeing of her students. Her compassion doesn’t stop there, however, as she also works selflessly to improve the lives of many she doesn’t know.
Liz found the Hanul Family Alliance’s call for meal delivery drivers through the volunteer agency HandsOn Suburban Chicago. She dedicates a few hours each week to transport food packages to three households in need. She typically has very limited or no contact with the seniors she assists. She simply knocks on their doors, leaves the food outside of their apartments, and then takes photos to verify that she has left the packages at the clients’ doors. In a recent interview regarding her volunteer service, Liz stated, “Although I can’t afford to buy it for them, I can give my time and the little gas money it takes to deliver it. It’s the least I can do in this situation. I wish I could do more.”
The Hanul Family Alliance primarily serves elderly Korean-Americans and other immigrant populations. With the global rise of hate crimes targeting individuals of Asian descent, many within that community fear not only for their health, but also their physical safety. Liz’s work enables those who cannot obtain food for themselves to receive culturally appropriate meals. It is through her continued support and kindness that she is able to work against the fear that allows racial scapegoating to persist within these communities.
Nakia Pinkston - Volunteer of the Week (September 7, 2020)
Nakia Pinkston has worked tirelessly to contribute much of her time and efforts to the AmeriCorps program Chicago HOPES for Kids. Through her service, Nakia is able to support an after-school program at their partner shelter, Believe, in Margaret’s Village and is an active part of the program’s outreach team. Nakia is often commended for her ability to remain flexible, devoted, creative, and tenacious when working towards new opportunities.
When Chicago HOPES for Kids was invited to bring their after-school program into the Believe shelter on the southeast side of Chicago, Nakia immediately jumped into a leadership role with a great sense of energy. She began by including programming for a wider range of students that focused on slightly younger and slightly older students. She also made it a point to recognize the needs of the children they were serving by creating meaningful relationships with parents and students in order to understand their schedules.
Nakia also works hard to promote Chicago HOPES for Kids by attending community meetings, speaking to large groups of behalf of the program, and recruiting new volunteers. Nakia has attended WestSide Ministers Coalition meetings, South Shore Community meetings, and Austin Coming Together meetings. It is through her diligent and consistent efforts within the community that Chicago HOPES for Kids is able to participate within the community and connect families to great opportunities. Nakia is a talented advocate for Chicago HOPES for Kids and people experiencing homelessness.
Most recently Nakia responded to the COVID-19 situation in Chicago by embracing new calls to service without hesitation. She continued to serve at the Believe shelter until they were no longer accepting volunteers and then transitioned into creating and distributing materials necessary for students. She also began volunteering regularly at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Frieda’s Place, a soup kitchen in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, in order to directly address the growing rate of food insecurity during the public health crisis.
Susan Whitfield - Volunteer of the Week (June 1, 2020)
Susan Whitfield has been a non-medical volunteer of the McHenry County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) since 2006. She found out about the MRC after researching a masters degree paper on pandemic preparedness that was published in 2007, and was used internationally for preparation for the 2009 H1N1 Influenza pandemic. With the MRC, she answered phone lines, and did entry paperwork for a Point of Dispensing (POD) when a vaccine became available. She also volunteered for the phone lines during a whooping cough outbreak. She appreciates the training through the MRC that she has received for CPR, AED, Disaster Mental First Aid, Stop the Bleed, Bloodborne Pathogens, and PPE and hopes to never use it as a member of the security team at her large church. She also serves as an Emergency Operations Center volunteer at the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency.
Early in the COVID-19 crisis, Susan realized that masks of all sorts would be in short supply. She also knew that one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety is to engage in physical activity. She started a private Facebook Group to
catalog mask making patterns and she initially sewed about 80 masks for the medical and healthcare community. These were donated to donors at a blood drive at her church, a home healthcare agency, and the Superhero patterns went to a hospital. But when the statewide mask protocol was announced for the general public, she realized that a mask had to be developed that was simpler and faster to produce. She dove into a large stash of tie-dyed t-shirts to produce the “Woodstock” pattern, named for her town and a nod to the everlasting style, and put up signs for the free masks outside her house. Members of the community and a screen printer donated more t-shirts to be recycled, and to date, over 850 masks have been made and distributed. “In the midst of the crisis, I realized how I had already been blessed with time, skill, and material to help meet the needs of other people. Seeing the people drive up and select masks - this has been more fun than Trick or Treat!”, said Whitfield.
Demetrius Lowery - Volunteer of the Week (May 25, 2020)
Demetrius, who served in the Army until 1991, is now continuing his lifelong dream of serving others and and his country through AmeriCorps at Housing Forward in Maywood.
During COVID-19, Demetrius has been working to consistently provide meals to clients who have been moved from a rotating overnight emergency shelter program to individual accommodations where they can safely shelter in place. Demetrius is supporting other 100 people, which is double what would normally be in the shelter.
With limited resources, Demetrius volunteers his personal vehicle to deliver breakfast and lunch. "At times we find ourselves struggling to keep this effort going, but we know we are still better off than the clients we are serving. We keep getting up each day to make sure they are taken care of."
Damon and Aidan McParland - Volunteers of the Week (May 18, 2020)
Damon and Aidan McParland are a father and son team who enjoy sharing their love of bagpiping with others. Damon is a Chinese teacher at Iles School in Springfield, and Aidan is a senior at Springfield High School.
During COVID-19, both Damon and Aidan decided that they wanted to use their gift of music to help their community, so they formed “UnitedWePipe.” This duo is now playing concerts where all the proceeds go to the COVID-19 Response Fund administered by the United Way of Central Illinois and the Community Fund of the Land of Lincoln.
For a minimum donation of $25, UnitedWePipe will visit the donors neighbor and play a 15-20 minute concert, while ensuring social distance. In just a few short weeks, Damon and Aidan have raised hundreds of dollars to the COVID-19 Response Fund.
Damon says, “we are hoping to have many more performances to raise money and connect people during these trying time with music.” To learn more about this father son team, visit their website.
Kyle Grzybowski - Volunteer of the Week (May 11, 2020)
Kyle is an eighth-grade student at Aux Sable Middle School in the Plainfield School District who has a passion for engineering. After taking technology and science classes at school, and taking part in robotics competitions, Kyle became interested in 3D printing, so his parents got him a printer for Christmas. Soon after, Kyle learned from a neighbor, who is a nurse at Edward Hospital in Naperville, that medical staff were running low on face shields.
Now, Kyle is spending his time away from school during COVID-19 to print face shields for those nurses and doctors. It takes about 2 hours per shield to print, and he has already made dozens.
Kyle also has plans to make 3D printed ear guards that can be attached to the adjustable face shields he has already created. "I'm going to keep printing them and if (his neighbor)doesn't need them, I'll give them to other hospitals," Kyle said.
Sameer Jain - Volunteer of the Week (May 4, 2020)
Sameer is a student at Neuqua Valley High School who tutors and mentors his peers through the Alive Youth Center while also working to involve people his age in the process. This includes working with Chicago Public Schools to host forums with students in impoverished parts of the city so they can work together to come up with solutions with community leaders.
During COVID-19, Sameer has focused his time on education accessibility. Over the past several weeks, he has partnered with West Aurora School District to set up a large-scale donation drive, and he has performed dozens of contactless, curbside pickups, to collect hundred of books and school supplies. He then ensures the items are sterilized before delivering them to the school district for distribution. The supplies go to students who don’t have reliable internet access and for children at the Hesed House homeless shelter.
No matter the situation, Sameer steps up whenever he becomes aware of a need.
Courtney Morrison - Volunteer of the Week (April 27, 2020)
Courtney Morrison joined AmeriCorps to help tell people's stories. Through he United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, Courtney captures stories of impact within the United Way Neighborhood Network communities using photo, video and audio capabilities. Her role provides the opportunity for her to interact with nonprofit leaders, community leaders, parents and students. In addition to her service role, she is a strategic partner on a member-led committee focused on creating training opportunities for her fellow Corps members.
When COVID-19 began to impact Courtney's communities, her service shifted towards capturing stories virtually, developing PSAs for United Way’s COVID Relief Fund and serving as a member on the Relief Response Team. While on the response team she responds to the needs of individuals and families seeking assistance.
Click here to watch Courtney's Relief fund PSA. Courtney continues to go above and beyond the call of duty!
A 2018 graduate from Northwestern University, she studied TV/Film and Journalism, and is a recipient of the School of Communications’ Creative Writing Certificate. Since graduation, she has worked in freelance photography and on commercial film sets, and she is most excited to meet new faces by the grace of her camera lens. With a yearning to tell stories about humanity and social impact, she joined AmeriCorps through the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago to dive into the nonprofit sector. As the Neighborhood Multimedia Journalist, she is learning more about the city she’s lived near her entire life while uncovering new storytelling methods to communicate impact, growth and history, all at once.
Learn how you can serve through AmeriCorps at
Kayla DeMay - Volunteer of the Week (April 20, 2020)
Kayla DeMay, a first-year AmeriCorps Member at Sauk Valley College’ ABC AmeriCorps program, serves in the long-term care department at Hammond Henry Hospital in Geneseo, Illinois. Her service year has focused on providing relevant activities to enhance the quality of life for senior residents. Her duties & focus have shifted since COVID-19 hit. She has been helping with staff and patient screening for COVID symptoms as they enter the hospital, as well as taking temperatures. She is also assisting the hospital volunteer department with newsletter assembly and volunteer recognition.
Kayla will be completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences in August, 2020. Illinois is fortunate to have Kayla and her AmeriCorps colleagues onboard during these uncertain times. She willingly assists where needed and utilizes her nursing skills to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Learn how you can serve through AmeriCorps at
Dan Harris - Volunteer of the Week (April 13, 2020)
Dan Harris is Kennedy Middle Grade School's Family and Community Liaison in Kankakee. His job description could never include all that he does to support the students, families, staff, and administration of Kennedy. Although hired as a part-time position, which is grant funded, he volunteers additional time to the school well outside his normal position.
Dan has been referred to as the lowest paid social worker, teacher, guidance counselor, and administrator. Each day, he arrives with a smile on his face and a gait in his step that reassures everyone that he is there to serve. He routinely checks in the office to see if any students need support; family concerns, social/emotional, organization, and academic progress. He moves in and out of classrooms, quietly respecting the instruction and discussion, but letting these students know that he is another person "in their corner".
He is sometimes seen teaching students chess during their recess, stressing the importance of strategies as they relate to life; always thinking of how the current move will affect the future move. When parents visit the school, he offers a firm handshake and enough conversation to gain trust, knowing that the support will be most effective when his trust has been gained.
Schools are now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dan remains a valuable team member. He arrives every day to greet families coming to Kennedy for food distribution. He delivers Chromebooks, work packets, and food to families who have indicated they do not have transportation. He knocks on doors of students who have lost touch with their teachers, providing strong encouragement to get connected. He boosts everyone's morale during a time that it's needed most.
Kennedy's Principal, Cynthia Veronda, stated, "Sure, Dan Harris is a part-time employee for Kankakee School District 111. But, his dedication to the students and families of Kennedy Middle Grade School and Kankakee School District, as a whole, is hishis full-time passion."
Brooke Ray - Volunteer of the Week (April 6, 2020)
Brooke Ray is having an unexpected senior year during COVID-19, but she is rising to the challenge! Since Tuscola High School, like all other schools in Illinois, is closed, Brooke is volunteering her time at the Douglas County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). She is organized, creative, and she thinks outside the box. During the response effort, she began helping compile situation reports, but now she has taken the lead role on resource management and tracking. She is helping to sort, organize, and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to local fire responders, fire departments, police departments, and nursing homes. As long as the EOC is open, she plans to learn, adapt, and volunteer to help Douglas County communities!
When she is not responding to pandemics, Brooke is a Fire Explorer in Champaign City Post 207 and Champaign County Post 31, and she is a probationary member of the Tuscola Fire Department.
James DeLoach - Volunteer of the Week (March 30, 2020)
As many face uncertainties about where their next meal may come from during the COVID-19 pandemic, James DeLoach stepped up at Lakeview Pantry in Chicago to ensure that those in need receive food swiftly and safely. James is a high school math and science teacher. He has been volunteering at Lakeview Pantry since summer 2019, but he has truly stepped up during the crisis and volunteers several days out of the week.
At Lakeview Pantry, James takes on many roles while volunteering. He organizes inventory, prepares the pantry for distribution by sorting and restocking, packs boxes for distribution, and overall helps to serve clients in need. Lakeview Pantry’s mission is to eliminate hunger and increase the independence of their clients. As an independent nonprofit, they rely on volunteers to help execute that mission. James’s service is crucial during this uncertain time.
On a typical day at one of Lakeview’s locations, the pantry will serve around 175 households with a team of about 12 volunteers. During the time of the pandemic, they have seen an increase of almost 40% in demand for our food programs. Their essential, sometimes life-saving services are clearly needed now more than ever. Volunteers such as James make the mission possible. Find out more about Lakeview Pantry at
Lynn Schmelzle Ehmen - Volunteer of the Week (March 23, 2020)
When schools and business had to close their doors due to COVID-19, Lynn stepped up to help her neighbors! She drove all over the Springfield area to deliver food and supplies to those in need. When that need continued to grow, she formed a group of people who could work with her to make deliveries. She also partnered with donors to raise funds to purchase more supplies for those in need. Her volunteer effort served as a ray of light during a dark time for many.
Lynn is a mother of four, who moved to Springfield twenty-two years ago after graduating with a degree in Business from WIU. Along with her duties as the bookkeeper for her husband’s financial planning firm, she is extremely active with the YMCA. She gives individual lessons, mentors the younger instructors, and signs up to teach as many baby swim classes as she can. During home swim meets, you can find her organizing and preparing the “best concessions in Illinois”; providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the athletes and their families while raising money for the team. Lynn was also on a fundraising team that raised over $400,000 for the new downtown YMCA and works with the coaches to secure sponsorship donations every year for the swim team and for the Strong Kids scholarship program.
Lucille Martinek - Volunteer of the Week (March 16, 2020)
Lucille Martinek has been nominated for her commitment and dedication to serving others in her community. Lucille Martinek is the oldest volunteer serving at Memorial Medical Center. Memorial Medical Center is a Magnet-designated, acute care hospital in Springfield that offers comprehensive inpatient and outpatient services. Since 1970, Memorial has been a teaching hospital affiliated with SIU School of Medicine to provide clinical training for residents.
Lucille doesn't let being the oldest volunteer at Memorial Medical Center stop her from sharing her time and talent with the Rehab Grads – a group for patients, and their loved ones, who have completed one of Memorial's inpatient rehab programs. For more than 10 years, Lucille has enjoyed working on projects with her fellow volunteers and has served nearly 550 hours.
At 96-years-old, Lucille continues to be a shining example of service to others and Memorial is honored to have Lucille as part of their volunteer team.
James Rucker - Volunteer of the Week (March 09, 2020)
James Rucker was not sure what to do with his life when AmeriCorps called him to serve.
“The mistakes I made in my youth had eaten me up,” James said when looking back to his time prior to his service. James’ dream was to play collegiate football, but after graduating from Lanphier High School in Springfield, his lack of focus and self-confidence led him to giving up on that dream. That all changed when AmeriCorps opened a new door for him. Through his service with the City of Springfield at their Land of Lincoln Goodwill site, James began mentoring youth. James helped his mentees set goals, realize the power of teamwork, and work to empower themselves. He found that in helping the youth at Goodwill he was growing as a person. He gained that self-confidence he was lacking for so very long. “Working with the kids motivated me. It forced me to act like an adult for the first time and also taught me to be consistent and remain humble. It turned my life around.”
And just like his mentees, James set a goal and got on the path to achieving it. Earlier this year he received a letter of intent to play college football at Ottawa University in Kansas. Through the help of AmeriCorps, the City of Springfield, and Land of Lincoln Goodwill, James is about to live his dream and continue to help others live theirs!
Katherine Buchanan - Volunteer of the Week (March 02, 2020)
Katherine Buchanan was nominated for her creative mind and drive to help bring the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program to children in O'Fallon, Illinois. She is a proud member of the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois. Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is a nationwide organization whose mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.
Katherine's role in serving includes organizing and holding STEM sessions as part of the O'Fallon Public Library summer reading program. This program was run with 2-45 minute sessions on Wednesdays for 6 weeks in May-July. The attendees of the session were grades K-2nd from 1pm to 1:45pm and 3rd -5th from 2:15 P.M. until 3:00 P.M. The topics of discussion during the sessions were weather, physics, chemistry, electricity, space and robotics. Total attendees for this event was between 20 to 75 children.
Katherine's hard work and dedication led her to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor from the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois. She and the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois are also award recipients of the Illinois Governor's Hometown Award.
Katherine has always had the heart to serve others. She has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten and considered a Girl Scout for life. Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois members and staff speak very highly of Katherine and state that she is leader of tomorrow.
Ya'Shika Reed - Volunteer of the Week (February 21, 2020)
Ya'Shika Reed is being nominated for her go-getter attitude and the excellent work she does for the children she serves at Macon County CASA. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA is a national association in the United States that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes. CASA relies on community volunteers to act as a "voice in court" for abused and neglected children to safeguard the children's best interests and ensure that they are placed in safe homes as quickly as possible.
As a volunteer advocate, Ya'Shika currently works two cases; however, during her 2 year tenure, she has advocated for a total of 18 children. Ya'Shika spends quality time with her children by engaging with them in a variety of different environments, such as school, home, and out in the community. Ya'Shika goes the extra mile by providing assistance with homework or being that consistent – supportive person in their lives. All parties involved with Ya'Shika’s cases says Ya'Shika is a great person to work with, easy-going, helpful and has pure passion for advocating for the best interests of the children she serves. When Ya'Shika is not advocating for her CASA children, she is providing case management services to youth in the Decatur community at Homework Hang Out.
Ya'Shika comments that becoming a CASA volunteer has helped define how she can become a better individual to support and add value to the lives of others. Ya'Shika loves the amazing children she meets and is thankful she can help provide a better opportunity to children in foster care.
Dejanai Dunn - Volunteer of the Week (February 17, 2020)
Volunteer of the week-Dejanai Dunn
Dejanai has been nominated for her consistency and dedication to serving students at Laketown Elementary School’s 21st Century Afterschool Learning Center.
Dejanai is a senior at Lanphier High School and is currently serving her second term as an AmeriCorps Member for Springfield Urban League. The Springfield Urban League Inc is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, civil rights and community-based movement that serves nearly 9,000 people annually whose mission is to enable those who struggle to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights.
Dejanai serves as a youth mentor at Laketown Elementary School’s 21st Century Afterschool Learning Center. She enjoys working with the students and challenging them to be the best that they can be. Dejanai mentors a minimum of four days a week, while still maintaining a 3.8 GPA. Also, Dejanai is an active member of Lanphier High School’s dance team. Dejanai is quiet yet assertive and fully committed to making Laketown Elementary School’s 21st Century Afterschool Program a quality program that students are excited to attend. Miss Dejanai, as students call her, is a very dedicated and conscientious worker.
Host Site Supervisor Dylan Flowers says, “Dejanai is one of my most consistent team members, she is flexible always willing to handle the different situations that come up during the program.” Dejanai dependability makes her a vital asset to the afterschool program at Laketown.
Michelle Harley - Volunteer of the Week (February 10, 2020)
After high school, Dejanai plans to attend college in Texas and pursue a degree in the field of mental health, eventually obtain her master’s degree and become an inspirational psychologist. Through her service, education, and experiences, she plans to continue inspiring and helping others and credits AmeriCorps for strengthening her passion for serving.
Michelle Harley is being nominated due to her hard work and enormously positive attitude while serving at the Seasoned Circle Café located in East St. Louis, IL.
Michelle Harley is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services which will help move individuals and families out of poverty.
At any given time, more than 50 seniors attend the Seasoned Circle Café to engage in reactional activities, sing, and enjoy a hot breakfast and lunch. During these times, Michelle is seen almost everywhere. Michelle is seen serving breakfast and lunch to the seniors, engaging in reactional activities, and often times playing games with the seniors. Michelle embodies the definition of hard work. She is the first to arrive and the last to leave. She ensures that all seniors leaves the Café in a happy mood and mindset. Michelle goes to different tables, cracking jokes and addressing the seniors by their first name. Michelle's mindset is to get things done in a positive way and by serving at the Seasoned Circle Café, she does just that. Many seniors at the Café have stated that Michelle's smile and warm energy is something that they look forward to throughout the day. Michelle said that serving for AmeriCorps was one of the best decisions she has made.
Santos Ferrer - Volunteer of the Week (February 03, 2020)
Santos Ferrer has been nominated for her positive attitude and persistence to help students achieve their goals. Santos is a Foster Grandparent for Tri-County Opportunities Council. The Tri-County Opportunities Council is a Community Action Agency in Rock Falls, IL, whose mission is to strengthen and enable low-income people to become self-sufficient through the attaining of necessary skills, knowledge, motivations, and opportunities.
Santos serves at Jefferson Elementary SPS School in Sterling, IL. Jefferson Elementary School is the top school in bilingual services for District #5(Sterling Public Schools). Santos helps students in the second grade master the English language with extra help with spelling, reading, and math facts. She takes the time to get to know each student personally and build relationships that go beyond the classroom. She also will support students by attending student activities outside of school hours. These activities will include church confirmations, choral concerts, and other community activities.
As Santos approaches her 4th year of being a Foster Grandparent for Tri-County Opportunities Council, she has received tremendous support and gratitude from teachers, students, and the community. Santos's daughter comments, "whether we are at church or a parade or just at the grocery store, there are always kids coming up say “Hi Grandma."” Santos is passionate and committed to providing services to her students and foster children to help better equip them for the future.
Milred "Millie" Belobraydic - Volunteer of the Week (January 27, 2020)
Mildred “Millie” Belobraydic has been nominated for her strong leadership skills and dedication to impact her community. Millie was born in East St. Louis, Illinois and married at 18 to her husband Lou. Millie and Lou have six beautiful children.
For ten years, Millie and a group of ladies known as the “auxiliary without a hospital” and later known as the Golden Girls devoted their lives to establishing a hospital on the east side of the Mississippi River in the downstate Metro-East Illinois area. This hospital establishment is a project that Millie never gave up on and because of her hard work, Anderson Hospital was birthed. The hospital is the region’s leader in maternity care and maintains a strong collaboration with major research/teaching hospitals in St. Louis, Missouri
Millie served as the first Volunteer Director for the Anderson Hospital in efforts to recruit and grow the vision of the hospital. Today, membership in Anderson Auxiliary exceeds more than 200 volunteers who provide services in the gift shop, information desk, and parking lot shuttle to surgery centers. In addition to her hospital work, Millie has served on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Maryville Comprehensive Planning Board and Centennial Committee. She also served as a school secretary for 23 years.
Millie has dedicated her entire life to ensure everyone she comes in contact with has access to healthcare services. In recognition of her dedication, Millie received the Kimmel Award from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, President’s Call to Service Award, Founder’s Award from Anderson Hospital, Fred Winters Community Service Award from the Village of Maryville and Women of Distinction Award from the Springfield Diocese. All of these awards are examples of what leaders and members of Millie’s community think of her work for community betterment and volunteer leadership.
James Baugh - Volunteer of the Week (January 20, 2020)
James Baugh has been nominated for his commitment to providing weather forecasts and disaster response work to emergency response teams across the state and nationwide as well as the victims of disasters. James is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for Superior Ambulance. James is alumni of Mississippi State University where he received his degree in Operational Meteorology and continued his education at Purdue University Global, pursing his Master of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management and Homeland Security.
James volunteers at Storm Tech Solutions. Storm Tech Solutions is a weather tracking and consulting company that offers real-time and advance forecasting, along with storm tracking services, disaster response, recovery and restoration. He is their go-to source for weather information for first responders, companies, and organizations across the state of Illinois and the nation. He provides forecasts on a frequent basis along with recurring updates depicting the hazards and clearer detail as the event gets closer. James is passionate about ensuring people are always prepare and ready for a storm. He has partnered with a local community college to increase their Meteorology Education Program so that the students are better equipped to relay the hazards within the field to the public and first response communities.
Paul Feith - Volunteer of the Week (January 13, 2020)
Paul Feith has been nominated for his creative thinking and problem solving methods using technology to help organizations run more efficiently into the right direction. Paul resides in Aurora, Illinois. He gives back to his community by serving two organizations: Giving DuPage and Habitat for Humanity of Illinois. Giving DuPage is a non-for-profit Volunteer Center in the DuPage County whose mission is to promote giving and volunteering. Habitat for Humanity of Illinois is a state supported organization whose mission is bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. Paul has served with Giving DuPage for the past 10 years and served Habitat for Humanity of Illinois for 9 years.
Paul is the owner of Paul Gregory media. Paul and his company's staff have donated over 80 hours of in-kind professional services to Giving DuPage and Habitat for Humanity of Illinois in 2019. Their skills-based volunteering has included web editing, social media marketing, graphics design and event/program support. Paul Is a former Board member of Giving DuPage, but still continues to participate in strategic meetings & discussions about the future plans for the organization.
Paul's expertise and unique contribution to providing technology-based solutions for marketing and board governance include creating graphic design work to produce the first-ever annual reports for Giving DuPage and Habitat for Humanity of Illinois. Other contributions include creating a "Build Happy" campaign to raise $60,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Illinois and selecting a volunteer app software as the platform for the Giving DuPage volunteer portal site. These accomplishments only begin to skim the surface of Paul's impact during his time serving both organizations.
Paul Feith is well-known for his generosity in the DuPage County. His services provided have been said to
be a blessing.
Ann Dillard - Volunteer of the Week (January 6, 2020)
Ann Dillard has been nominated for her hard work and dedication to meet the needs of children and adults throughout Giant City School District in Southern Illinois. Giant City School District #130 is a public school in rural Southern Illinois with a small student population of over 200 students. Giant City School recently received the U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School Awards for Excellence in education, staff and volunteers.
Ann has served as a volunteer for the Giant City School District #130 for many years providing extra educational assistance to faculty and students. Ann Dillard makes it her priority to meet the needs of every child or adult she encounters. Ann's willingness to share her time and talents with schools in the district has provided the precious service of time for students and staff in a rural school.
The strategies Ann delivers to classrooms as a former educator, using her experiences for the greater good, allow students and staff to learn extra tips and strategies for success. She has also been instrumental in helping student increase test scores. This experiential learning approach has impacted over 200 students and over 20 teachers at Giant City school. Ann's positive outlook on life and her love learning makes it easy for her to commit to service in her community.
Meredith Bates - Volunteer of the Week (December 30, 2019)
Meredith Bates has been nominated for her positive energy and commitment to inspiring students. Meredith is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages. Lessie Bates AmeriCorps provides services for youth, adults, families, seniors and those battling poverty.
Meredith volunteers at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE). She serves as Volunteer Coordinator, helping students maximize their talents and passions to serve the community. Meredith discovered her passion for community engagement, which led to her work with the YMCA. Meredith continues YMCA's mission to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
At SIUE, Meredith encourages students to give back to their community and to be their community's voice. She has encouraged over 20 students to join AmeriCorps just four short months. Her passion to serve is infectious. SIUE students state that Meredith's love of service makes it easy for others to commit to serve.
Juan Valencia - Volunteer of the Week (December 23, 2019)
Juan Valencia has been nominated due to his dedication to helping central Illinois children. Juan is the founder of Juan's Christmas Smiles Toy Drive. Juan's Christmas Smiles is a nonprofit, annual toy drive that helps bring smiles to the faces of the children and families at HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital in Springfield, Illinois.
Juan is a 13-year-old boy who has beat childhood cancer twice. He was diagnosed with Stage 2 lymphoma in 2016 and beat it in 6 months. This past year the lymphoma returned at a stage 4 level and after a bone marrow transplant, Juan beat it again. HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital has been Juan's home hospital while receiving treatment. Juan wanted to give back to the hospital and community that made him feel so at-home. Last year, Juan and his mother decided to start a toy drive and fundraiser to bless sick children and their families who must spend Christmas in the hospital. Juan personally delivers each of these gifts on Christmas Eve.
Juan asks that others may give what has so kindly been given to him over these last few years. For details on how you can help Juan with his toy drive, please visit the Juan's Christmas Smiles Toy Drive Facebook page.
DoIT and IDPH Office of Preparedness and Response - Volunteer of the Week (December 16, 2019)
The Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) and Illinois Department of Public Health's Office of Preparedness and Response staff co-located at the Bell building has been nominated due their outstanding Christmas donation efforts for children of Sangamon County.
On Wednesday, November 13th, the DoIT hosted their 10th Annual Chili Cook-Off Luncheon. Bell building employees participated in some friendly competition as to who could make the best pot of chili. The chili was purchased and judged by fellow employees around the building. All proceeds from the event were used to purchase goods donated to Toys for Tots. The Bell Building also had a Toys for Tots donation box for employees who wished to donate toys to the cause.
The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children experience the joy of Christmas and to unite all members of local communities in a common cause during the annual toy campaign. The donations received for the Chili Cook-off combined with yearlong fundraising efforts equaled a considerable amount. The Bell building staff members were able to purchase approximately 40 toys donated to Toys for Tots, plus an additional 29 that were donated.
Nadia Dawson - Volunteer of the Week (December 9, 2019)
Nadia Dawson has been nominated due to her mission to end hunger around Chicago. Nadia supports Chicago's Community Kitchens (CCK) as an AmeriCorps member whose role is to enhance student recruitment strategies and engage more training participants.
CCK is a free 14-week job training program offered by the Greater Chicago Food Depository for unemployed and underemployed adults in Cook County. The program prepares students for a productive career in the culinary and hospitality fields. While training for their future, students gain hands-on experience in a variety of culinary techniques. They prepare lunch every day and participate in catering opportunities.
Nadia has established excellent rapport with community members of CCK. She is enthusiastic, warm, welcoming and encouraging. Nadia reaches the community all over Cook County at food pantries, resource fairs, returning citizen support networks and more. Her presence is versatile and has reached a diverse client base to spread the word about all the Food Depository's community resources. The Food Depository is excited to see how Nadia continues to grow past her service year with AmeriCorps!
Ben Gershon - Volunteer of the Week (December 2, 2019)
Hunger and food insecurity are prevalent in Cook County. People of all ages cannot reliably access adequate, nutritional food. Ben Gershon has helped meet the hunger needs of more than 1,400 households over the past four years as a volunteer at the Marillac St. Vincent Family Services (MSV) St. Vincent de Paul Center Client Choice Food Pantry. Ben helps individuals, families, and seniors in access food items to meet their household and nutritional needs.
Ben's service started through a summer program coordinated by a post-secondary certificate program for young adults with disabilities. Ben lives independently with both physical and developmental disabilities. He has a speech impairment that requires the use of verbal and nonverbal gestures with assistance from a speaking software program.
Having Ben as a volunteer has motivated MSV to seek an ongoing partnership with PACE at National Louis University to ensure continued service opportunities for disabled young adults. Ben assists with training and onboarding of new PACE volunteers each year.
Ben's speech impairment has not affected his ability to communicate and lead. He makes everyone feel welcome and appreciated while receiving food. Ben has inspired others to speak not only with words, but with positive gestures, humor, and kindness.
Julia Roundtree Livingston - Volunteer of the Week (November 25, 2019)
Julia Roundtree Livingston has been nominated due to her selfless commitment to the citizens of Macon County. With a poverty rate of over 18%, Macon County has many citizens struggling to feed their families. Julia organizes the Judy Mason Thanksgiving Basket Project each year to provide 4,000 Macon County families with food boxes for the week of Thanksgiving. Boxes include traditional Thanksgiving cuisine plus toiletries and additional items to support families over the holiday season.
Julia enlists the help of almost 2,000 community volunteers for the project. Families, community groups, businesses, and teams have made volunteering at the Judy Mason Thanksgiving Basket project a yearly tradition. Volunteers prepare each box for distribution by filling, taping, or stacking. Julia also partners with over 55 community agencies to help make the project possible. Each agency is responsible for getting food in the hands of families who need help. All food items are paid for with monetary donations from members of the community.
The Judy Mason Thanksgiving Basket Project is not the only thing on Julia's plate. She is the Executive Director of Macon County CASA where she provides volunteers to advocate for abused, neglected or dependent children in the Macon County juvenile court system.
Alex Lacy - Volunteer of the Week (November 18, 2019)
Diana Murphy - Volunteer of the Week (November 4, 2019)
Alex Lacy has been nominated due to his positive attitude while mentoring students in the East. St. Louis community. Alex is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages. Lessie Bates provides services for youth, adults, families, seniors and those battling poverty.
Alex volunteers at the Mary Brown Center, an after-school site in East St. Louis. Alex mentors several students at the Mary Brown Center. He is responsible for implementing effective learning strategies and serving as a positive role model to all students. Alex ensures that every student completes their homework and departs the center correctly. He stresses the importance of team work and community by encouraging students to work together.
Students at the Mary Brown Center describe Alex as fun, funny, and "like a big brother." Staff have complimented Alex on his eagerness to interact with the students. Alex has volunteered at a variety of different sites and events, but his time at the Mary Brown Center stands out as his favorite.
Nicole Matteson - Volunteer of the Week (November 11, 2019)
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nicole Matteson, 108th Sustainment Brigade, Illinois Army National Guard Soldier, has been nominated due to her selfless commitment to volunteerism. Matteson received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM) on August 20th while deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The MOVSM recognizes members of the military who perform substantial volunteer service to the local community above and beyond their required duties. Matteson volunteered at the Abraham Lincoln Council, Boy Scouts of America, Cub Scout Pack 38 in Springfield, Illinois, from January 2015 through November 2018. She led weekly meetings, organized community service events, and monthly fundraising efforts. She assisted multiple Cub Scouts transition through the ranks from Webelos to the Arrow of Light.
Her Scouts collected and donated hundreds of pounds of nonperishable food products to the Inner City Mission, volunteered numerous hours visiting residents of Concordia Village and the Mary Bryant Home For the Blind and Visually Impaired. Matteson was part of the launch of Cub Scout Pack 38's program for girls which led to the Boy Scouts of America chartering Troop 38, Springfield's first all-girls troop in February 2019.
Matteson has served in the Illinois Army National Guard since April 1994, and assigned to the 108th Sustainment Brigade in June 2018.
The National Runaway Safeline (NRS) serves as a federally-designed national communication system for homeless and runaway youth. NRS provides crisis intervention, referral, education and prevention services to youth, families and community members. Services are available across the country 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. NRS, with the support of their volunteers, handles an average of 100,000 calls annually.
Diana Murphy became a crisis line volunteer with NRS in September of 2016. Since then, she has completed the 40-hour crisis intervention training program and dedicated more than 260 hours to handling crisis contacts nationwide. Diana has personally handled over 423 individual contacts. Each contact was a person who needed direct, full attention for a crisis affecting their life.
Diana selflessly gives her time responding to youth and families in crisis. The desire to give back is evident on the line as Diana exhibits a calm, warm tone with non-directive language. Utilizing strong active listening skills may seem an obvious way to provide services, but it takes a caring individual willing to implement them for an effective delivery of service. Diana successfully helps callers gain back some sense of control to do what is best for their lives.
November is National Runaway Prevention Month. Learn more at 1800runaway.org.
Haleigh Kent - Volunteer of the Week (October 28, 2019)
Haleigh Kent has been nominated due to her willingness to #GetThingsDone. Haleigh is an AmeriCorps member for Project YES!. Project YES! (youth, education, service) educates youth holistically by providing classroom support, after school programming, and volunteer initiatives. Members and volunteers educate, nurture and inspire students in their schools and reach out to serve their communities. Project YES! started in 2000 and is currently in its eighteenth year of service.
Haleigh led the Project YES! MLK Day project this year as logistics committee head. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the project every year is a Youth Literacy Fair. The theme this year was "Go Anywhere with a Book!" The Youth Literacy Fair allows volunteers to help children learn the importance of literacy through fun and interactive activities. As Logistics leader, Haleigh delegated tasks to fellow members, organized activities, and engaged children in fun and creative ways.
Her peers nominated Haleigh for the Project YES! Member 2 Remember Award. Others describe Haleigh as a born leader, positive, hard-working, and dedicated to all that she does. She is a team player and is inclusive of other members' ideas.
Marjorie "Midge" Murphy - Volunteer of the Week (October 21, 2019)
Marjorie "Midge" Murphy has been nominated due to her commitment to the students of Dillon Elementary as a Senior Corps Foster Grandparent. Midge, age 85, of Rock Falls, became a Foster Grandparent after retiring in 1998. Her late husband, Steve Murphy, suggested she try volunteering as a Foster Grandparent to stay busy. His suggestion turned into a second career for Midge, who has been a Foster Grandparent long enough to watch three teachers she worked with retire.
Sometimes the students require a little help with reading and writing when they first start school. Teachers may not have that extra time to spend with a student due to their busy schedules. That is where Midge lends a hand. Her favorite hobby is teaching first graders to read. Other times, she takes more of a supportive role by listening to the students.
Providing a "softer side to school" is what the Foster Grandparent program is all about, said Senior Corps Foster Grandparent Director, Susie Welch.
Midge has been described as "a remarkable woman" who builds special relationships with those she mentors. She is the "go-to" Foster Grandparent at Dillon Elementary for her ability to answer other volunteers' questions.
Until about a year ago, Midge also spent every other Sunday volunteering in CGH Medical Center's gift shop. Due to an injury she is unsure if she will be back to finish out the year at Dillon Elementary. Whether she returns or not, she will always have the extended family that she has built over 20 years – all of whom still call her Grandma.
Jasmine Williams - Volunteer of the Week (October 14, 2019)
Jasmine Williams is being nominated due to her hard work and positive attitude while serving as an early childhood advocate at the Family Development Early Childhood Center.
Jasmine is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services which will help move individuals and families out of poverty.
Jasmine serves at the Lessie Bates Davis Family Development Early Childhood Center in East St. Louis. She is an educational advocate to over a dozen children at the early childhood center. Jasmine mentors children, communicates concerns to staff, and works with parents. She also networks with appropriate support service agencies to ensure children in the center have a promising future.
Jasmine encourages the children at the Family Development Center by pushing them to achieve their dreams. Staff have stated that Jasmine is an asset to the entire team. The students all love Jasmine and her impact will last beyond her AmeriCorps service.
Mark Holderbaugh - Volunteer of the Week (October 7, 2019)
At any given time, more than 105,000 kids, seniors and families face hunger in eastern Illinois. Eastern Illinois Foodbank is the
primary provider of food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters across eastern Illinois. The organization is powered by a small staff and over 2,000 volunteers.
Mark Holderbaugh first learned about Eastern Illinois Foodbank dearly a decade ago while participating in a food repackaging event. Mark continued to volunteer beyond the first repack, eventually becoming the Repack Captain. Repack Captains are responsible for leading volunteers to repacking food into smaller portions and ensuring food sanitation practices are followed. When Eastern Illinois Foodbank needed volunteers to help run the Foodmobile food distribution program, Mark stepped into another leadership role as Foodmobile Captain. As Foodmobile Captain he responsible for setting up, tearing town, gathering volunteers, and serving as the primary resource on the day of distribution.
After years of volunteering, Mark had the idea to develop food pantries to serve veterans. He championed a $75,000 grant application that resulted in full funding. The pop-up veteran pantry launched in November 2016 and has distributed food to over 2,000 veterans and their families. Mark has helped distribute nearly 1,108,000 meals to neighbors in need through Eastern Illinois Foodbank's 18-county service area.
Andrea Berry - Volunteer of the Week (September 30, 2019)
Andrea Berry recently finished her service as a member of Belleville AmeriCorps. Andrea was as a tutor at Roosevelt Elementary School in Belleville, Illinois. She developed programs and materials for teaching students in two schools and a summer camp. Andrea volunteered for events across Belleville School District #118, tutored at after school programs for Franklin Neighborhood Community Association, and was a mentor for high school students.
Andrea was innovative in meeting the needs of the community through partnerships with teachers to discuss student needs. She was flexible with educational priorities and schedules, while delivering curriculum-centered materials that help meet core educational goals. During her service, Andrea created an after-school STEM program to share her love of science with the students of Roosevelt Elementary. She also introduced experiential learning methods that incorporate education through hands-on activities during camp, tutoring, and after school programming.
Andrea has formed alliances with other organizations, such as University of Illinois Extension, to utilize a broader range of materials for youth programs and services in Belleville schools. Belleville AmeriCorps is proud to call Andrea Berry an alum!
Kennedy Gowder - Volunteer of the Week (September 23, 2019)
Kennedy serves at the Greater Chicago Food Depository as part of the Hunger Action Corps. Hunger Action Corps is an AmeriCorps program that engages and cultivates social justice leaders who want to gain experience fighting hunger. Kennedy serves alongside two other members as a Food Access Specialist. She works directly with the Food Access partners implementing a new client intake system, Link2Feed.
Kennedy's roles and responsibilities involve being in the field working at each food access partner site. Link2Feed is a new process for the Food Depository and their partners. Link2Feed has required Kennedy to demonstrate excellent customer service, flexibility, and creative thinking. The Food Depository has received over five compliments from partners regarding Kennedy's service during distribution to both the agency team and guests they serve.
One Food Depository Link2Feed partner commented, "Special thanks to Kennedy for her patience dealing with our clients. She showed excellent professionalism and outstanding guidance in the implementation of the new system. Her understanding of Link2Feed is exceptional."
Kennedy has overcome a laundry list of personal obstacles in the short term she has been at the Food Depository. She continues to face all obstacles with a smile on her face. Staff are constantly impressed by her persistence, positive attitude, and hard work shown in everything she does. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is excited to see how Kennedy continues to grow past her service year with AmeriCorps.
Jose Muratalla - Volunteer of the Week (September 16, 2019)
Jose is a health education volunteer at CommunityHealth. CommunityHealth is dedicated to serving the uninsured and under-served in Chicago and the surrounding communities. Every year, CommunityHealth provides more than 15,000 medical and dental visits to thousands of patients. Health education is extremely important to the patient population, as most patients have a very limited level of health literacy. Health education allows patients to learn how to care for themselves and for their families through prevention and disease management.
Jose introduced the idea of combining CommunityHealth's diabetes education course with their healthy cooking course. As an outstanding instructor for both courses, Jose is able to teach the Spanish-speaking diabetic patients how to make real changes in their kitchens to manage blood sugar. Most of the the Spanish-speaking patients are originally from Mexico, as is Jose's family. With this shared heritage, he is able to provide culturally relevant health education that is realistic and appealing to class members. Patients are now able to get the education they need with fewer trips to the clinic.
Jose's impact on the Spanish speaking patients at CommunityHealth is immeasurable. He has spent more than 260 volunteer hours educating more than one hundred patients. The graduating classes have reported these changes have affected their entire household. The ripple of a healthy lifestyle can create a better life for generations to come.
Katie Yohe - Volunteer of the Week (September 9, 2019)
Katie is the founder and artistic director of ABLE Ensemble. A.B.L.E.'s mission is to provide artistic experiences through which individuals with Down syndrome and other developmental differences build the confidence and skills to share who they are and what they are truly able to do.
Katie recognized a need for teens with developmental disabilities to experience stage or screen exposure. Initially a weekly meeting of 6 young actors with Down syndrome, the program quickly expanded to two classes a week accommodating an ensemble of 17 actors led by a roster of dedicated volunteers. Inspired by this rapid success, a group of core teaching artists branched out and established A.B.L.E. as a 501c3 in 2016 to expand creative opportunities for the community with developmental differences.
The core of A.B.L.E.'s programming are its ensembles for teens and adults. Supported by a staff of teaching artists and volunteer facilitators, ensembles work together to create theatre and film projects while strengthening lifelong skills including communication, confidence, and cooperation. Ensembles produce an average of 4 theatre performances each year, ranging from original stories devised by the ensemble to classics by Shakespeare, Dickens, and Gilbert & Sullivan. For these productions, A.B.L.E. partners with professional venues around Chicago.
Katie continues to expand creative and social opportunities through core ensembles, workshops, and outreach. By promoting practices that place participants with disabilities in the spotlight, Katie strives to shift societal preconceptions about disability. She hopes her work will continue to build more inclusive, empathetic communities.
To learn more about ABLE Ensemble check out their website at
Shauniera Wilson - Volunteer of the Week (September 3, 2019)
Shauniera Wilson has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her commitment to making a difference in her community. Shauniera has been an AmeriCorps member since 2015 with the Springfield Urban League.
The Springfield Urban League, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, civil rights and community-based movement that serves nearly 9,000 people annually. Springfield Urban League provides direct services, research, and policy advocacy to assist individuals and communities to reach their highest potential. Since its founding in 1926, the Springfield Urban League has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans overcome countless challenges in civil and human rights.
The Springfield Urban League's AmeriCorps Program is designed to engage AmeriCorps members in direct service and capacity-building to address unmet needs. Services include mentoring youth, assisting disaster victims, helping with community gardens, assisting with the organization of community programs, and mobilizing community volunteers to strengthen the capacity of the organizations where they serve.
Currently, Shauniera performs tasks around the main building in the Springfield Urban League. She enjoys the opportunity to help her community while having a flexible schedule. Her favorite part about being an AmeriCorps member is making a difference in the lives of others.
Shauniera believes that being an AmeriCorps member has helped her become more community service minded and more aware of her community's needs.
Lance Friedman - Volunteer of the Week (August 26, 2019)
Lance Friedman has been selected at volunteer of the week due to his commitment to student-athlete success. Lance is serving his second term as an AmeriCorps Academic Tutor & Mentor for Beyond Sports Foundation. Beyond Sports Foundation prepares student-athletes to succeed in life. They work with student-athletes from under-resourced families in under-served communities that will need financial assistance to attend college. Many of the student-athletes are from populations that are under-represented on college campuses.
Lance is a dedicated tutor, working with student-athletes to not only complete homework assignments and prepare for tests, but really understand the concepts they are learning. He understands that while passing a test and getting the grade is important, math goes much further. Lance strives to make math understandable and applicable to life beyond the classroom.
Lance goes above and beyond to make time for student-athletes. He is available for questions and last-minute study support if student-athletes feel unprepared for tests or assignments.
Lance has been known to attend games and cheer on those in the program. He supports the Beyond Sports Foundation student-athletes both inside and outside the classroom. Lance is a valuable member of the Beyond Sports team.
Peyton Newman - Volunteer of the Week (August 19, 2019)
Peyton Newman has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her commitment to helping others make a difference.
Peyton began impacting her community at a young age. In 2011, she learned that nearly 1 in 5 residents in Illinois had literacy problems. Upon hearing this, Peyton felt the urge to become an activist and create positive change.
Peyton began by hosting a book drive for Book Worm Angels. The book drives continued to grow, leading to a partnership with Bernie's Book Bank and Barnes and Noble. This partnership raised more than 10,000 books for students across the Chicago area.
Peyton recognized that if she could make a difference at her age, others could too. At the time, many organizations didn't accept young volunteers. Her desire to give youth an opportunity to make a difference was the start of My Voice. My Voice is an organization that focuses on getting children and teens involved in their communities to create positive and meaningful change.
Peyton understands the value of giving back. She serves on the Ronald McDonald Teen Advisory Board, Student Council, and VHGive Executive Board. Peyton has inspired others to follow in her footsteps. She helps children and teens and children find volunteer opportunities for causes they are passionate about.
Gabriela Garcia - Volunteer of the Week (August 12, 2019)
Gabriela Garcia has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her enthusiasm towards serving her community. Gabriela is an AmeriCorps member at United Way of Metro Chicago. United Way of Metro Chicago fights for the health, education, financial stability and safety of every person in every neighborhood across the region.
Gabriela is in her first year as an AmeriCorps member, serving in the community she has resided in for over 20 years. She is a dedicated community organizer, wife, and mom. Gabriela desires to see parents use their voices to invoke the change they wish to see in their local communities and schools.
When Gabriela came on board for the United Way of Metro Chicago AmeriCorps Program, she brought her bright personality and experience to the table. She has found power and strength in her voice and does not doubt the change she can make on a new level. Recently she coordinated a partnership between her service site and a clothing store to provide winter clothing to families who needed in need.
The enthusiasm she brings to her service is contagious. Gabriela has a promising future in the community engagement world as she continues to build relationships with everyone she meets.
Kari Willman - Volunteer of the Week (August 5, 2019)
Kari Willman has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her committed service to her students. Kari is an AmeriCorps member for the AmeriCorps Benefits the Community Program, better known as ABC AmeriCorps. ABC AmeriCorps is sponsored by Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC). SVCC is located two hours west of Chicago and serves Lee, Whiteside, Carroll, Ogle, Bureau, and Henry counties in Illinois. The area ABC AmeriCorps members serve is predominantly rural. Members serve in schools, after school programs, and non-profit agencies.
Kari helps and encourages adults who are working towards their GED at the local unemployment office. She helps them with GED preparation and shares her own experience of being a GED student. Kari has overcome hardships in her life as a high school dropout and single mom. She turned her hardship into success by completing her GED and continuing to finish her bachelor's degree. Kari has shared these personal and professional experience to relate to her GED students.
Kari has successfully instilled persistence and hope into each of her students. By her commitment and example, students have seen they are capable of much more than they think. By her example, they will become examples of hope to others and make an impact in their communities.
George Mycyk - Volunteer of the Week (July 29, 2019)
George Mycyk has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to his dedication to helping the students of River Trails Middle School. Mr. Mycyk was extremely instrumental in the school's efforts to establish an after school Media Broadcasting Club. His involvement secured a varied group of students to write, edit, and produce quality media endeavors. There was an unbelievable surge in student participation, interest, and engagement as a result of his volunteer participation.
Mr. Mycyk coordinated a relationship between RTMS students and professional media figures. Club members have produced brilliant school news programming with the help of media experts. He has provided a forum for students to learn about an industry to which they would normally have limited access. The students now have the courage to record a daily news program for the entire school to watch.
Broadcasting and Media Club has significant meaning because of the connection to a broad array of students. Mr. Mycyk's influence has empowered students to go outside of their comfort zones and try something new. Teachers have commented on how impressed they are with what the students have learned in such a short period of time. The club builds self-esteem that will benefit students far beyond the halls of River Trails Middle School.
Although media programming is limited to the school, its scope far exceeds anything ever imagined. The club has impacted school culture by exposing viewers to a more diverse group of peers representing them. Mr. Mycyk provided River Trails Middle School students and staff an unbelievable experience, and he did it as a volunteer.
Vashon Patterson - Volunteer of the Week (July 22, 2019)
has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to his faithful and committed service to the East St. Louis community. Vashon is an AmeriCorps member for the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House (LBDNH). LBDNH is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services which will help move individuals and families out of poverty.
Vashon is a volunteer at the LBDNH Trinity Outreach Center Food Pantry. The food pantry, located in Washington Park, provides food boxes, clothing, household appliances, personal hygiene items and much more. The food pantry refers clients to other departments at the agency when additional assistance is needed. The food pantry also provides nutritional education, SNAP education, care for veterans and seniors and an opportunity for community service work.
Vashon is the first member to arrive and the last member to leave. He helps to distribute food boxes to citizens throughout the community. Vashon assists with the loading of the food truck, keeping the food pantry clean, and helps gather food and items from local and nearby shelters.
Vashon loves volunteering for AmeriCorps because AmeriCorps allows him the opportunity to be active in his community and be a source of help to others.
Zoë Call - Volunteer of the Week (July 15, 2019)
Zoë Call has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her resilience, perseverance, and general cheerfulness throughout her years of AmeriCorps service. Zoë served for two years as a high school coach with College Possible Chicago. Over those two years, she consistently embodied what it means to be an AmeriCorps member. She exemplified College Possible's mission to provide deep and broad support to students to help them navigate the complicated systems on their way to and through college.
Zoë had a student who received acceptance to a small liberal arts college. After visiting the campus, the student fell in love with the school. However, due to cost, that student determined she would have to attend a comparatively less expensive school that was closer to home. Zoë was determined to exhaust every option at that students' disposal. With her help and encouragement, the student was able to advocate for herself and secure an additional $2,500 grant. Similar situations occurred with four other students in her cohort. After Zoë's intervention, each of the schools provided additional funding. Now those students are on their way to attending their top choices.
In addition to her dedication to students, Zoë has encouraged and supported many of her team members. Team members have described Zoë as a true team leader. She is reliable, and her leadership skills are second to none. Members say Zoë seems to know all the answers, and when she doesn't, she is determined to figure them out.
Zoë is a patient, loyal, reliable, and hardworking AmeriCorps member. She has a big heart and endless patience with both students and her fellow team members. Zoë is communicative, eloquent, and a strong leader; she is never afraid to speak her truth.
L'Sonya Crawford-Jones - Volunteer of the Week (July 8, 2019)
L'Sonya Crawford-Jones has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her commitment to serving others in her community. L'Sonya has been an AmeriCorps member since December 2016 with the Springfield Urban League. The Springfield Urban League, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, civil rights and community-based movement that serves nearly 9,000 people annually. Springfield Urban League provides direct services, research, and policy advocacy to assist individuals and communities to reach their highest potential. Since its founding in 1926, the Springfield Urban League has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans overcome countless challenges in civil and human rights.
The Springfield Urban League's AmeriCorps Program is designed to engage AmeriCorps members in direct service and capacity-building to address unmet needs. Services include mentoring youth, assisting disaster victims, helping with community gardens, assisting with the organization of community programs, and mobilizing community volunteers to strengthen the capacity of the organizations where they serve.
L'Sonya serves at Washington Middle School- 21st Century, Southeast High Athletic Events, and at other District 186 events. Through these opportunities she serves in the after-school homework program, works at the admissions table, and help with concessions and cleanup. She participates in a variety of service events with District 186 in Springfield throughout the year.
Her Favorite part about being an AmeriCorps member is helping others, meeting new people, and impacting the lives of others through service. L'Sonya enjoys the educational benefits of being an AmeriCorps member. Her financial reward is a way for her to empower herself and help others.
Alex Childs - Volunteer of the Week (July 1, 2019)
Alex Childs has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her commitment to making a difference in her community. Alex is an AmeriCorps member in her second year of service with Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.).
Alex has become a mentor to our first year members, is Co-Chair of our AmeriCorps Cohort Committee, participates in Y.O.U's equity committees, plans member outings and service projects, and shares knowledge with staff members. On top of this, she is incredibly dedicated to the youth she serves in Y.O.U.'s free after school programs.
Alex takes it her goal to facilitate enrichment activities that encompass youth voice in the Youth & Opportunity United free after school program. Alex is currently running an enrichment group where students get to use MetaMedia in Evanston to write and record original songs. One student recently told Alex that participating in her group was their most fun day in a long time.
Alex offers students respect and support that positively affects their behavior. She's also given students countless hours of academic support. Alex communicates with students about growth areas and taking initiative in their education. After this service year, Alex will be enrolling in grad school working toward a master's degree in Social Work.
William Davis - Volunteer of the Week (June 24, 2019)
William Davis has been nominated due to his commitment to giving back to the community. William has volunteered countless hours with Kiwanis International and currently serves as president of Marion Kiwanis Club.
One of William's favorite Kiwanis events is the annual pancake breakfast. Marion Kiwanis members make and serve over 1,000 pancakes the morning of the breakfast. All funds raised are used to serve children in neighboring communities.
Through Kiwanis Club, William has helped raise enough money to provide scholarships for students continuing their education. Under William's direction, the club has also helped promote gun safety instruction in local schools.
William's service is not limited to Marion Kiwanis. He also serves as Associate Pastor of March of Faith Community Church. In this role he acts as a positive, encouraging, role model for youth and adolescents. William has also become a lead volunteer during the Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois. As a son of a veteran, the honor flight is something he always makes time for.
When not volunteering, William is working as Assistant Administrator for a local hospital where he guides strategic planning to impact those throughout the community. William truly lives to make a positive impact on the world.
Craig Braun - Volunteer of the Week (June 17, 2019)
Craig Braun has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to his commitment to the Gail Borden Public Library. Gail Borden Public Library serves approximately 144,597 residents in Elgin, South Elgin, and portions of Hoffman Estates, Streamwood, and Bartlett. The library presents teaching classes for adults and children on how to create CAD (computer aided designs) and print their creations on 3D printers.
When Craig retired from his job he decided he needed a way to keep busy. Craig has over 20 years of experience with 3D printers. Craig began volunteering in the adult 3D classes and soon began assisting KidSpace staff with younger CAD attendees.
The library owns two separate 3D printers, one of which was constantly not working. Prior to Craig's arrival, the library was considering purchasing a new printer to replace the malfunctioning one. After countless hours of volunteer time and patience, Craig was able to fix the printer.
Craig's time and experience have been invaluable to Gail Borden Public Library. Without his volunteer efforts, programs may have been cancelled or limited to the public. There seems to be no technology he isn't afraid to use, teach, or troubleshoot.
Craig has volunteered over 200 hours in just 6 short months. His impact on the community will be remembered for years to come.
Edith Dimas - Volunteer of the Week (June 10, 2019)
Dimas has been nominated due to the positive influence she extends to her students. Edith serves as an AmeriCorps member at Asian Human Services. Since its beginnings in 1978, Asian Human Services (AHS) has delivered on a singular purpose: to ensure that every immigrant and refugee across Chicagoland has access to personalized support and services necessary to become prosperous members of society.
As their impact has grown, so has the evidence that their holistic approach to human services improves lives now and for generations ahead. Today, AHS serves everyone who seeks their help, regardless of race or ethnicity. While they continue to deepen their mission with immigrant and refugee communities, all are welcome.
Edith serves as the Daycare & Family Engagement Assistant at Asian Human Services’ Literacy Education for Adults and Families (LEAF) Program. There, she spends the majority of her time guiding young children—most of whom are immigrants and English language learners—in their cognitive, social, linguistic, and emotional growth.
Despite a long commute and the usual challenges that come with a rowdy classroom of 2 year-olds, ‘Ms. Edith’ shows up every day with a smile and open arms. This positive presence extends beyond just her students, as Edith helps to organize and lead monthly family engagement activities to boost parent involvement. Whether it’s cradling a restless child to help them fall asleep or baking cookies for families to decorate, Edith is dedicated in her care of others.
Comcast Beyond School Walls Mentors - Volunteer of the Week (June 2, 2019)
Comcast partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) to deliver its "Beyond School Walls" mentoring program in 13 locations across the country. Here in Illinois, Comcast partners with BBBS of Metro Chicago to deliver the program to Streamwood and Hoffman Estates High School students. The goal is to build strong relationships between volunteer mentors, or "Bigs," and the participating students, or "Littles."
Mentoring sessions include non-judgmental one-on-one discussions designed to help the Little make good life choices. Topics covered during the sessions range from the importance of your digital footprint and making good friendship choices to preparing for college. The 20 Illinois Comcast employees who volunteered their time this year all agree that they've personally gotten a lot out of volunteering for the program.
For more information about Comcast's giving strategy, visit @ComcastNBCUCI, @ComcastILLINOIS on Twitter or go to www.comcast.com/community
Christine Hansley - Volunteer of the
Week (May 27, 2019)
Christine Hansley has been nominated due to her genuine friendliness, reliability, and knowledge of the military. Christine has been a volunteer at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library (PMML) since 2006. She has completed over 4,576 service hours, reflecting her unwavering commitment to meeting the needs of PMML.
PMML’s mission is to acquire and maintain an accessible collection of books and related materials on military history, with a focus on the concept of the Citizen Soldier in America. Today, building upon that foundation through the generosity of private donors, PMML has become a non-partisan museum and library that attempts to increase the public understanding of military history and the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served. Christine is dedicated to fulfilling this mission and foundation in each her volunteer activities.
Christine has successfully facilitated the Oral History Program, catalogued over 2,000 military photos, and tagged approximately 50,000 books for the new library system. She acts as a liaison between organizations completing similar tasks such the Korean War Museum and the American Legion.
Christine’s efforts are not limited to PMML. She takes pride in honoring families who have lost loved ones in service. Christine has been active in organizing the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument and is a Board Member of the Hershel Woody Williams Foundation. She is also an Associate Member of the Korean War Veterans Association and an Auxiliary Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2791.
In her own neighborhood, Christine is an active volunteer for the Tinley Park Veterans Commission. Christine’s service is vital in a society where less than 5% of the population serve in the armed forces or in a national service.
Cassandra Hampton - Volunteer of the Week (May 20, 2019)
Cassandra (Cassie) Hampton has been nominated due to her selfless nature and willingness to meet the needs of others. Cassie volunteers as a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region. She generously and thanklessly mentors her Little Sister, impacting a young life and possibly changing a family for generations to come.
Cassie is an amputee and has faced difficulties throughout her life. She has survived challenges thanks to her relentless inner strength, faith, and loving grandmother at her side. Cassie’s Little Sister is also an amputee, making Big Brothers Big Sisters nothing short of a perfect match. Cassie helps her Little Sister break the barriers she faces daily to realize her true potential.
Cassie has been an active Safety Assistant at her workplace for approximately 2 years. She has received and completed invaluable training on First Aid/CPR/AED and Stop the Bleed Training as a Safety Team member. She is a kindhearted, brave, and confident individual. In an emergency, whether it is a fire, tornado or other event, she helps all staff members in their building evacuate and get to safety or take cover quickly when the situation calls for it. Cassie puts her coworkers’ safety before her own by offering additional evacuation assistance to staff with mobility challenges. Her fellow employees all know that Cassie will put her training to use and do all that she can in an emergency.
Cassie’s motto is simple: “I will help. I will do more than is expected of me to help others. I am important and so is everyone around me.” She truly is a born leader and selfless volunteer. For more information about volunteer opportunities with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region, please visit: https://bbbsspringfieldil.org/
Kari Willman - Volunteer of the Week (May 13, 2019)
Kari has been nominated due to her encouraging spirit while helping adults work toward their GED. Kari is an AmeriCorps member at ABC AmeriCorps of SVCC. Kari helps with GED preparation at the Dixon, Illinois unemployment office.
ABC AmeriCorps of SVCC offers a variety of service opportunities, from the classroom to the outdoors, and everything in between. No matter what you're passionate about, where you're from, or why you choose to serve, AmeriCorps is your chance to be the greater good. The mission of SVCC AmeriCorps (ABC) is to work with children, youth, and families in education programs and community-based agencies to increase academic and life skills.
While assisting with GED preparation, Kari shares her personal experience of being a GED student. Kari uses her personal and professional experience to connect with each student. She shares her experiences of overcoming hardships as a high school dropout and single mom. She shares how she turned her hardship into success by completing her GED and later finishing her bachelor's degree.
Kari instills persistence and hope into each of her students. Through her commitment to teaching, students see they are capable of much more than they initially thought. By her example, students will become beacons of hope to others and make positive impacts in their communities.
Jalen Willis - Volunteer of the Week (May 6, 2019)
Jalen Wills has been nominated due to his energetic and positive attitude mentoring and tutoring students. Jalen is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. Jalen volunteers at the Dunbar Elementary School located in East St. Louis, Illinois.
At Dunbar, Jalen is a mentor/tutor to several students. He is responsible for providing tutoring and mentoring services to students on a group basis or 1-to-1 in a positive manner. Jalen works with teachers and instructional aides to develop, support, and deliver activities. He demonstrates creativity and determination in completing tasks for program success.
Jalen greets every student with a handshake or a high five to put a smile on their faces. Students have stated that “Jalen is the best person around,” “Jalen is cool,” and “I always look for Jalen to giving me a high five.” Teachers have stated, “Jalen is extremely great with the students,” “The student’s love Jalen,” and “Jalen is a natural”.
Jalen has volunteered at many different sites and participated in a variety of community services events and activities, but volunteering at the Dunbar Elementary School is one he will always remember. When asked why Jalen serves for AmeriCorps he said he loves to help people and AmeriCorps gives him a platform to do so.
National Honor Society of Spoon River Valley High School - Volunteer of the Week (April 29, 2019)
The National Honor Society of Spoon River Valley High School organized and held a fundraising blood drive earlier this year. The National Honor Society is comprised of students with exceptional character, scholarship, leadership, and service. The Spoon River Valley High School faculty determines membership based on criteria demonstrated by student applications. Every year, the NHS sponsors two blood drives through the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.
This year, the students reached their goal of units donated and were awarded a grant of $273 due to their exceptional efforts. The students decided to donate the funding to Fulton County ESDA’s Project Lifesaver Program. Project Lifesaver helps individuals with Alzheimer’s, autism, dementia or other impairments that may cause them to wander. Those in the program wear a small personal transmitter around the wrist or ankle.
The students are huge fans of Fulton County ESDA’s newest team member, Trash Panda. Fulton County ESDA Director, Chris Helle’s family adopted Trash Panda from the Humane Society of Fulton County. Since then, Trash Panda has become a meme sensation for the agency’s Facebook page and a true member of the ESDA team. Behind the jokes, Helle says he’s thankful Trash Panda is bringing attention to serious safety topics in a fun way while raising awareness for the Humane Society.
Nora Laidman - Volunteer of the Week (April 22, 2019)
Nora Laidman initially volunteered with Chicago HOPES for Kids once a week at the Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation (SRHAC) Shelter in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. She then indicated an interest in becoming an AmeriCorps State member with HOPES. She initially enrolled as a 300-hour member, and then when she completed that term of service, re-enrolled as a full–time member.
As a full-time AmeriCorps member, Nora is on the Program Team. She works with HOPES staff and other AmeriCorps members to develop curriculum and enrichment programming for HOPES nine shelter sites. She also participates on the Social/Emotional Learning (SEL) team to work on activities for the students to help them develop positive relationships with peers and adults.
Nora has continued to be involved with the program at the SRHAC shelter in the Austin neighborhood Chicago. She helps to enroll the children at the beginning of each program session and conducts reading assessments to provide information on students’ reading levels. She supports the Site Coordinators in managing student behavior while helping the children with their homework, reading skills, and enrichment activities four afternoons/week.
Nora was instrumental in seeking funds for a field trip for the children and their families to the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). She received a grant that provided a bus, tickets to the museum, and lunch for the families and volunteers who helped chaperone for the day at MSI. Everyone had an amazing time!
Chicago HOPES for Kids wants to thank Nora for her dedication to the children and families at the SRHAC shelter. She has been an inspiration for all around her!
Nancy Hunter - Volunteer of the Week (April 15, 2019)
Nancy Hunter has volunteered at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield for nearly 16 years. She has served more than 2,500 hours, equating to $63,380 under the Independent Sector’s value of volunteer time. The numbers clearly show the great contribution Nancy has made to help fulfill Memorial’s mission.
Nancy serves as a ‘Friend on Call’, which offers volunteer opportunities on an ad hoc basis. Nancy also serves as an escort volunteer at the front desk, helping lead people wherever they need to go. Greeting someone with kindness and compassion is very important when they enter the hospital, for what is usually a stressful situation. Patients and visitors find that Nancy is gentle, kind, and has an ever-calming presence that helps them as they begin their hospital stay. Nancy is dependable, dedicated, and puts a great deal of heart into her service. She shares her time and talents with many organizations in the central Illinois community.
Memorial Medical Center has more than 400 volunteers who donate more than $1 million each year. Volunteers serve in a variety of roles, helping to fulfill Memorial’s mission to improve the health of the people and communities we serve. In addition to escorting patients and visitors, volunteers assist in over 30 areas of the hospital, including information desks, waiting lounges, and the gift shop. They also assist with office projects and provide patient care in the emergency department and infusion unit. More information can be found at www.ChooseMemorial.org/volunteer.
James Reeves - Volunteer of the Week (April 8, 2019)
James Reeves is an outstanding individual with a passion for community service. Jamie is a retired attorney who decided to devote his spare time to Belleville AmeriCorps as a summer camp counselor in 2017.
James is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association (FNCA). Over the last two years, James has played a major role in the success of FNCA and helps numerous Franklin families through his role as Volunteer Coordinator. James’ preparation and organizational skills are are some of his most valued qualities. He prides himself in taking time to organize and plan tutoring sessions, after school programs, and summer camp for the students of Franklin Elementary School. His devotion to FNCA’s programs benefits all students by creating meaningful experiences.
Students respond to James in a positive manner and look forward working with him. The families of Franklin recognize James as a friendly face and as someone who is always willing to help.
Jamie shows strength, empathy, and a genuine love of service. His effort is evident in the success of the students at Franklin, thanks to the work James does with the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association.
Lucy Kuelper - Volunteer of the Week (April 1, 2019)
In the first 3 months of 2019, 16 Illinois State Police troopers have been hit along Illinois roadways. Unfortunately, 3 troopers have died as a result of these incidents. Lucy Kuelper is 12 years old and the daughter of a state police trooper in District 7. She recently started the Move Over Project with the goal of bringing more awareness to the move over law. The move over law is also known as Scott’s Law, 625 ILCS 5/11-907 c, which mandates that any vehicle that is approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle with their emergency lights flashing to reduce its speed, change lanes if possible, and proceed with due caution.
Lucy started the Move Over Project on March 29 as a way to show real faces of those impacted by this issue on social media. She is encouraging family members in Illinois and beyond to stand up and spread the word with real photos. In these photos, the #moveover hashtag is used along with …for my whoever the photo wants to highlight. In the initial photo, Lucy used #moveover…for my dad.
In just four short days, over 10,000 people have liked Lucy’s page on Facebook. Many pictures have been sent in not only from the Illinois State Police family but from local police departments, firefighters, EMTs, tow truck drivers, and others. Lucy then shares them from her page to reach all of the page’s followers.
The Move Over Project has allowed Lucy Kuelper to not only reach the public and encourage them to move over for emergency vehicles, but it has also given her a voice on a subject near and dear to her family. Visit her Facebook page, Move Over Project, for these stories and impact they have.
Patches Mitchell - Volunteer of the Week (March 25, 2019)
Patches Mitchell has been nominated due to her enthusiastic spirit to serve for Cahokia AmeriCorps. Cahokia AmeriCorps members engage in first hand community service through service learning and education impact. They provide students in pre-kindergarten through grade twelve with educational services such as mentoring, support services, and family engagement to parents and at-risk students of Cahokia Unit School District 187.
The goal of Cahokia AmeriCorps is to help students improve both academically and socially. The district serves students and parents from the villages of Cahokia, Alorton, Centreville, and Sauget in St. Clair County. AmeriCorps members also engage volunteers to help them host socially engaging family and community events that promote community engagement.
The AmeriCorps program is new to Cahokia, Illinois. Mrs. Mitchell was one of the first members who enrolled in the program. She was eager to come in and serve the community that she loves so much. Mrs. Mitchell works with students on a daily basis. Recently, she has even started recruiting parents to become more active in the school system.
Mrs. Mitchell deserves volunteer of the week because she takes the initiative to #GetThingsDone without being told to do so. She is a joy to the staff at Penniman, students, and fellow AmeriCorps members.
Julie Vryhof - Volunteer of the Week (March 18, 2019)
Julie Vryhof serves as an AmeriCorps Academic Tutor & Mentor for Beyond Sports Foundation. Beyond Sports Foundation prepares student-athletes to succeed in life. They work with student-athletes from under-resourced families in under-served communities that will need financial assistance in order to attend college. Many of the student-athletes are from populations that are under-represented on college campuses.
While Julie is new to the program this year, she has already made a big impact on the lives of the student-athletes through her dedication and intentionality. One of the student-athletes, Kayla, shared that Julie encouraged her step up and assist with developing a social justice curriculum for the program. Julie had expressed to Kayla that she would not only be great help, but the experience would help her grow as a person.
In a recent speech competition, Kayla referred to Julie as not just a tutor, but a teammate. She described Julie as, “someone who will cheer you on, believe in you, and have those conversations when you’re not performing to your full potential.” Julie’s AmeriCorps Program Supervisor and AmeriCorps Alum, Carrie Madden, agrees that she embodies these traits in every aspect of her service.
Julie works with student-athletes on strengthening weaknesses, while reminding them how strong they really are. She makes a point to celebrate everyone’s strengths and victories.
Jordan Francisco - Volunteer of the Week (March 11, 2019)
Jordan Francisco is one of eight Greenest Region Corps members in our program’s inaugural year as an AmeriCorps program. The Greenest Region Corps (GRCorps) is a partnership between the Mayors Caucus and AmeriCorps that pairs enthusiastic volunteers and GRC Communities. Jordan currently serves the Village of Libertyville and is working on environmental issues in the community.
A few major projects that Jordan assists with include improving business recycling rates, helping the Village of Libertyville prepare for solar development, and educating the public on sustainability. His tasks range from distributing recycling information to designing Libertyville’s sustainability webpage. Jordan is thrilled to work in several areas of sustainability and learn more about local government. Jordan has been able to interact with the public on a regular basis and share the message of service around his community through AmeriCorps.
In addition to his passionate work in Libertyville, Jordan has stepped up to organize fellow Greenest Region Corps members. He voluntarily takes on communications and practical tasks to help the Corps members excel. He developed a tracking tool to help other community staff track progress on a common solar initiative.
Jordan volunteered to attend a village board meeting in his hometown of Lake in the Hills to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for sustainability. This task was above and beyond his duties to his host community. He has been a great supporter and motivator to all members of the Greenest Region Corps as our program develops in year one!
Julie Becker - Volunteer of the Week (March 4, 2019)
In January 2016 Springfield, Illinois native, Julie Becker felt called to help the homeless in her hometown. What could she do to help? She began Helping the Homeless in Springfield, IL as a way to provide resources that many Illinoisans take for granted. Julie delivers warm clothing, boots, extra food, bus tokens, and hygiene items to those in need. She is affectionately referred to as Miss Julie by those she serves.
The community support for Helping the Homeless in Springfield, IL has been astounding. Physical and monetary donations are all provided by individuals and businesses around Springfield who want to help. In the last year, the number of followers on the Helping the Homeless Facebook page has more than doubled. Julie meets with people to receive their donations and delivers items directly to those experiencing homelessness. Helping the Homeless not only assists Springfield’s homeless, but also low income individuals. A cargo van was given to her as a retirement gift from Henson Robinson Company to help with deliveries. Magnetic logo decals for the van were generously donated by those from the community.
During the frigid polar vortex of early February, Miss Julie was there to provide relief. She got 57 people off the street and into local motels until warmer weather returned. Those she helped would have otherwise been stranded outside all day and night. Miss Julie was able to purchase 3 nights of motel rooms for all 57 people. Those in need received the opportunity to shower, sleep on a bed, wash their clothing, and experience normalcy, if only for a few nights. Her volunteer work has been a live-saving blessing to many, as brutal cold temperatures continue into March. To learn more, please visit Helping the Homeless in Springfield, IL on Facebook.
Aaron Peterson - Volunteer of the Week (February 25, 2019)
Aaron Peterson has been selected as Serve Illinois Volunteer of the Week due to his selfless commitment to help empower homeless male veterans. Aaron is an AmeriCorps member for the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services which will help move individuals and families out of poverty.
Aaron volunteers at The Joseph Center-Eagles Nest of St. Clair County, located in East St. Louis, Illinois. The center houses 26 homeless veterans and serves as a transitional living facility. At the Joseph Center, Aaron helps assist staff and counselors to develop, support, and deliver activities to male veterans. Aaron sits and talks with the veterans and often engages in games and recreational activities. Every day Aaron impacts the lives of homeless male veterans to achieve success, economic stability, and reattachment to their community.
Staff members describe Aaron as a hard worker, a friendly person, and a great addition to their team. Aaron states that being around the veterans has made such a huge impact on his commitment to serving others.
Karran Robinson - Volunteer of the Week (February 18, 2019)
Karran Robinson has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to his commitment to making a difference in his community. Karran is in his first serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Springfield Urban League. The Springfield Urban League, Inc. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, civil rights and community-based movement that serves nearly 9,000 people annually. Springfield Urban League provides direct services, research, and policy advocacy to assist individuals and communities to reach their highest potential. Since its founding in 1926, the Springfield Urban League has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans overcome countless challenges in civil and human rights.
Primarily working with African Americans, Hispanics, and other emerging ethnic communities, Springfield Urban League is networked with over 100 professionally staffed affiliates in over 35 states. The National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities.
The Springfield Urban League’s AmeriCorps Program is designed to engage AmeriCorps members in direct service and capacity-building to address unmet needs. Services include mentoring youth, assisting disaster victims, helping with community gardens, assisting with the organization of community programs, and mobilizing community volunteers to strengthen the capacity of the organizations where they serve.
Currently, Karran helps youth with their homework at Feitshans Academy for the 21st Century Program. What he enjoys most about the AmeriCorps program is the opportunity to help his community. “Has being am AmeriCorps member helped you become more community service minded? If so in what ways?” asked Springfield Urban League AmeriCorps Program Director, Erica Austin. “Yes because it makes me think how I can make my community better,” replied Karran.
Khristina Richardson - Volunteer of the Week (February 11, 2019)
Khristina Richardson has been selected as Volunteer of the Week because of her dedication to helping at-risk youth. Khristina is serving as an AmeriCorps Youth Care Worker with 14-17 year old girls at the Mercy Home for Boys & Girls - Walsh Girls’ Campus. Mercy Home is a residential therapeutic facility for youth who have experienced trauma.
The Youth Care Worker position can be difficult because it requires an aptitude for a variety of skills. Khristina has proven to be an excellent communicator with youth, families, and coworkers. She has the ability to interact with at-risk youth and their families with both sensitivity and responsiveness to any situation. Khristina’s capacity for working with the diverse, ever-changing population is an excellent asset to Mercy Home.
Some of Khristina’s greatest strengths are her compassion for others and her positive “can do” attitude. Khristina’s enthusiasm towards her work and life are contagious. She is bright, hardworking, thoughtful, and mature. Khristina is passionately devoted to everything she does. She has demonstrated her commitment to serving Mercy Home youth and families as an advocate and role model.
Khristina was recently voted by her coworkers to be the Staff Member of the Week. Congratulations to Khristina for proving every day that she is committed to helping youth reach their goals and make their dreams a reality.
Carl and Gailyn Draper - Volunteer of the Week (February 4, 2019)
Carl and Gailyn Draper have been selected as this week’s Volunteer of the Week due to their commitment to helping the less fortunate in Sangamon County. Carl and Gailyn are responsible for starting Scarves for Springfield. Scarves for Springfield is a project to help the homeless and needy by donating cold weather accessories.
The project is part of a national movement called The Scarf Project founded by Ohio woman, Toni Kaltenbaugh. After reading Toni’s article on Facebook, the Drapers found themselves inspired. They wanted to bring the same kind of support to the town they call home. “The idea is simple: Warm our community one scarf at a time,” Gailyn said. “Our goal is to do what we can to help those in need.”
First, donations of new scarves are collected and a venue is found. Scarves, gloves, and thermal socks are then hung at the selected location for one day. All items are free to anybody who needs some added warmth. At the end of that day whatever has not been taken is donated to Contact Ministries and Washington Street Mission. These organizations continue to distribute the items to people in need.
Amid this week’s frigid temperatures, Scarves for Springfield sprang into action. Over 150 items were hung on the fence of the Old State Capitol between Wednesday and Saturday. “A scarf is a simple and small thing for most of us, something that any individual can do, but an action that can make a profound difference for someone in need,” Gailyn said. “It’s the price of a specialty coffee.”
The Drapers hope to continue Scarves for Springfield in the years to come. Donations of scarves are welcome. For more information, please email email@example.com.
James Jones - Volunteer of the Week (January 28, 2019)
James Jones is being nominated as volunteer of the week due to his outstanding commitment to serving senior citizens in his community.
Mr. Jones is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages. LBDNH provides quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services to help move individuals and families out of poverty.
Mr. Jones volunteers at the Senior Citizen Café located in East St. Louis, Illinois. Breakfast and Lunch are served at the Café, giving the seniors not only a nutritious meal, but also a sense of community and belonging. At the Café, Mr. Jones is a “Meals-on-Wheels” driver. He is responsible for delivering meals to senior citizens in the surrounding area who are handicap, disabled, or reported lack of maintaining meals.
Mr. Jones greets every senior citizen with respect. He cracks jokes and puts a smile on everyone’s face. He also helps with distributing meals to those at the Café during breakfast and lunch periods. Mr. Jones has volunteered at many different sites and participated in a variety of events and activities. He says volunteering at the Senior Citizens Café has been his favorite.
When asked why does why he serves for AmeriCorps, Mr. Jones replied, “I love to give back to others and I want to help everyone smile.”
Odis Roberts - Volunteer of the Week (January 21, 2019)
Odis Roberts has been nominated due to his commitment to those in need. Otis is an avid volunteer at Christian Care in Rock Island, Illinois. By providing safe shelter, support, and resources, Christian Care empowers both the homeless and survivors of domestic violence to make positive changes in every aspect of their lives.
Odis is no ordinary volunteer. He understands the struggles that Christian Care residents face because he has experienced them first hand. “Odis' story is a heartwarming story of transformation and next steps,” said Christian Care Community Outreach Coordinator, Steve Gottcent. A few years ago, Odis became homeless after losing his job and resorted to living in his car. When he came to Christian Care Rescue Mission, Odis faced limits everywhere in his life and didn't know how to move forward. "I always said, this place, if it wasn't for them I'd probably still be out on the streets," Odis said. "And I figured I at least owe something back for what they did for me."
Odis felt so blessed by the services and care received, that he decided to volunteer as a way to serve others walking his same difficult journey. Odis serves weekly at Christian Care, taking phone calls and filling out crisis sheets for those who need a place to stay. When it's especially cold outside, he hands out gloves, hats, and other donated items to keep people warm. Christian Care residents talk to Odis about their personal challenges with homelessness, alcohol or drug abuse, and other difficulties they face with life on the street. He shares many of their experiences and while many view Odis as a mentor, he prefers to think of himself as a "friend who listens."
Odis has a bright future ahead. During his time at Christian Care, Odis earned his GED and moved into his own apartment. He has now made the bold decision to go to college where he'll be starting classes this winter.
Carol Taylor - Volunteer of the Week (January 14, 2019)
Carol Taylor has been nominated due to her extraordinary patience and kindness as a tutor with the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. Literacy Volunteers of Illinois is a statewide organization committed to developing and supporting volunteer literacy programs that help families, adults and out-of-school teens increase their literary skill.
Carol Taylor has been nominated due to her extraordinary patience and kindness as a tutor with the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. Literacy Volunteers of Illinois is a statewide organization committed to developing and supporting volunteer literacy programs that help families, adults and out-of-school teens increase their literary skill. When Carol started at the Illinois Youth Center as an AmeriCorps member she hit the ground running. It did not take long to recognize that tutoring came second nature to her. The patience and kindness she shows towards her students is nothing short of extraordinary. She treats the youth at the Center as if they were part of her family.
On one specific occasion, one of the female students threw a fit in the library next door. Carol carefully observed the students behavior. The next day before starting her tutoring session, Carol began to talk with the student regarding consequences of her actions. Carol described how negative behavior would continue to get her in trouble and could keep her from reaching her future goals.
Carol’s LVI program contact says she feels so fortunate to have Carol as a part-time AmeriCorps member. Carol not only is a very knowledgeable tutor, but is also incredibly compassionate towards her students.
Steve Eddington - Volunteer of the Week (January 7, 2019)
Mr. Steve Eddington has been nominated for volunteer of the week due to his diligent service to the East St. Louis community.
Steve is a volunteer at Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services which will help move individuals and families out of poverty.
Steve has been volunteering at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House Trinity Outreach Center Food Pantry for months. Steve has volunteered in numerous programs through AmeriCorps, local vendors, and community events. He has greatly enjoyed the experience of serving others.
At the Trinity Outreach Center Food Pantry, Steve drives a van that transports food, vegetables, and other items for community residents. Steve assists with other projects and helps in the pantry whenever needed. The director of the Food Pantry describes Steve has a “hard worker” and states he is always going the extra mile to get everything done.
Soung Kim - Volunteer of the Week (December 31, 2018)
Soung Kim has been nominated due to her passion for service at Beyond Sports Foundation. Beyond Sports Foundation is a college access and success program for high-school student athletes who come from under-resourced families in underserved communities. Beyond Sports Foundation uses the power of sport to transform lives by turning athletic ability into life opportunity.
Beyond Sports Foundation pride themselves in having AmeriCorps members that live out their mission. Soung Kim is a perfect example. She has been serving as an AmeriCorps member for the last two years. In that time, she has built tremendous relationships with the student athletes and their families. During the week, Soung provides academic tutoring and ACT/SAT test prep at the Highland Park location. She also meets regularly at other site locations to provide extra help as needed to student athletes.
Recently, Beyond Sports Foundation discovered that Soung was going above and beyond to help by purchasing graphing calculators for those in need. Because of her experience with the program, she was well aware that the student athletes sometimes can't afford graphing calculators, and often don’t want to ask for assistance. Her passion for service resulted in using EBay to acquire numerous graphing calculators that the student athletes can immediately put to use. Having access to a graphic calculator will help level the playing field with their peers in class and while preparing for standardized tests. In Soung's eyes this gesture was small, but it can be life changing for a student athlete.
Soung is a perfect example of an ideal tutor at Beyond Sports Foundation and also epitomizes what it means to be an AmeriCorps member.
DoIT and IDPH Office of Preparedness and Response - Volunteer of the Week (December 24, 2018)
The Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) and Illinois Department of Public Health’s Office of Preparedness and Response staff co-located at the Bell building has been nominated due their outstanding Christmas donation efforts for children of Sangamon County.
On Wednesday, November 14th, the DoIT hosted their 9th Annual Chili Cook-Off Luncheon. Bell building employees participated in some friendly competition as to who could make the best pot of chili. Contestants were able to name their own price for a bowl of chili and/or hotdog. The chili was purchased and judged by fellow employees around the building. All proceeds from the event were used to purchase goods donated to Toys for Tots. The Bell building also had a Toys for Tots donation box for employees who wished to donate toys to the cause.
The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future.
The donations received for the Chili Cook-off combined with yearlong fundraising efforts equaled a considerable amount. The Bell building staff members were able to purchase approximately 50 toys donated to Toys for Tots. The remaining amount was used to purchase 8 fleece hat/glove combos, 4 pairs of gloves, 2 ear warmers, and 2 scarves for the local “Coats for Kids” drive.
Millikin University Baseball Team - Volunteer of the Week (December 17, 2018)
Millikin University Baseball has been nominated as this week’s Volunteer of the Week due to their dedication to helping neighboring communities. Recently, the Millikin University Baseball Team volunteered at the Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) in Taylorville, Illinois. Taylorville was hit with an EF3 tornado, leaving much of the town and its residents in ruins for the holiday season.
Millikin Baseball Team Head Coach, Brandon Townsend, decided there must be something the team could do to help. “Although we have players from around the country, we really want to represent Central Illinois. So when something happens, we are here to help,” said Townsend. There were a total of 38 players and 2 coaches volunteering at the VRC on behalf of Millikin Baseball. The team was partnered with Central Illinois Lutheran Disaster Response Team - LCMS, helping primarily with debris removal in Taylorville and the surrounding communities.
Townsend described how his players were moved by both the destruction to the town and the generosity of the Taylorville residents. It really hit home how easily any one of them could have been affected by the damage. It’s not just about baseball games. It’s about helping the community,” Townsend added. Townsend and the other coaches continually stress the importance of community service and community involvement while in college. It was finals week for the players, so the decision to come was a balancing act.
A total of 236 people volunteered at the VRC this weekend in Taylorville over a 5 day interval. The VRC was open to anyone 18 years and older who was not affiliated with a volunteer organization but wanted to help locally. All volunteers were matched with organizations to effectively aid those impacted by the tornadoes.
Matt Forte - Volunteer of the Week (December 10, 2018)
On December 1st Matt, former Chicago Bears running back, served alongside AmeriCorps members at the Healthy Kids Resource Fair teaching students the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Health and Wellness hosted the event in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and United Way of Metro Chicago. The goal of the Healthy Kids Resource Fair was to enroll students and their families in health insurance and connect them to vital health and household resources.
Matt is the newest United Way of Metro Chicago ambassador. He is excited to serve with United Way and CPS to promote healthy living in communities that often lack access to quality goods and to improve the number of students and parents enrolled in healthcare. As a father of three and long-time athlete, Matt views access to healthcare as the foundation for educational and life success.
In 2013, Forte established the Matt Forte “What’s Your Forte?” Foundation to empower at-risk high school students striving to achieve their dreams of higher education by providing life-changing resources. Matt believes that through awareness, relationship-building and child-focused empowerment programs we can help eliminate Chicago’s high school dropout statistics.
For more information about the Matt Forte “What’s Your Forte?” Foundation, please visit
Chris Parson - Volunteer of the Week (December 3, 2019)
Chris has been a volunteer guide with the Friends of the Chicago River Canoe Program for over 20 years.
Friends of the Chicago River is an organization founded in 1979 that works on policy initiatives geared towards improving the water quality of the Chicago River so that it can support native plants, fish and other wildlife, and a variety of recreational uses. Friends also develops on-the-ground projects that result in physical improvements and the preservation of quality habitat. The organization has education and outreach programs that inform and inspire people to help revitalize the Chicago River. As a result, the Chicago River is becoming a haven for wildlife and a treasured community resource.
Chris has been critical in helping others understand how the Friends of the Chicago River Canoe Program works, supporting the learning curve for new hires, and taking on important organizational duties like scheduling. He has been an essential part of the Canoe Program this year, due to the time and effort he spends every week hauling canoes to the river. Without canoe haulers like Chris, the program would be unsuccessful.
Chris believes, as Friends of the Chicago River does, that getting people on the water is the best way to inspire them to care about their river and take part in its stewardship. Chris has an immense knowledge base that all of our guests and new guides benefit from. It is not just his knowledge but his joyful attitude, enthusiasm, and humor that make the sun shine even when it’s cloudy. Chris suggested adding “Haunted House” to the yearly Halloween paddle, organized volunteers, decorations, recruits and extra canoes to make the event happen. His colleagues describe him as a very special person who is deserving of recognition.
Rosie Marshall - Volunteer of the Week (November 26, 2018)
Ms. Rosie Marshall is being nominated as volunteer of the week due to her outstanding commitment to serving senior citizens in her community. Ms. Rosie is an AmeriCorps member for Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. The Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House is a United Methodist Community Center whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages by providing quality early childhood development services, comprehensive youth services, individual and family support services, services to older adults, and housing economic development services which will help move individuals and families out of poverty.
Ms. Rosie volunteers at the Senior Citizens Café located in East St. Louis, Illinois. Breakfast and Lunch are served at the Café, giving the seniors not only a nutritious meal, but also a sense of community and belonging. At the Senior Citizens Café, Ms. Rosie assists with just about everything. Ms. Rosie welcomes the guests, sings, dances, and helps serve plates and beverages. Ms. Rosie has volunteered at many different sites and participated in a variety of community services events and activities. Her experience from working with American Red Cross led her to serve for AmeriCorps.
“I want to serve for AmeriCorps because I have a passion for working in single family housings and a passion for giving my service to the community,” says Ms. Rosie. The Senior Citizens Café is lucky to have Ms. Rosie and her warm smile and love.
Kelsey Woodcock - Volunteer of the Week (November 19, 2018)
Kelsey Woodcock is a second year AmeriCorps member with Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps. Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps is a partnership conducted through four Illinois College Campuses: Rend Lake College, Ina; John A. Logan College, Carterville; Kaskaskia College, Centralia; and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
Kelsey is currently serving in the Shawnee National Forest. Last week she helped lead a group from Chicago Green Corps in the Garden of the Gods. The group worked to remove Autumn Olive (an invasive species) on trails to allow hikers to enjoy this trail in beautiful Southern Illinois for many years to come. Kelsey also serves in local elementary schools conducting educational programs on environmental conservation.
Kelsey served in AmeriCorps last year with Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. During her AmeriCorps service she has discovered her passion for environmental stewardship. She is continually working to educate the community about the importance of preserving the natural areas of Southern Illinois and she works to restore and maintain these areas as well.
For more information visit
Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps
Paulette Herring - Volunteer of the Week (November 12, 2018)
Paulette Herring is a part-time AmeriCorps member with Chicago HOPES for Kids. She began her service year in January 2018. Paulette is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran. She volunteers at the Jesse Brown Veterans’ Administration Hospital in addition to her hours with Chicago HOPES for Kids. Chicago HOPES for Kids provides educational support for children living in homeless shelters throughout Chicago.
Paulette is currently helping HOPES develop resources and partnerships with other organizations in the Chicago community. She brings housing and career resources to the parents in the shelters where HOPES has its After-School and Literacy Mentor programs. Paulette originally provided academic support to the children in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood at the Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation shelter. She now is serving at the Ridgeland Transitional shelter in the South Shore neighborhood where she helps support children whose families have suffered from domestic violence. In addition, Paulette participates in other HOPES activities such as field trips and Family Game Nights, and often helps out at Frieda’s Soup Kitchen at the Su Casa shelter in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
Carol Lefler - Volunteer of the Week (November 5, 2018)
Carol Lefler has been nominated due to her outstanding commitment to ensure that no veteran goes hungry. Carol is an AmeriCorps member at the Greater Chicago food Depository where she serves as the Veteran Pantry Coordinator.
Carol spent 20 years in the Naval Air division of the U.S. Armed Forces. She flew DC-9 airplane near Cyprus and Lebanon. As a veteran, Carol is very passionate about her duties as Veteran Pantry Coordinator.< Carol left the armed forces and joined the corporate world over 20 years ago.
Carol heard about the AmeriCorps opportunity with Greater Chicago Food Depository and decided it was the perfect fit. She now serves at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital as the Veteran Pantry Coordinator. Both pantries are collaborations between the Food Depository, Department of Veterans Affairs and AmeriCorps.
On Tuesdays, veterans line up for hours in the hallway of Jesse Brown VA Medical Center for the pop-up food pantry. Thanks to Carol and her team of volunteers, hundreds of veterans go home with over a week’s worth of food.
According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 13,000 veterans in Cook County live at or below the poverty line. Of those who the Food Depository serves, 18 percent of households include a current or retired member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
AmeriCorps is a part of helping the Food Depository respond to help veterans in need. Since 2009, 78 AmeriCorps members have served at the Food Depository. AmeriCorps members serve programs anywhere from school breakfast to veteran services. Learn more about our AmeriCorps program by visiting:
Mary Wegeng - Volunteer of the Week (October 29, 2018)
Mary has been nominated due to her constant contributions to her community. Mary has been a member of Family Service of Champaign County/RSVP since 2010. Family Service is the oldest private social service agency in Champaign County Illinois and has provided services for over 100 years. Family Service has a variety of programs and services, one of which is the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (SeniorCorps RSVP). RSVP is one of the largest volunteer programs in the nation for seniors. RSVP enables and supports seniors to provide volunteer service to schools, medical clinics, libraries, and nonprofits.
Mary has volunteered in various programs consistently since she joined Family Service/RSVP. Mary has been a skilled seamstress her whole life. She has put her abilities into an amazing array of projects. Most recently, Mary sewed about 20 “walker bags”. These walker bags attach to walkers and can hold objects and possessions. Mary has a great eye for color and composition making her bags works of art. Champaign Urbana Nursing and Rehabilitation Center recently held a show of her walker bags where eight bags were given away to door prize winners. The other bags will be donated to the VA in Danville.
Mary also participates in a variety of special events projects in Champaign County. She has volunteered as an activity assistant, as a community sewer, in the American Legion Mats Project, fundraising events, and in the mitten tree project sponsored by OSF Healthcare. Almost all of these projects feature Mary’s beautiful crocheted items. Mary has contributed countless hours and materials to the happiness of others.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Family Service of Champaign County/RSVP please visit: http://www.famservcc.org/volunteer/
Eva Mayol - Volunteer of the Week (October 22, 2018)
Eva Mayol is an avid volunteer for Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Shedd Aquarium could not achieve their mission of sparking compassion, curiosity, and conservation for the aquatic animal world without the service of hundreds of talented volunteers. Shedd is particularly grateful and proud of dedicated individuals like Eva, who has been volunteering at the aquarium for over 14 years. Recently, Eva surpassed 4,700 lifetime volunteer hours at Shedd Aquarium. After retiring from a career in nursing, Eva’s fascination with fish led her to explore opportunities to become involved with Shedd. Her initial volunteer roles included working in the sustainable gardens with the Horticulture Department and assisting with special events like family overnights. Eva’s biology and science background naturally prepared her for working with school group field trips to Shedd’s Learning Labs, which she continues to help facilitate today.
For the past 7 years Eva has also volunteered as an exhibit interpreter, engaging some of the 2 million aquarium guests that visit every year. Every Monday morning she enjoys the challenge of relating animal and conservation stories to guests in ways that are meaningful and accessible. She appreciates meeting guests from diverse life experiences. Eva enjoys that she continues to receive unexpected questions after all these years, especially from children eager to learn. She feels gratified when guests thank her for speaking with them. Interacting with Shedd’s stingrays and beluga whales are among her most memorable experiences.
Eva values the close friendships with her Monday volunteer group. Shedd Aquarium values Eva’s generosity, kindness, and eagerness to try new roles and approaches to her work.
If you are interested in volunteer opportunities at Shedd Aquarium, please visit: https://www.sheddaquarium.org/About-Us/Jobs-Internships-and-Volunteering/Volunteer-Listings/
Michelle Ramirez - Volunteer of the Week (October 15, 2018)
Michelle Ramirez has been selected as Volunteer of the Week due to her growth and development during her year of AmeriCorps service. Recently, United Way of Metro Chicago held their Second Annual End of the Year Celebration for AmeriCorps Program 2017-2018 Members committing a year of their lives to service. At the celebration, Michelle received the Member of the Year Award.
When Michelle started her service, one could describe Michelle as “fresh”. She was fresh out of college, fresh out of “young adulthood,” but most importantly fresh into the community of Cicero. Although Michelle had lived in Cicero for over 10 years, she did not realize how much work was being done in Cicero by community organizations. She has been able to learn about important changes implemented in the community and has had opportunities to network with organizations outside of Cicero.
Michelle’s AmeriCorps Program Manager, Bianca Cotton, describes Michelle’s work ethic as nothing short of amazing. “By coming in everyday and creating a jolly work environment with her energetic personality,” says Cotton.
When Michelle began her program, she had set views of the community and society. She has now grown to view issues through a different lens. Michelle has learned that things are not always black and white and there is always room for a grey area. When the organization reaches a sensitive topic, Michelle describes her point of view but is always receptive to other opinions. She is now able to hold a variety of conversations and think of how others might view the certain topic.
To learn how you can join AmeriCorps,
Anuva Shandilya - Volunteer of the Week (October 8, 2018)
Anuva Shandilya is a 17-year-old at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, IL. During her freshman year, Anuva started her own nonprofit, Chance for Sports, to help people donate gently used sports equipment. Anuva has always had a passion for sports. She has tried and loved everything from soccer to lacrosse. Anuva understood that the opportunity to try all of these sports was a privilege since sports equipment is expensive. She also knew that not every child could afford to participate.
Anuva has been a globe trotter her whole life. She was born in Denmark and has lived in in England, Canada, and the United States. She has moved 14 times over the course of her life and has been to 24 countries/territories. She says that one constant in all her travels, especially to countries like Cambodia and Nepal, is poverty. Anuva knew she wanted to help underprivileged children achieve their dreams in sports just as she had, as a Varsity track runner and PE leader at her school, so she created Chance for Sports.
The summer she started Chance for Sports, Anuva and her brother, Daksh, went around their neighborhood to gather sports equipment. They collected roughly 150 pieces of equipment that summer. Anuva knew she wanted to leave a greater mark on the community so she expanded Chance for Sports exponentially. As a result, Anuva has established chapters at 5 locations in the United States (all 3 high schools in District 204, St. Xavier University, and University of Illinois) and 1 chapter in India (at Oberoi International School). She has over 70 volunteers from all over the US and India and has donated $35,000 in sports equipment to thousands of children all over the US, Zambia, Haiti, Mexico, and India. Anuva herself has over 500 volunteer hours. She does inventories, door-to-door sessions with volunteers, drops off equipment, picks up sports equipment, and much more.
Last summer Anuva went to Mexico to donate leotards to young, aspiring gymnasts. This summer Anuva travelled across India donating sports equipment to charities and schools such as Shanti Bhavan and SOS Children’s Villages (SOS Children’s Villages of India) Faridabad. Anuva is a remarkable young lady. She has been described by peers as kind, articulate, ambitious, and inspirational. She shows others that no matter what age you are, you can always make a difference.
Mary Ann Hettel - Volunteer of the Week (October 1, 2018)
Mary Ann Hettel, a Senior Companion Volunteer for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet, is providing care and companionship to homebound seniors in Kankakee County. Her service allows them to remain living independently in their own home. Mary Ann volunteers an average of 15 hours a week, spending time with four older adults in her community. She supports these seniors with a variety of tasks including grocery shopping, running errands, doctor appointments, meal preparation, household chores, and most importantly companionship. Her gentle spirit and positive attitude prevents feelings of loneliness and isolation in the people she serves. Mary Ann’s compassionate service improves these individuals’ quality of life.
When the Senior Companion program received a call from Patricia, an older adult living in a rural area, they were worried the program would not be able to assist her. Even though Patricia was calling for help, she was reluctant to have home visits. Patricia had lost her husband recently and was having a hard time adjusting. Mary Ann agreed to travel to another county over 40 miles away for each visit. When Mary Ann first visited, she was concerned that Patricia was depressed. Patricia rarely left home and her house was always dark. After a few weeks, Mary Ann began to notice changes. Patricia began to open the curtains, she smiled more, and her depression lessened. A weekly visit with someone who listened to her ended up meaning so much. Through her weekly visits, Mary Ann helps seniors by giving them someone to talk to. Mary Ann serves as a Senior Companion four or five days a week and served over 720 hours last year. She currently assists three older adults and assisted five older adults last year.
Jill Egizii - Volunteer of the Week (September 24, 2018)
Jill established and serves as a volunteer for WILD Canine Rescue. WILD is a nonprofit rescue preventing well-balanced dogs from being euthanized at shelters, both locally & nationwide. WILD was founded in 2016 by Jill and a group of her friends who are passionate about saving animals in need. Their goal was to bridge the gap between local animal shelters in central Illinois and foster based rescues nationally to facilitate placement of local dogs in urgent situations.
Jill volunteers tirelessly to find dogs permanent homes and temporary foster homes when necessary. She has contacts all over the country in her efforts to find homes for abandoned, neglected, abused, or homeless canines. Jill does all of this while serving as the mayor of Leland Grove, being involved in the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, maintaining a farm just outside of Springfield, and caring for her four Bernese Mountain Dogs. WILD stands for Women in Love with Dogs. There is no conversation one would have with Jill where she would fail to bring up if that person wants or needs a dog. Those who know Jill describe her as kind, passionate, and big-hearted.
Please visit wildcaninerescue.org for volunteer or adoption opportunities.
Matthew Williams - Volunteer of the Week (September 17, 2018)
Matthew Williams of Schaumburg High School has been nominated due to his extraordinary volunteer efforts in his community.
Matthew has been responsible for expanding and maintaining the parent resource library at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley since June 2016. Easterseals is a nonprofit organization that helps infants, children, and adults with disabilities achieve their maximum independence, and to provide support for the families who love and care for them.
Matthew has assisted in stretching limited resources to ensure parents have the information they need to help their children with disabilities gain independence. Matthew, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, has supported the library through efforts from cataloging to calling in overdue materials. Matthew was an Ambassador for the 35th Annual Easter Seals Luncheon and Fashion Show. Hundreds of people attend the event each year to cheer children down the runway. Due to a nomination from Matthew, Schaumburg High School Band donated 100% of their proceeds from concerts earlier this year to Easterseals DuPage and Fox Valley. The money raised from these events is donated to help children in surrounding areas receive services provided by Easterseals.
On March 16, 2018 Matthew received recognition as a Distinguished Finalist of the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards during an awards ceremony at Schaumburg High School.
Congratulations Matthew and keep up the great work!
George Stout - Volunteer of the Week (September 10, 2018)
George Stout has been nominated due to his decade of outstanding volunteer service to Central Illinois.
George has been a volunteer for the Community Workshop and Training Center, Inc. The CWTC is a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to adults with disabilities. Located in Peoria, the organization focuses on organizational employment, community employment, community integration, and community living. This CWTC’s mission is to enrich quality of life, promote social change, and optimize the potential for independence for those affected by disabilities. To learn more about volunteer opportunities with CWTC please visit http://www.cwtc.org/. George volunteers as a one-on-one tutor with the consumers at CWTC. He primarily teaches reading, but also helps with coin identification. Each tutoring session is strategically catered towards the needs of that specific individual. George has been dedicating one morning a week towards volunteering at CWTC since 2008. Those who have served alongside George describe him as dedicated, reliable, soft spoken, and patient with the consumers.
Two days per week George commits his time at UnityPoint Health- Proctor Hospital as a chaplain to offer spiritual support to families and patients in various conditions. At Proctor hospital he also volunteers as an escort to assist patients with admissions and dismissals or to transport items to different departments. George is an avid volunteer at his church, Northminster Presbyterian, serving wherever the need may be.
George commits nearly every day of the week to serving others and making his community a better place.
Taylor Larson - Volunteer of the Week (September 3, 2018)
Taylor Larson of Chillicothe, Illinois was nominated for her dedication to providing comfort to children in need.
As a young child, Taylor had health problems that never seemed to improve. After many months and doctor’s visits, there seemed to be no diagnosis for her condition. One day Taylor’s illness reached a dangerous level and she was rushed to the Emergency Room for exploratory surgery. Doctors discovered that Taylor’s appendix had ruptured in an odd way causing her to become ill. Taylor spent multiple weeks at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois where she received a teddy bear from a stuffed animal drive at a local radio station. This act of kindness inspired Taylor to give back to those in need. Taylor began by volunteering with the stuffed animal drive that gave her that beloved teddy bear. Since then she has expanded her efforts by starting her own nonprofit, Cuddles for Kids. Taylor, now a graduate of Illinois Valley Central High School has collected more than 6,500 stuffed animals over the past 10 years. She hopes to provide comfort for children regardless of their situation. Cuddles for Kids provides cuddly friends for children in hospitals, children’s homes, house fires, and domestic disputes. Taylor hopes to make a lasting impact on Central Illinois and to inspire others to make a difference.
For more information or to make a donation to Cuddles for Kids please visit http://teddybeardrive14.wixsite.com/cuddlesforkids
Jennifer Weiner - Volunteer of the Week (August 27, 2018)
Jennifer was nominated for her exceptional volunteer effort and dedication to the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association Illinois. Whether it’s delivering care package kits to Ann & Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, writing a blog about living as a Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) warrior, traveling to D.C. to advocate for CHD awareness or supporting a fellow heart warrior, Jennifer does it with passion and heart. 1 out of every 100 babies is born in America is born with Congenital Heart Disease. Congenital Heart Disease is a lifelong disease with no cure.
Jennifer is part of a zipper club that no one asks to be part of or gets a say as to if they would like a lifetime membership. She was born with Congenital Heart Disease. She uses her experience as a heart warrior to not only help fellow warriors from kids to adults, but also inspires hope for parents of children with Congenital Heart Disease. Her nominator is a mother of a child with Congenital Heart Disease. Jennifer has touched her and her family’s lives. Jennifer uses her story of countless heart surgeries, procedures, and heart related tests to show others that no matter the obstacle you face, you can live a full life and inspire others to conquer Congenital Heart Disease.
Amanda Martin - Volunteer of the Week (August 20, 2018)
Amanda Martin was nominated because she gets things done. As a member of Illinois JusticeCorps in Bloomington, IL, she has been an important part of the team helping people without attorneys navigate the court system in McLean County. She was eager to learn all the procedures and forms so that she could be a strong asset to the program when people come to the law library for assistance. The Illinois JusticeCorps program helps educate so many people about family law issues, ranging from order of protection to guardianship to parenting plans. To further her understanding, she and the team attended a local training put on by the McLean County Bar Association focusing on family law issues. There, the members were able to learn from local attorneys and interact with the local bar. One attorney kept referring to Amanda and the team as the Justice League instead of JusticeCorps. Well, maybe Justice League was a more fitting title after all.
After the training, in the parking lot, that same attorney called out, “Hey Justice League, hey Justice League, I need your help!” Amanda and the team immediately sprang into action. They were called over because a bunch of ducklings had gotten trapped in a storm drain. The mama duck circling around the drain is what drew the attention initially. A city employee removed the cover, but it was a deep, narrow drain. Amanda didn’t hesitate and lowered herself right in the drain to help release the ducklings from their prison. One-by-one she was able to get each duckling to safety. The other members were right there setting the ducklings free. Not only is Amanda willing to give her time to serving the people of McLean County, but she also exercises her commitment and responsibility to the safety of her town, down to the very last duckling.
Dan Dankert - Volunteer of the Week (August 13, 2018)
Dan Dankert is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the Western Illinois University Quad Cities campus. He helped turn a small storage room into a food pantry that is helping feed students. The food pantry is available to all WIU students. Dan says it helps relieve stress for college students facing difficult times as well as helping non-traditional students trying to make ends meet. "We have quite a few people who come in that are single parents or having to take care of multiple children while going to school while trying to go to work," said Dan. He says the next step is hopefully teaming up with local food banks in the area to grow the food pantry.
In the fall of 2017, a WIU survey showed about a third of students on campus weren't getting enough to eat. Currently WIU has a little more than 1000 students attending classes. To make sure students don't go hungry on other local campuses, Dan organized the 2nd annual informational "food insecurity conference" on Friday March 2nd. The conference provided speakers from the Iowa State University Extension Outreach Local Foods Program coordinator, the Food Rescue Partnership, a Quad-Cities group that works to rescue food from becoming waste, and the River Bend Foodbank.
Mike Foppe - Volunteer of the Week (August 6, 2018)
Mike began his service for the Community Interfaith Food Pantry as a board member in 2015. He is also an associate pastor of Peace Lutheran church in Belleville. The Community Interfaith Food Pantry provides food to families throughout the Belleville and Swansea communities who are experiencing difficulty in meeting the demands of daily living. Mike became Director of the Food Pantry in 2017. He provides guidance for the volunteers and organization to the food distribution process.
His faithful and compassionate service has helped the Community Interfaith Food Pantry clientele grow considerable during his leadership. The Community Interfaith Food Pantry is a nonprofit charitable organization governed by a board whose members are selected by the participating churches. Their mission is to eliminate hunger in their communities. Eleven local churches decided their resources were better used and more effective if they cooperated to improve life in their neighborhoods. Their mission also includes their commitment to consider the total spiritual, emotional and physical needs of individuals and to identify available resources to assist them. The Community Interfaith Food Pantry services an average of 550 families per month using an all-volunteer workforce of 110 volunteers a month. To find out more about the Community Interfaith Food Pantry in Belleville visit FeedBelleville.org.
Mike has an excellent relationship with the volunteers and his unwavering devotion and work ethic is an example to all, as is his sense of humor.
Thanet Natisri - Volunteer of the Week (July 30, 2018)
Thanet was called upon by the Thai military to help save the 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped inside a cave for more than two weeks. Thanet and his wife own and operate THAI-D Classic Thai Cuisine in downstate Marion, but he is also a groundwater expert. Thanet is a native of northeast Thailand and had been on a volunteer trip working to help rural Thai communities with water issues when he got the call from authorities. The military wanted his help with the mission to rescue the boys from the cave complex after they were stranded by heavy rains. Thanet said he was on the first plane after getting the call.
He thought it was going to be a simple operation at the beginning, but upon arriving on the scene, he realized the seriousness of the situation. Thanet said "We had about 20 deep wells that pumped out water 24/7. I also had to lead the team of soldiers and villagers to find the sink hole where the water was going into the cave." Thanet was really concerned because they had less than six days before the heavy rains would come in. Thanet said “If we didn't do the rescue before then, the cave would be flooded." He says this pushed officials to start the dive rescue operations, which saved the soccer team. Although Thanet, and many other volunteers, never got the chance to meet the team, he's grateful everyone came together. "I'm really thankful for everyone, I mean in this situation, everybody is a hero," Thanet said.
Sophie Happ - Volunteer of the Week (July 23, 2018)
Sophia (Sophie) Happ, age 14, of Monticello, is going to be a freshman at Monticello High School. She started a drive four years ago that has collected nearly 15,000 books for children in need. Sophie spreads the word and distributes collection boxes to schools throughout her district, works with friends and family to sort books by reading level and genre, then contacts agencies to find them good homes. Sophie says she's still trying to figure out what to do with the remaining books. She says she might give them to Champaign schools or Round Lake Elementary in Northern Illinois. Its library was flooded last year.
Sophie first started volunteering in the fourth grade, when at the age of 10 years old organized a book drive that collected 4,000 volumes for youth who could not afford to buy their own. That “can-do” attitude still drives her today. She started the Volunteer Club at Monticello Middle School. Since it’s beginning, the 25 club members have grown a garden and donated the food to senior citizens, held color days to raise awareness for causes like breast cancer and sepsis, delivered hand-written cards to local nursing homes, and compiled RAK (random acts of kindness) bags for incoming sixth graders. “I just really like to help others,” said Sophie.
Sophie is also a member of her school’s scholastic bowl team, student council, and plays for the Monticello Magic traveling softball team. But no matter how busy she gets, volunteerism seems to be in her blood.
Sigma Phi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority of Waukegan - Volunteer of the Week (July 16, 2018)
The Sigma Phi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., set a goal many years ago to be a “Premier Service Organization on the North Shore.” This northern Illinois chapter, located in Waukegan, continues to accept the challenges set before them. They strive to be the most impactful through their community service throughout the world.
One of the many challenges they have faced this year was the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico. The hurricane brought devastating damages to the island, leaving many of the residents there homeless and in need of basic items. The Puerto Rican Society of Waukegan quickly reached out to the Lake County area seeking assistance for their families and friends on the island. Sigma Phi Zeta accepted the challenge and immediately started collecting items which included toiletries, batteries, flashlights, baby necessities, non-perishables and monetary donations.
The Sigma Phi Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority continues to serve our communities through key partnerships such as; Elder Care, March of Dimes, The Chocolate Chip Association, Vista Hospital and Waukegan Township.
Jason Powell - Volunteer of the Week (July 9, 2018)
Jason Powell grew up in West Frankfort and recently moved to Marion. He is the Branch Manager for both Legence Banks in Marion. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management. He is certified as a property management specialist and a personal trainer. He also attended University of Illinois Fire Institute to become certified fire brigade member for underground coal mines. He spent 8 years working for Peabody Energy as a coalminer.
Jason, is a member of many organizations allowing him to be involved in the community. He is a member of Cornerstone Church. He has done mission work in Haiti with Farming Gods Way. There he worked on a team that installed clean water access to villages in need. He is the newly elected president of the Williamson County Heartland Rotary, which raises money to purchase iPads for students with autism every year. Jason is also member of the Marion Chamber of Commerce and sits on many committees including the marketing committee, the golf scramble committee, the new membership committee, the scholarship committee, and the annual dinner/awards committee. He is also a member of Ready Nation, which helps build a skilled workforce by promoting children’s learning and development.
Over the winter Jason held a coat drive to help Caritas Family Solutions supply coats to foster children and families in need. They were able to give over 450 coats to families in need. Jason recently volunteered for the Girl’s World Expo as a guest emcee and coordinator. The event gave a place for the girls of southern Illinois to learn empowerment and interact with different role models. The girls were able to address the concerns they face in today’s world.
Jason currently is working on something close to his heart. His nephew Timothy Powell Jr, eight years old, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma in December 2017. DIPG is a rare inoperable brain tumor. With only four percent of cancer funding going to childhood cancers, he has vowed to bring awareness to this and other childhood cancers. He is working on numerous fundraisers to help bring light to his nephew’s battle.
Jason enjoys volunteer coaching for little league baseball and football. He stays very active in his niece’s and nephew’s lives.
Heather McClelland - Volunteer of the Week (July 2, 2018)
Heather McClelland is an AmeriCorps Member who serves as an Academic Tutor and Mentor at Beyond Sports Foundation. Heather’s background is in admissions, college counseling, and personal essay writing. Her past experience has also included creating and implementing writing workshops and interview workshops with schools including Loyola Academy and Cranbrook, as well as University of Chicago's prospective student weekends.
Heather enjoys getting to know the student-athletes and their families, while supporting the students academically. Being part of the AmeriCorps Beyond Sports Foundation team has been a great experience. Being an AmeriCorps Academic Tutor balances her writing life perfectly. Heather believes in the power of education and is grateful to use her skills to support the student-athletes of Beyond Sports Foundation.
Learn more about AmeriCorps.
Dr. Mark Holterman - Volunteer of the Week (June 25,2018)
Dr. Mark Holterman is a practicing doctor, a tenured faculty member, and a successful businessman. He also volunteers with the International Pediatric Specialists Alliance for the Children of Vietnam. This organization is known colloquially as ISPAC-VN, and it is an ambitious charitable organization that focuses on outreach to Vietnam. Many countries suffered losses during the Vietnam conflict. Decades later, the aftermath is still apparent. The country is trying to move on and put the past away, but it takes time to build up infrastructure and professional support systems in important industries.
Dr. Holterman also belongs to the Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons (PAPS). PAPS is an exclusive organization aimed at promoting fellowship and education among doctors who are from Pacific Rim nations. The organization currently has more than 500 members spanning 23 countries.
Barb Higdon - Volunteer of the Week (June 18, 2018)
Barb Higdon has been a member of Dove Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Macon County for more than 17 years. Barb has served at more than 15 different stations in her community. From feeding the hungry to delivering Meals on Wheels with her husband Jim to serving at her church Barb is a strong supporter of her community. She has served more than 9500 hours in the Decatur community and shows no signs of slowing down. Oftentimes you can find Barb and her husband Jim serving together for various events such as mailings, fundraising activities or serving on local councils and boards. Sharing her time, experience, and talent with many nonprofit agencies in the community.
Barb is very humble. She happily puts the needs of others before her own. She has a very calm and loving nature that can make you feel at home immediately. She allows people to tell their story and really takes the time to listen and learn their needs. She ensures each person she encounters feels love and warmth, never rushing anyone. Barb honors everyone she meets with the respect and dignity all humans should enjoy.
Dove RSVP stated that they are proud to have Barb as one of their faithful members and are thankful for everything she does in our community.
Emily Blankenberger - Volunteer of the Week (June 11, 2018)
Emily Blankenberger is using her interdisciplinary education from the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Ukraine. Placed with an ecology nonprofit, Emily is focusing on organizational development to make a lasting difference. A native of Flossmoor, Illinois, Emily chose Illinois State University after high school because she appreciated the access to diverse educational resources and the small-school atmosphere. She wrote an undergraduate thesis on nutritional anthropology, assessing cultural food patterns.
Emily met her goal of a broad undergraduate education, graduating with a degree in anthropology and family and consumer sciences with a sequence in food, nutrition and dietetics, as well as a minor in peace and conflict resolution. She was a resident assistant for the Leadership and Service floor and helped design a sustainability garden. Emily is an applied economics graduate student through the Master’s International program, in which students serve two years with Peace Corps after one year of classes. Peace Corps ended the Master’s International program nationwide, but the Stevenson Center still offers an array of graduate programs and an undergraduate program, Peace Corps Prep.
Emily is now a community and economic development volunteer in Rivne, a city of 250,000 roughly three hours away from Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. She works with a local ecology nonprofit called Ecoclub, which strives to provide effective sustainability methods. Emily is making a lasting impact in both her Illinois community and in Rivne, Ukraine.
The Plainfield Park District’s Great Adventures Preschool - Volunteer of the Week (June 4, 2018)
The kids at Plainfield Park District’s Great Adventures Preschool have a heart for helping others. Great Adventures Preschool is an early childhood program for children designed to meet their emotional, social, creative and physical needs. Leslie Anderson, Recreation Manager for Great Adventures, oversees the staff members who create a daily learning environment that promotes future academic success by learning concepts about colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and even civic engagement through fun group activities.
Anderson said that she looks for volunteer opportunities for her students that will teach them the value of helping others and help them to learn more about the needs that out there in the world beyond their classrooms. She knew that the recent collection for the troops would engage students who would be helping not only their teacher Mrs. Bollinger’s son but his fellow service members as well. She said that her classrooms have collected donations for the troops since 2015 and in previous years have also organized collections for a Multiple Sclerosis charity and Angel Tree. “We like to do something every year,” said Anderson.
Jack Picciolo - Volunteer of the Week (May 28, 2018)
Jack Picciolo, of Lockport, is a Vietnam veteran, past commander of the Lockport VFW, and chairman of the Will County Veterans Affairs Commission. He has a strong passion to help his fellow veterans. Jack volunteers for several veteran support agencies such as; the VAC, VFW, the Stand Down Coalition for Homeless Veterans program, and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. It has been Jack’s mission to bring an end to veteran homelessness in Will County.
He is also passionate about ensuring that every veteran, including homeless vets, receive military funeral honors. Jack was involved in the "sandwich run," which prepared and served 400 meals and delivered them to vets every Sunday in Chicago area. Jack served in the Army in Vietnam in 1964-1965, earning the Vietnam Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and Sharpshooter Medal.
Jose Abreu - Volunteer of the Week (May 21, 2018)
Since his arrival to Chicago in 2014, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has made his presence known in a big way. The Cuba native burst on to the scene in his first season in Major League Baseball en route to winning various awards and acknowledgments – including the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger Award and the first rookie in major-league history to rank among the Top 5 in his league in each Triple Crown category. After an impressive rookie year, his success continued with various honors and both franchise and league records. The 31-year-old star has his sights on more than on-field success. He has maintained an active presence in the community through his Abreu’s Amigos program. The program was launched in 2014 in partnership with Easterseals Academy to provide regular opportunities for students with special needs to develop social skills in a recreational setting through field trips to the ballpark. Nearly 70 students have visited the ballpark through this program. Abreu provides both his time and financial support for the program, including a $10,000 donation to kick off the program during a baseball clinic on the school’s White Sox Field. Abreu will launch the fourth year of the program on May 22, spending time with the Easterseals Good Guys Group and throwing a pizza party for the 200 students at the Academy.
For Abreu, giving back is about more than having a presence in the community. He shares a positive energy and the White Sox dedication to the Chicagoland community with the goal to give others the assistance that he received to achieve his dream to play in the MLB. Abreu has connected with the community most frequently at youth baseball clinics, sharing the skills he has learned over the years with baseball’s next generation. This includes his present leadership in the clubhouse, as he guides the Sox young team and makes his presence seen in the community and on the field.
Rosalea Colucci - Volunteer of the Week (May 14, 2018)
Rosalea, an eighth-grader at Plum Grove Junior High School, has collected more than 60,000 toys, books, stuffed animals, games and other gifts for hospitalized children, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help find a cure for childhood cancer. When she was just 3, Rosie was diagnosed with brain tumors and numerous other serious conditions that required her to spend a lot of time in the hospital. While there, she received so many gifts that her mother said she couldn't keep them all. So Rosie decided to share them with kids who didn't have any. "I know what it's like to lay in a hospital bed feeling bored and bad, worse than bad, and miss out on fun, school, playgrounds, riding bikes, holiday parties, play dates and sports," she said. "I wanted to make other kids' hospital stays better. I wanted to bring them sunshine and joy!" A year after her diagnosis, Rosie started "Rosie's Toy Box" and began collecting donated gifts in a plastic bin outside her family's front door. Before long, she was not only soliciting donations of toys and other items for pediatric patients, but was also working to raise money for a variety of charities and foundations. She asks big and small businesses, schools, churches, daycare centers and restaurants to conduct toy drives or fundraisers with her; and she promotes her efforts through fliers, social media and the news media. Among the activities she has conducted to pursue her mission are walk/runs, lemonade and bake sales, dance marathons, school competitions and head-shaving. "I want to further research so kids like me don't have to die," said Rosie. "We need some answers! We need a cure now!"
Kennison Adams - Volunteer of the Week (May 7, 2018)
Kennison, a senior at Edwardsville High School, has assisted hundreds of people in emergency situations over the past three years as a member of the Edwardsville Fire Department Explorer Post. She learned about the opportunity to serve her community in that capacity at an informational presentation in her medical careers class. "I have always had a passion for medicine, along with a compassion for helping others, and this program combined both aspects," said Kennison. In order to join the Explorer Post program, Kennison had to be trained and certified in CPR, first-aid and blood-borne pathogen safety, and learn how to draw blood and start IVs. Now, she makes sure fire trucks and ambulances are stocked and ready for emergency calls, rides along with first-responders to assist in any way she can, and cleans up vehicles afterwards. Kennison also provides hands-on help at community events, including fire department open houses and safety awareness presentations, pediatric cancer fundraisers and local homecoming carnivals and festivals. She is currently assistant chief of her Explorer Post program.
Louise Carson - Volunteer of the Week (April 30, 2018)
Senior Corps member Louise Carson has been an inspiration and a devoted volunteer in the Joliet community for over 23 years. Upon her retirement from an area hospital, where she was the first African American hired as a nurse’s aide, Louise wanted to do something where she could connect with others and work with children. Louise joined Catholic Charities Foster Grandparent Program. Grandma Louise has served at Joliet public schools, Head Start, and her church. Grandma Louise begins her day by sitting the children on a rug where she reads stories to them. After reading time, Louise works with the students using flash cards and other activities assigned by the teacher to aid the children in becoming fluent readers. Grandma Carson enjoys watching the students grow as they come from struggling to fluency. In her spare time, Grandma Carson likes to listen to music and find new songs for the choir to sing. She enjoys reading her Bible and loves to go to church. Grandma Louise’s teachers report that she is reliable, positive, caring, compassionate, and motivating to the students. She is comforting to the students when they are sad, upset, or not feeling well. She is a positive role model for her students. She is an asset to the classroom as the children light up when she walks into the room every morning. Louise exceeds expectations and the children show significant improvement while working with her.
Jahmal Cole - Volunteer of the Week (April 23, 2018)
Jahmal Cole is a tireless volunteer and role model. An advocate for education in Chicago, Jahmal is passionate about improving schools and is a frequent speaker at colleges in the Chicagoland area. Jahmal is a mentor to underserved teens, a leader of an army of civic volunteers, a lifelong explorer, and an author. He is the author of The Torch of Decency: Rekindling the Spirit of Community Organizations, "Athletes & MC's" and "50 Excuses: to not Follow your Dreams." As a child, Jahmal spent time homeless in both Texas and Chicago. That time shaped his life from college to mentoring to founding the program, he said "I remember what it was like when I was 11 years old and homeless. I lived in the back of a U-Haul truck for like five months. We used to have tie a belt to the outside and leave a little space for air.” Jahmal explains "I never really got any opportunity to settle down and grow roots because every three to four months I’d be moving. But it taught me how to communicate, it taught me how to expand my world view. I love traveling. That’s why I travel to different communities now."
Jahmal said the tough times taught him about being a mentor and seeing the bright side of a bad situation. He founded My Block, My Hood, My City after working with teens in Cook County Jail who said they'd never been Downtown before. My Block, My Hood, My City provides youth with new experiences, exposing them to possibilities beyond their own communities. They help teenagers overcome the poverty and isolation they face, boosting educational attainment and opening them to opportunities that make a difference in their lives. Jahmal also takes them on trips to serve others. "Normally, we take them to do activities and eat a different food they’ve never tried," Jahmal said. "We’ve been taking them on a lot of cool field trips or explorations, but also part of our model is social. I wanted them to do something social and give back. I want them to learn how to give back to those in need."
Heather Gardewine - Volunteer of the Week (April 16, 2018)
Heather has been a mentor in the Mid-Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters program since 2013. She began her mentoring relationship with her Little Sister Katie while in college at Eastern Illinois University and has continued the relationship even after her graduation. Heather has shown a tremendous amount of dedication to her Little Sister. Katie was 8 years old when she was introduced to Heather. She has met with Katie for about 10-12 hours per month for the past 5 years. Heather has watched Katie grow into the wonderful teenager that she now has become. Katie was once a shy child, but now participates in extracurricular activities and consistently makes the Honor Roll at school. Much of this success can be attributed to Heather who has showed Katie new opportunities that have helped Katie come out of her shell. These two have developed a lifelong friendship and continue to grow closer together with each year. Aside from being a mentor in our program, Heather has contributed to Big Brothers Big Sisters program in other ways as well. Heather now has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and does a lot of work with aquatic animals. Due to strong need of other volunteer mentors, such as Heather, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently has a list of children waiting to be paired up with a Big Brother or Big Sister. Many of these children enjoy working with animals as well. Heather organized an outing for the children on the waiting list to attend. She and her co-workers provided all the equipment needed so that our children could go fishing. For some of these children, this was their first time ever having the chance to go fishing. Heather even came up with certificates to recognize the children who caught fish that day. Even though Heather was not a Big Sister to these particular children, she still provided a new opportunity for the Little Brothers and Little Sisters in the community. Heather is a very kind, dedicated, caring and committed individual. Aside from being a mentor in our program, Heather has contributed to Big Brothers Big Sisters program in other ways as well. Heather now has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and does a lot of work with aquatic animals. Due to strong need of other volunteer mentors, such as Heather, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently has a list of children waiting to be paired up with a Big Brother or Big Sister. Many of these children enjoy working with animals as well. Heather organized an outing for the children on the waiting list to attend. She and her co-workers provided all the equipment needed so that our children could go fishing. For some of these children, this was their first time ever having the chance to go fishing. Heather even came up with certificates to recognize the children who caught fish that day. Even though Heather was not a Big Sister to these particular children, she still provided a new opportunity for the Little Brothers and Little Sisters in the community. Heather is a very kind, dedicated, caring and committed individual.
Joseph Kalala - Volunteer of the Week (April 9, 2018)
Joseph is a Computer Science student at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois. Joseph is involved in many volunteer opportunities. He has been involved in the Black Student Union and Student Government at Lincoln Land Community College. He also tutors elementary school aged children at 21st Century After School Program through his AmeriCorps placement at Urban League in Springfield. There he tutors children helping them with homework and reading. Joseph also mentors the kids by being a positive role model that they can bring their problems to. He also plays basketball with the kids and plays games with them.
Joseph selected 21st Century because he loves kids and wanted to get involved. Joseph says that one of the most challenging but rewarding things about what he does is figuring out what motivates each kid. When asked what impact volunteering has had on him, Joseph responded “Every day is a new challenge. The best part is getting to know each of them. Everyone has their own story.” His dream for his time with AmeriCorps is to leave a big impact on the kids and to be a good role model for them. Joseph said “to me, working with these kids is more fun than being at home.”
Yadier Molina - Volunteer of the Week (April 2, 2018)
Illinois resident Yadier Molina is committed to service-not just service to the St. Louis Cardinals, but to the community. More specifically, Yadier spent his offseason working tirelessly for the recovery of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
As a native of Puerto Rico, Yadier and his family were moved by the devastation of Hurricane Maria last fall and wanted to do more. The desire turned into a lot more, from fundraising to coordination of donations to advocating for residents. Yadier was in Puerto Rico two days after the St. Louis Cardinals final game last fall to oversee the distribution of truckloads of items in the northern Puerto Rico towns for Vega Alta, Dorado, Utuado and Cayey.
Molina continued over the fall and winter to raise funds through the Yadier Molina Fundacion 4-Foundation 4. In fact, further fundraising efforts are continuing as many of Puerto Rico's residents will need help for years to come. Yadier continues to visit the island, serving residents and hosting events to raise attention to hurricane recovery. Yadier's meaningful contributions through service define him as a leader, both on and off the field.
For more information about Yadier's foundation, visit
Anthony Rizzo - Volunteer of the Week (March 26, 2018)
Chicago has a long history of great athletes, and one of the greatest is Chicago Cubs’ First Baseman Anthony Rizzo. A three time All-Star, Gold Glove winner, and World Series Champion, he is a master of his craft on the field, but being the best in his sport was not enough for Anthony.
At 18, while playing single A ball, Anthony was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and he would soon have to endure six months of chemotherapy. As his grandmother was battling breast cancer at the same time, Anthony says, “I believe that an individual does not battle cancer, but rather the whole family does.”
After winning his battle with cancer, Anthony decided he wanted to help others going through what he did, and in 2012, he started the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to raise money for cancer research and support children and their families while they battle cancer. Since its formation, Anthony’s foundation has raised over $5,000,000 to fight cancer, and Anthony continues to be a tireless advocate and supporter for those in their greatest time of need.
Anthony’s volunteer spirit was shown once again after tragedy came to his high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. Anthony left Spring Training in order to give comfort to the Parkland community, and he worked to support them through an auction that helped to raise $305,000to help the victims and their families. After, watching Anthony speak at the vigil, his Manager Joe Madden said, “I can never be more proud of you than I am at this moment.”
Anthony Rizzo represents the best of us on and off the field, and his work to support Illinois communities will long outlive his baseball career. To learn more about the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, visit
Annie Niswander - Volunteer of the Week (March 19, 2018)
Annie has generously volunteered her time at the United Methodist Church of Mahomet for 5 years. She helps prepare for children’s church each week by preparing the children’s bulletins and class materials. She also volunteers additional time over the summer to help out at their vacation bible school. Her time and dedication is very much appreciated by the church staff and the kids she serves. They love “Miss Annie”.
Annie is a long-time resident of Mahomet, Illinois. In addition to being an active member of the United Methodist Church of Mahomet, she also works as an assistant at First School in Mahomet. She is an active member of the human service cooperative Community Choices. She also participates in a local choir.
Abby Sagher - Volunteer of the Week (March 12, 2018)
In conjunction with AmeriCorps week, our Serve Illinois Volunteer of the Week is an AmeriCorps member. Abby Sagher has been working with Beyond Sports Foundation working with student athletes in Highland Park as an academic tutor. She joined as an AmeriCorps member during service year 2017-18. During the week, Abby works for a college access and persistence program. For Abby, the best part about working at Beyond Sports Foundation is the students - whether it's being a part of their many "a-ha moments," building relationships, or seeing their teamwork on the court or field.
Abby also enjoys meeting and networking with other tutors and AmeriCorps volunteers and creating lasting relationships based on trust and mutual understanding.
Marilyn Newman - Volunteer of the Week (March 5, 2018)
Marilyn Newman is a Senior Corps-RSVP Member of Northern Cook and Northern DuPage County. She also serves as the Coordinator for the AARP Tax Aide program for Illinois District 11, managing nine sites and a total of 104 volunteers. She's responsible for training, processing all prospective volunteers and certification reporting to AARP and the IRS. She also holds a state-level position as part of the Management Team for all of Illinois north of I-80. Marilyn handles the volunteer data base information for over 700 volunteers, 134 sites and 24 districts. Under Marilyn’s direction, the District 11 tax preparation volunteers helped file 2,874 returns for an approximate taxpayer savings of $720,000, based at $250 per return fee (the average fee in District 11.)
Marilyn has been volunteering since 2004. She is a retired high school math teacher who always prepared her own taxes, so when she saw an article in AARP magazine calling for people to assist seniors in filing, she stepped up. Helping seniors has always appealed to her, and this area of volunteering was the perfect fit. One of the reasons she continues to do it is the satisfaction of seeing the relief on a senior's face after their taxes are in order, receipts sorted and appropriate lines filled in.
Evan Robinson - Volunteer of the Week (February 26, 2018)
Evan Robinson, age 12, of Chicago, is a seventh-grader at Kenwood Academy. Evan raised more than $2,000 for relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria by making and selling nearly 1,000 empanadas. When out-of-towners contributed to #PiesforPuertoRico but couldn't pick up their empanadas in person, Evan donated their pies to a homeless shelter.
“I’ve been seeing, all over the news, people struggling, and I thought, ‘I need to help. I want to help,’” Evan said. “They can’t get fresh water, electricity; they can’t get really anything. I know I’m just a kid, but I think if a lot of people do something, a lot of things will get better.”
He launched Pies for Puerto Rico over the weekend, taking online orders for homemade empanadas on his Evan the Chef Facebook page and collecting the proceeds to donate to Unidos Puerto Rico, a hurricane relief initiative launched by Beatriz Rossello, wife of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello.
Walter Jones - Volunteer of the Week (February 19, 2018)
Walter founded the West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders in 2011. Their mission is to work together to build a stronger, safer, and more productive community. Their goal is to establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies, federal, state, local and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance use among youth and reduce senseless violence in the West Garfield Park community.
As the founder Walter has created opportunities via programs, activities and events to help direct youth towards positive alternatives to violence as well as teaching them how to become productive citizens through positive civic engagement. West Garfield Park Community Stakeholders seek to create opportunities via programs, activities and events to help direct youth towards positive alternatives to violence as well as teaching them how to become productive citizens through positive civic engagement.
Some of the programs Walter oversees are town hall meetings, prayer vigils, community rallies, an intergenerational mentoring initiative, and Parent Cafes which help bring parents together and empower them. He has even created two weekly TV programs on a public access channel which tackles various topics each quarter. One show is led by West Garfield Park Youth Counsel by youth ages 13-24. The program gives youth a chance to bring to light topics that are important to them. The other weekly TV program features adults in the community and is called Fathers Who Care.
Walter says “Our Vision as stakeholders is to engage a partnership of residents, parents, youth, educational institutions, organizations and public servants with a common goal to reduce violence within the West Garfield Park community.” As issues arise they rally people in the community to face the issues head on. It is a holistic approach to empowering the community.
Karran Robinson - Volunteer of the Week (February 12, 2018)
Karran is a tutor at 21st Century After School Program through his AmeriCorps placement at Urban League in Springfield. Karran works with elementary school aged children at Lee School. There he tutors and mentors youth, helping them with homework and reading. He also has taught many of the youth how to play basketball and acts as a role model that they can trust. When asked what impact volunteering has had on his life, Karran responded “These kids really help me out more than I help them out.” He also says that the kids have taught him patience which has really helped him in school
Karran is working on getting his Associates in Arts - Music and Audio Production from Lincoln Land Community College. Karran says that he really enjoys his work because he understands the kids. He says that he grew up in a single parent household and that his mom pushed him to keep busy from an early age on. She enrolled him in multiple music programs throughout his childhood and got him involved in multiple community programs. He is thankful to her for that because it gave him multiple positive role models that helped guide him. He says that is what kept him out of trouble and has made him the man he is today. Now he is giving back by being a positive role model to the kids at 21st Century.
To learn more about AmeriCorps, visit
Donald Steplight - Volunteer of the Week (February 5, 2018)
Donald Steplight is a Career Development Associate at YMCA of the USA in Chicago through the Public Allies AmeriCorps program. Donald is going to grad school for a Masters of Public Administration. He learned about AmeriCorps from his roommate who was also an AmeriCorps Member with Public Allies.
Donald is a vital part of the YMCA of the USA. Some of his tasks are research, data analysis, organizing certification programs, networking with YMCA directors across the country, event planning, and approving outside licensing for program staff. The next project that Donald is excited about is building a social media presence for the YMCA of the USA.
Donald also participates in a mentoring program through Public Allies Chicago as part of his Team Service Project hours. Every Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning he volunteers at a program that mentors 10-12 students at Eric Solorio Academy High School. In these mentoring periods, they offer support to the students on multiple levels. This program acts as a safe space for the students to express any frustrations or concerns they have in their school or personal life. They also engage in a variety of character building activities with the students. Every week there is a new activity designed to support the students with what they are going through or might go through in school.
When asked what his passion is, Donald responded - helping people the way he was helped as a kid. He was adopted as a small child, and he wanted to give back to the programs that made a difference in his life. He wants to make the biggest impact that he could. That’s why he selected AmeriCorps and the YMCA; because, they make such a large impact in so many lives.
To learn more about AmeriCorps, visit
William Mugg - Volunteer of the Week (January 29, 2018)
William volunteers at Feed My Starving Children in Aurora. FMSC is a non-profit organization that sends fortified meals to children in need in over 70 countries. William has felt the great impact FMSC has on children’s lives around the world and says “It really does put your life into perspective. It is so easy to take our lives for granted, but working with FMSC has really opened my eyes to the reality others face in different countries. The children that are being cared for through the work of FMSC and its partners have had to face harsh realities since birth. Every child deserves to live a worry free life. FMSC has ignited a new hope in the lives of these children through the generous work of many volunteers, and I hope that we continue to make a difference in their lives.” William made a personal goal to reach 300+ volunteer hours each year. So far, he has met that goal each year he has served.
William is incredibly hard working, generous, and such a joy to all those around him. His wife, Betty, and four children Annie, Matthew, Patrick, and Anthony all believe in community service and have all volunteered at Feed My Starving Children.
Aggie Becker - Volunteer of the Week (January 22, 2018)
Aggie began to volunteer with Community Link in February 2015. Community Link serves adults and children with disabilities through a day training site, residential services, and infant services. She is always willing to help in whatever way she can to fulfill the organization’s needs. Aggie is experienced in yoga and holds teacher certification. Aggie has continued to teach Yoga class 2 times weekly to for 2 full years. It is amazing to see the relationships that Aggie has created. The Yoga group loves Aggie and her energy. The yoga group, under the direction of Aggie, is forming their own third party fundraiser, selling yoga t-shirts for the Community Link Buddy Walk in May. Aggie can be overheard not only teaching yoga but also giving life lessons, assisting in troubleshooting, and discussing many joyful times with everyone. She is their biggest cheerleader!
In addition, Aggie not only volunteers herself, but also includes her family in events. Her kids are found volunteering for whatever is needed. In addition to volunteering at Community Link, she volunteers at a local daycare and the Catholic Church teaching classes. At times, Aggie organizes her students to volunteer for projects here at Community Link. .
Patrick Miller - Volunteer of the Week (January 16, 2018)
Patrick Miller is an AmeriCorps Up2Us Coach serving at his host site of Chicago Run. Patrick moved from Boston, MA to support the Chicago community through his year of service.
Patrick attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst graduating with a BS in Public Health and a minor in Sociology. After graduating, he went on to pursue a Masters’ degree in Public Health at the Boston University School of Public Health. While in grad school, Patrick developed an interest in combating the childhood obesity epidemic through evidence-based practices addressing the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of health.
Patrick works directly with Chicago Run’s Running Mates program and Runners Program that focuses on instilling the daily habit of running and physical activity during the school day for elementary school students and an after school program designed to prepare middle school students to run in a local 5k race. Patrick brings so much energy, liveliness, and enthusiasm to all the students he meets and works with. As an AmeriCorps member, he is involved in not only serving at his site, but also volunteering throughout Up2Us Sports service days and giving back to the Chicago community. Patrick goes beyond his role as an Up2Us Coach by trying to make the city a better, healthier, and safer place for youth.
To learn how you can join AmeriCorps, visit
AnaPatricia Marquez - Volunteer of the Week (January 8, 2018)
AnaPatricia has worked to develop and implement a comprehensive Green Education program that can be used for Mid Central Community Action in Bloomington participants and the community as well. The information is tailored to the specific program area or community member with the outcome of increasing their energy efficiency, positive “green footprint” in their community and for them to act as an example to others on green practices in their neighborhoods. These practices can also be replicated by other small business and non-profits in order to maximize their impact on their stakeholders as well.
The programs and educational opportunities that AnaPatricia has developed address the short and long term financial health of low income individuals and families in the community. AnaPatricia is building relationships with local green organization in order to develop processes that make the “greening” of Bloomington homes easier and therefore more widely adopted.
Because of AnaPatricia’s excellent volunteer work and dedication to Mid Central Community Action, she has been selected as their Green Revitalization Specialist AmeriCorps VISTA in their Property Preservation Program.
Teri Lehman - Volunteer of the Week (January 1, 2018)
Teri Lehmann is a volunteer at Keshet in their GADOL program. The GADOL program is a community-based day program for adults with disabilities, located in Skokie. GADOL supports adults ages 22 and older in living meaningful lives after exiting the educational system. The program offers participants both vocational and recreational experiences. Teri has been volunteering at GADOL for the past year. She always has a smile on her face and is willing to do whatever it takes to help GADOL.
During her time at GADOL, her duties have changed. She started helping out by answering phone calls and assisting the art teacher. As Teri became more comfortable and got to know her team members better, her responsibilities grew. Teri now job coaches a young woman at a nursing home. Teri has supported this young woman in performing her job with minimal supports and in fostering friendships as well as. When the young woman became more independent at work, Teri started job coaching another participant. Teri’s support has enabled this young woman to work. She needs support staying on task. Teri is right there to help her focus. Teri helps the administration staff keep both women’s schedules straight. Teri shows up consistently to greet her clients and is eager to work! She is always encouraging them to “do one more thing”. She also encourages them to work a little harder & develop relationships with their co-workers. Teri provides a much needed service. Her support has changed both of these ladies lives. Teri’s upbeat, friendly personality has certainly brought a lot of joy to everyone at GADOL.
Harli Rhoads - Volunteer of the Week (December 25, 2017)
Harli Rhoads is a sophomore at Paris High School and has been a volunteer for Christmas for Kids of Edgar County for several years. She volunteers in many capacities with Christmas for Kids from fundraising, organizing, shopping, wrapping and delivering gifts. Harli also volunteers in the nursery at Lake Ridge Christian Church. She helps with the children’s ministry and is a part of the church choir. Harli is a member of the BIONIC club at Paris High School. BIONIC stands for “Believe It or Not I Care”. Recently, the BIONIC club spent a night on the court house lawn in card board boxes to raise awareness for homelessness and raise money for the homeless kids in her school. The BIONIC Club does various service projects throughout the school year as well, which she is involved in.
Christmas for Kids of Edgar County is a non-profit organization that helps to provide Christmas to underprivileged children. This year Christmas for Kids provided gifts to over 700 children in Edgar County, providing clothing items and toys to brighten their Christmas season. Christmas for Kids could not do this without our dedicated volunteers who give selflessly of their time to ensure this program is successful in reaching as many children as we can. Harli stands out because of her dedication to different charitable causes throughout the year. She is definitely an awesome role model for the younger generation to see how important it is to serve others in their community.
Lori Acree - Volunteer of the Week (December 18, 2017)
Lori Acree and Puzzled Minds of Vermilion County each year offer a unique Santa experience to children that otherwise might not be able to meet Santa. Puzzled Minds-Vermilion County is a support group for families and professionals of children and adults with emotional and developmental special needs. A trip to see Santa Claus at a crowded mall can be overwhelming for any family, but it can be near impossible for children with special needs. The “Sensory Santa” at Immanuel Lutheran Church experience began five years ago, initially for children with autism. Since then they have expanded this opportunity to kids who have an array of developmental and mental health needs. Instead of waiting in line, families schedule an appointment to meet and take photos with Santa Claus. When they first arrive for their appointment, they can make Christmas crafts and eat snacks in a separate room. They provide a sensory friendly environment, so that means there won’t be any loud music playing or bright blinking lights. Children with autism are often sensitive to sounds and lights. This year 29 families signed up for an appointment with Santa, ranging in age from 2 to 16 years. Once in the room with Santa, the photographer takes photos of them interacting naturally rather than forcing a hurried pose. Each child can take as long as they need to warm up to him. The room is quiet with soft natural lighting.
This free event is possible because of wonderful volunteers. They all are either special education teachers in Vermilion County, or members of the Puzzled Minds group. Acree shared how special it is to see the children interact more and more each year. “We’ve not had one unsuccessful visit,” she said. “If anything, we’ll have tears of happiness.”
Jim Campbell - Volunteer of the Week (December 11, 2017)
Jim Campbell is a retired Air Force officer and a retired management consultant. Being retired has opened new opportunities for Jim to give back to the community. Shortly after stepping down as a management consultant, Jim became the Vice Chairman for the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. In this role he has also become one of the lead builders. His efforts helped the local chapter step up to building a new home each year. His skills as a carpenter and project manager are invaluable. He also is adept at raising funds for new homes. As a Rotarian he was instrumental, developing a raffle for a 2016 new Silverado pick up that provided Habitat with $19,000 toward a new house. In the past two years, Jim has helped complete two new homes, worked on two handicap ramps, helped rebuild a porch for a veteran with disabilities, and was the lead renovator for home that was gifted to Habitat. The rehabbed home was sold with the proceeds essentially providing funds for a complete new Habitat home.
Recently St. Vincent De Paul contacted Habitat because a local individual with disabilities had been without a toilet in his home for three days. When Jim heard of this he enlisted a friend, they used a toilet that had been donated to Habitat. They installed the toilet after repairing a couple items in the home in just over two hours. When the repair team called St. Vincent De Paul and said the problem had been fixed, St. Vincent De Paul representatives were astounded at the rapid response and at no cost. We weren’t. It is not only with Habitat that he shines. He sings in two choirs. One at Faith Lutheran Church and with the Masterworks Chorale, a group that performs in the St. Louis and Metro-East area, presenting classical choral music. In addition to being a musician, he is on the Masterworks Chorale board, where he is responsible for setting up the sound system and support structures for the concerts at different venues. Jim is active in his church. He is currently their Stewardship chairman, and is responsible for overall budgeting and financial management. He serves on the architectural committee which is working on a major expansion project. He has supported youth group mission trips by being a leader. The teens adore Jim and the feeling is mutual. He is the “go to” guy for repair and any maintenance crisis for the church. If someone needs help in the community of O’Fallon, Jim seems to always be part of the solution.
Bob Vogelbaugh - Volunteer of the Week (December 4, 2017)
“Mr. Thanksgiving” (aka Bob Vogelbaugh) of Moline has just completed his 47th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Mr. Vogelbaugh organizes and plans the annual dinner with all the fixings to serve between 2,000 and 2,500 diners at no cost to them. In addition, a DJ provides music, diners dance, and clowns do face painting and make balloon animals. This year, it was the largest dinner yet, which served between 2,800 & 3,000 diners. Mr. Vogelbaugh is the first to say “I can’t do this without the community’s support.” The community steps forward each year by volunteering, providing monetary donations, a local Catholic School makes table decorations, MetroLink provides free transportation to diners who want to attend but have no way to get there, and SouthPark Mall opens to host the dinner.
Mr. Vogelbaugh says “this is not a charity dinner, it is for anyone no matter of income level, those who are alone, or if just wanting to enjoy friendships and fellowship.” He thinks of the dinner as a large family having a party and provides an opportunity for everyone to forget their worries for the day.
Mr. Vogelbaugh’s volunteer service has been in his blood his entire life. He served as a Deacon with the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, was a member of the Moline-Coal Valley School Board of Education, and is involved in various capacities with many community organizations. He has worked with special needs children and adults in the past and has used his own money to take them on various fun trips. Mr. Vogelbaugh currently is a crossing guard with the City of Moline.
Damon Hofstrand - Volunteer of the Week (November 27, 2017)
Damon Hofstrand volunteers as a leader with Boy Scout Troop 58 in Rochester, IL. He enjoys introducing boys to outdoor adventure and has organized many trips to many places for more than a decade. This summer, he led a 61-mile canoe trip through the swamps and bayous of Louisiana where the boys camped on remote islands and on Cajun-style houseboats.
Before that, he arranged for SCUBA training for the troop, followed by a trip to the Florida Keys for a week of diving on the coral reef. This was the third trip he’d organized to the Keys. He organized an annual winter trip to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota where the boys learn to drive dog sled teams, snowshoe, cross country ski, ice fish, build snow shelters, and camp outside in sub-zero conditions. He led this trip seven times and is planning the eighth. He led an expedition to Alaska where the boys learned mountaineering, glacier traversing, sea kayaking and whitewater rafting and is planning another one for next summer. He has taken two groups by floatplane to a remote island in Canada for a week of fishing and camping. He also organized a caving trip where the boys camped in a cave overnight and kayaked on a nearby river the next day.
Damon has also served as Cubmaster for Rochester’s Cub Scout Pack and was nominated to the Boy Scout Council’s Executive Board where he has served for several years, two of them as President. While on the Board, he founded the local Eagle Scout Association and spearheaded new fundraising projects.
Damon and his wife, Erin, are the parents of four active boys. He works as a Financial Advisor and Certified Financial Planner at Merrill Lynch. Damon is a former army helicopter pilot and a West Point graduate.
Alayna Stalter - Volunteer of the Week (November 20, 2017)
Alayna Stalter decided to work with her community to give back to those impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The revenue generated was donated to Hurricane Relief around the world. She was inspired by a friend who suffered loss in Houston this year.
In her own words:
"I started this fundraiser because a friend of mine had been through Hurricane Harvey. I started thinking of ways I could help and decided that I would do one big fundraiser. I also decided to use this as my senior project. The first thing I did was ask local businesses and community members if they would be willing to donate to this worthy cause. During collecting donations Hurricane Irma came along and that caught my attention. I then changed my project just a tad to put it towards all of the hurricane victims.
As I was collecting donations from the community, I decided I wanted to get the schools involved too. I did 50/50 raffles at a home volleyball and football game during homecoming weeks. Within that same week I sold caramel apples at those same games that were generously donated by County Market in Gibson City. The Fisher Community Unit 1 School District kindly donated the proceeds from the volleyball game gate fees. Lastly, I did a mini fundraiser inside of my large fundraiser. I put on "Your Change Makes a Difference" fundraiser, which is where you bring in any extra change or dollars you can spare. I did this with the grades K-12. Just with "Your Change Makes a Difference" I raised $1,634.38. Overall I raised $3,303.38. I would like to thank the numerous people who donated their time, money, and efforts to help me complete this project."
Christian Cook - Volunteer of the Week (November 13, 2017)
Christian Cook is currently serving her second term here with AmeriCorps East St. Louis with Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. She volunteers at Unity Lutheran School where she tutors several grade levels throughout the day. Her help supports the staff and students, and she is a welcome addition to the school. After school, she serves at a Teen Reach site, where she tutors and helps teens with important life skills. Chrissy is our volunteer of the week because she doesn’t mind going the extra mile to serve.
To learn how you can join AmeriCorps, visit
Tramaine Lewis - Volunteer of the Week (November 6, 2017)
Tramaine Lewis, is a wife, veteran and mother of four beautiful children. She became a community organizer while volunteering her services to the greater Chicago community. For many years she has given back as a United States Army Reserve and UMedic. She now focuses her services on those affected by mass incarceration and poverty. She has become a voice of light to the issues that have affected her community by dedicating herself to educating her neighbors and the families of Englewood on human and constitutional rights.
In 2017 she served in AmeriCorps with FDLA’s Street Law Corp Team. During this year of service she engaged residences of Englewood by providing a civic engagement curriculum designed by the Street Law Corp (SLC) team and volunteer attorneys. The team engaged over 80 youth in multimedia, peer to peer education, and community events. After finishing the year of service she volunteered the rest of her summer at FDLA.
Today she’s on her 2nd year of service as the Street Law Corp team leader. Every day she motivates her peers and community as a proactive volunteer responding to this issue and those who are deeply wounded by violence in her community. Her passion to service has allowed her to become a true beacon of community service.
Jordan R. Matulevich - Volunteer of the Week (October 30, 2017)
Jordan R. Matulevich is a twelve year United States Air Force Veteran who is dedicated to spending his free time helping others. He has met several local Springfield families over the past two years who are unable to provide a safe and fun Halloween for their children. He has made it his mission to provide those kids a safe place to enjoy the Halloween festivities. Jordan has spent the last several months planning and organizing with several local businesses and volunteer organizations so each child can have a Halloween costume they could not afford on their own. The fruits of this work, “Trunk or Treat,” will take place at Matheny-Withrow Elementary School on October 31st at 4 p.m. All branches of the military will be represented.
Initially when Jordan started planning this event, he was unsure if it would be successful. The outpour of generosity from the community and local organizations has been amazing. Thanks to them, there will be over one hundred people participating in this event providing kids with a safe place to enjoy Halloween. Jordan has spent countless hours reaching out to local consignment shops to get costume donations, candy donations, and even purchased a few things himself. Jordan’s work to support youth in the community make him an excellent volunteer and a wonderful person.
Lawrence Bussard - Volunteer of the Week (October 23, 2017)
Lawrence Bussard volunteers at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield every Monday afternoon. Lawrence serves as an escort volunteer, helping show patients and visitors how to navigate the hospital. At 93-years-of-age, Lawrence is the oldest volunteer at Memorial Medical Center, and he has no intention of giving up that title. Lawrence’s dedication is apparent. He loves his time serving at Memorial and is equally loved by all he meets during his volunteering. Staff often ask about him if he is away for any time at all. He can always be counted on to tell lots of stories and give you the history of the hospital that he has been a part of for over 23 years.
Memorial Medical Center has 360 volunteers and Friends of Memorial board members, who gave $1.1 million in service to the hospital last year. Volunteers serve in a variety of roles, helping to fulfill Memorial’s mission to improve the health of the people and communities they serve. In addition to escorting patients and visitors, volunteers assist in nearly 30 areas of the hospital, including information desks, waiting lounges, and the gift shop. They also assist with office projects and provide patient care in the emergency department and infusion unit. To learn more, visit
Memorial's Volunteer page.
Stephen Eddington - Volunteer of the Week (September 18, 2017)
Stephen Eddington is a new AmeriCorps Member with AmeriCorps East. St. Louis at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. He came to AmeriCorps specifically looking for a chance to grow professionally as well as an opportunity to give back. As a pantry support Member Stephen helps feed an average of 2,000 people each month. He’s responsible for packing and handling the food boxes. He also assists the senior citizens who may need help carrying the food boxes to their vehicles.
Stephen doesn’t mind going the extra mile to make someone smile. He enjoys taking the initiative and assisting anyone who needs help. His positive attitude is a breath of fresh air, and his eagerness to serve is a great sight to see. AmeriCorps East St. Louis is honored that he’s serving here with them.
Learn more about AmeriCorps and how you can serve at
Maralene Tate - Volunteer of the Week (September 11, 2017)
Maralene Tate has worked in the Foster Grandparent Program for 10 years. The Foster Grandparent Program is a Senior Corps Program. Maralene assists students who may have special or exceptional needs in the school. She tutors them in reading, writing, spelling, and math. Maralene not only acts as a tutor but also a mentor. She works with the students that might be struggling socially or emotionally as well as academically. She is a wonderful role model to the children she works with. Maralene currently volunteers at Edna Keith Elementary School in Joliet, IL. According to the principal at Edna Keith, Ms. Henderson, "Ms. Tate is a true asset to Keith School. She goes above and beyond the call of duty. I have told her if I could I would clone her. She has a true passion for helping our young scholars succeed academically and socially. She along with her Kindergarten teacher spent countless hours making academic packets for the 2017-2018 school year over the summer. (Ms. Tate never told the FGP staff about this nor did she ask for reimbursement.) If anyone is deserving of this award it is Ms. Tate."
Ms. Tate does not drive so she relies on public transportation to get to school. The teacher with whom she works with says, "Grandma Maralene always knows what to do even before I tell her. She is willing to do anything. The students love and respect Grandma Maralene, and if she is absent they show genuine concern for why she isn't there."
Ms. Tate has also volunteered at two Head Start Programs in Joliet. There she tended to the children ages 3-5. She gave them her love and guidance as she helped them to learn how to perform skills that would enable them to be ready for kindergarten. She was loved by the teachers and site supervisors as well.
Michael Morrow - Volunteer of the Week (September 4, 2017)
Local RSVP Volunteer (and Veteran) Michael Morrow has been hand-carving canes and walking sticks and donating/delivering them to the Veterans at the VA Illiana Medical Center in Danville.
RSVP is a part of Senior Corps where Americans age 55+ use their experience and wisdom to volunteer and make a difference in their communities. Senior Corps provides service opportunities by connecting senior volunteers with the people and organizations that need support most.
Michael's additional volunteering is keeping him busy Mentoring a student at Garden Hills School in Champaign, helping out at Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and (when he has time), he even helps out at Wesley Foundation Student Center working with the International Students at the U of I helping them with their conversational English as a second language skills. RSVP is very grateful to be able to partner with Michael in helping him serve the community in so many valuable ways.
Gail Staples - Volunteer of the Week (August 28, 2017)
Gail Staples is an exemplary volunteer! Gail just celebrated her one year volunteer anniversary (vol-iversary) with Blessings in a Backpack (BIB), and they feel so lucky to have her with them. Blessings in a Backpack mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry. Gail devotes her time twice a week to help BIB feed the future of America by completing necessary office tasks and working towards their mission. Gail always has a positive attitude and smile on her face no matter what task she is completing!
Gail is also extremely punctual. She is always on time and completes all of her projects on time as well. She is always eager to help out in whatever way she can, whether it’s sending out stewardship cards, helping with data entry, or researching new ways to help feed more hungry children across America. Gail is truly a ray of sunshine at the BIB Chicago office, and they are so grateful for everything she does.
Julia McAleer-Forte - Volunteer of the Week (August 21, 2017)
For the last two years, the McAleer-Forte family has undertaken a program they started called the D 100 School Supply Drive. Their goal is to collect, organize and redistribute new unused and gently used school supplies from students in South Berwyn School District 100. The drive begins at the end of the school year. Work collecting and organizing is done during summer vacation. Redistribution of school supplies to District 100 students is done in August before the new school year begins.
Julia and her family were able to get 13 Heritage Middle School class rooms to participate for the first year of their program. This year, the McAleer-Forte family engaged the help of students in 7 of 8 District 100 Elementary and Middle schools. The students’ donations of their unused and gently used at the end of this school year tallied up to 570.6 pounds of note paper, pencils, pens, markers, glue sticks, and backpacks.
The D 100 School Supply Drive encourages volunteerism among our school students. It provides needed economic help to school parents by providing many of the school supply items their children will need. The program fosters concern for our environment by encouraging the reuse of usable supplies.
James Liu - Volunteer of the Week (August 14, 2017)
James Liu has been volunteering with Chicago's Logan Square Farmers Market for over three years. He'd be there no matter what, rain or shine, sleet or snow, to help the market run smoothly for all of those involved- helping farmers unload their week's bounty, pushing rain into the sewer system, salting sidewalks, shoveling snow... No matter what, he shows up when he can, just because. When we were short on help just two weeks ago, he showed up without question. That is James.
If he's not helping operate the market, he is attending the market as a die-hard supporter of our local food producers and farmers each week. He loves cooking, sharing recipes and using new and unusual ingredients. This past Sunday, he did a market show and tell, with a giant bucket of cucumbers ready for a late summer pickling project. He is an exemplary member of our farmers market community, advocating for a regional food system as a volunteer and supporter, and setting an example for what it means to be a wonderful neighbor.
Larry Durfee - Volunteer of the Week (August 7, 2017)
Larry Durfee is a full-time AmeriCorps Member at IYC-Harrisburg. Literacy Volunteers of Illinois’ Jump Start program is a volunteer-based tutor and mentor program for youth in the Illinois Youth Centers (IYC), where it is estimated that half of the 400 youth residing in the Centers on any given day are in need of special literacy services. The program, which is operational at the IYC’s in Chicago, Harrisburg, St. Charles, and Warrenville is funded through School District #428 - Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Chicago Tribune Charities and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The program also benefits from AmeriCorps members who serve at the IYC’s through LVI’s VOCAL (Volunteer Outreach for Community Action in Literacy) program. Larry learned of the program from his younger sister, Pat, who was finishing her third AmeriCorps year. Pat felt that given her brother’s long history of working with troubled youth in schools, churches, and, while in Montana, the firm of Mountain Peak, and the court system, he would be a great fit for the program and a solid follow-up to her service.
Since joining AmeriCorps, Larry has tutored 40+ youth - two of whom obtained their high school diplomas as a result of the extra help they obtained in tutoring. The boys treat him with the upmost respect. He works effortlessly 40 hours weekly to tutor these boys in science, English, math, history and geography. He works with lower level students as well as with those working towards a GED or diploma. He also helps them learn to take notes, so that they can work more independently in class. His quiet nature allows the young men to see another side to manhood that most of them have never experienced. The youth that he works with are very receptive to his help.
Through AmeriCorps and LVI, Mr. Durfee will continue to help incarcerated youth work towards their goals of obtaining their diploma or GED. This can provide them with the ability to work towards higher education or obtaining a job upon their release, therefore reducing recidivism which is common without educational tools. He continues to mentor them with his gentle, quiet and caring nature and all of his life experiences that he gets to share with them at the end of the tutor sessions daily.
Marcus Butler - Volunteer of the Week (July 31, 2017)
Marcus Butler is a husband and father to a pre-school age son. For most, the time required to fill these two roles would consume an entire day! Marcus Butler; however, finds the time to mentor two young men in Springfield through not one but two nonprofit organizations. Marcus, who is affectionately known by the children as Brother Marcus, is an AmeriCorps member who has completed two terms of service at Brandon Court and the Boys and Girls Club of Central IL. Marcus has served in both Brandon’s summer camp and after school program; which provides tutoring, homework help, and computer access to school age children who reside in Brandon and the surrounding communities.
As a male mentor, Marcus openly shares his past mistakes with young men; urging them to stay in school, stay away from drugs, be selective with the friends they hang out with, and always stay away from illegal activity. Children relate well to Marcus, because they know he genuinely cares for them and he wants them to be successful.
Most evenings Marcus can be found volunteering at the Outlet; another nonprofit organization that works with fatherless youth between the ages of 8-22. It is not uncommon for Marcus to take young men to the barber shop on Saturday for a haircut, teach them how to tie a tie, or cut their lawn. You can always find Marcus out in the community advocating for youth, and working to end the violence in the community of Springfield.
D.M., a 5th grader who is enrolled in the summer camp at Brandon said, “I like Brother Marcus because he doesn’t just tell us what to do but he always participates and thinks of fun activities. We went to the Children’s museum in Decatur and Brother Marcus sang on the stage with all the boys.“
Ron Pearson - Volunteer of the Week (July 24, 2017)
Ron, 84, a member of RSVP of Eastern Iowa & Western Illinois is a tremendous Senior Corps volunteer in the Galesburg, Knox County Area of West Central IL.
This picture shows Ron helping to pack food for the 410 children served by Blessings in a Backpack in Galesburg CUSD #205 in December 2016. He always has a ready smile and ready hands to help wherever needed. Ron has been a “go to” guy for the packing of food during Knox College school breaks since the Blessings program partnered with RSVP to expand the program to multiple schools. Blessings in a Backpack in Galesburg had humble beginnings of serving one elementary school by mostly Knox College students in a school building close to campus. In 2013 when it expanded to four schools and needed a bigger space to gather, sort, and pack the food, Ron was one of the first RSVP members to join the fun. This assistance is especially important when the college students were absent due to their college scheduled winter break that does not coincide with the CUSD school schedule has at risk kids in need of food for the weekends through December.
Without the RSVP volunteers like Ron, the Blessings in a Backpack program serving Galesburg elementary kids would have to be on hold when the Knox College students are on their scheduled breaks.
Ron is also an active volunteer as an usher at the Historic Orpheum Theatre of Galesburg, giving his personal million dollar smile greeting to all who patronize the theatre when he is there. His ability to serve any time of the day is especially helpful for the YES -Youth Education Series at the Orpheum which provides live performances for school children during the school day.
Ron truly makes a difference for the youth of the Galesburg Community.
Lee Lindsay - Volunteer of the Week (July 18, 2017)
Lee Lindsay puts 100% of herself into everything she does. This is especially true of her community volunteer service. Over the years, Lee has been, and continues to be an active volunteer involved with several organizations. Lee was a teacher, by profession, having taught special education at Quincy High School for 25 years.
Lee has made an impact on lives through her tireless community service. She has served on The Salvation Army Advisory Board, and is the incoming chair for this year. In 2012 Lee chaired The Salvation Army’s Christmas campaign that successfully went over goal. She also volunteers in our social services programs.
Lee served as chair of Habitat for Humanity for more than 20 years, assisting in building more than 20 homes. Seeing the need for a halfway house for women transitioning out of prison, Lee opened Well House, a home that bridges the gap from prison to independent living. Lee is a friend and mentor to each of the residents, as she helps them work toward self-sufficiency. Lee is a past board member of Chaddock, and current board member of Arts Quincy. She is involved in Quincy Community Theater. She is a volunteer with CASA, which trains adults to be court appointed advocates for children, and she is involved in prison ministry. Lee is a board member of Addicts Victorious.
Lee sees a need and goes to work to find a solution. Her service has helped strengthen our community through her continued commitment of time, talent and treasure. Her ideas and suggestions for improvement coupled with her ongoing involvement with these organizations helps assure continued excellence in service delivery in our community.
Bria Karin and Karen Cassidy - Volunteers of the Week (July 10, 2017)
Late last year Karen Cassidy lost a dear friend to a heroin overdose. Rather than grieve for her friend’s life in the way most would, Karen saw an issue in Central Illinois that she wanted to address. Through research and interviews Karen discovered that opioid addiction and overdose is a growing issue overall, but especially in the Central Illinois area. Karen could not sit by and watch this issue grow. Thus, Project Emily was born.
Project Emily is a newborn project aimed to educated and certify individuals as well as companies and organizations in the use of Narcan. Narcan, or Naloxone, is a prescription drug used to block the effects of opioids, especially in an overdose situation. Karen, and her friend Bria Karin have been working closely to become educated and trained on the use of Narcan. Karen is now certified to use Narcan as well as train and certify others. She has received several requests from individuals as well as companies and organizations for training and certification on the use of Narcan.
Karen and Bria also have plans to set Project Emily up with a private and confidential phone number. Individuals will be able to text this number completely anonymously to request Narcan, or to share their story should they have to use the Narcan. This way, Karen and Bria hope to eliminate the fear of punishment should people request Narcan or tell their stories. In telling their stories both ladies hope they can compile research into the effect that Project Emily is having on the community in reversing opioid overdoses.
The hope and purpose of Project Emily is to not only save individuals from opioid overdoses, but to increase awareness and education on an issue that has unfortunately become prevalent in our area. Project Emily hopes to also provide a safe and judgement-free place where individuals can request the lifesaving drug, or seek help should they need or want it.
Levi Horvath - Volunteer of the Week (July 3, 2017)
Levi Horvath has volunteered with the Macon County Conservation District since June 2015. He helps with the summer camp program, canoeing, fishing, and special events. Levi grew up in the camp program starting as a camper at age 3. As he grew, he asked the counselors if he could lead the nature hikes. At age 13, he was old enough to become a youth volunteer and has enjoyed sharing his love of nature and history with summer camp children ever since. Levi jumps in whenever a hand is needed and loves volunteering so much that he is there Monday through Friday for eight hours every day this summer. He is a wonderful role model to the younger children and shares his passion for nature with those around him. Macon County Conservation District is thankful for his dedication and willingness to go above and beyond. Levi is truly one of a kind with a heart of gold!
Jan Merchant - Volunteer of the Week (June 26, 2017)
Jan Merchant has volunteered for RSVP in Rockford since 2006. Over the past 11 years, Jan has made her mark in several places in the community. Jan is a volunteer who is always willing and ready to help wherever she’s needed. She always feels appreciated and well respected each time she volunteers. Jan was recently awarded by The Rockford Park District, an organization she has been volunteering with for nearly ten years. Her voluntary work and knowledge that she has provided the organization caused her a very honorable recognition. Jan receive a Community Service Award at a luncheon hosted by the organization on March 16, 2017. The Rockford Park District called her, “The Filer-Extraordinaire”. Her love for serving and helping in the office has brought a deep appreciation from the organizations she serves. It is awesome to see RSVP Volunteers leaving a positive influence in the community.
“I think it is a citizen’s duty to be a useful and productive volunteer in a capacity that equals your ability to an organization that can use your service. Grasp the opportunity while enjoying the work and making new friends along the way.” - Jan Merchant
Casandra Caldwell - Volunteer of the Week (June 19, 2017)
Casandra works as a Digital Literacy Instructor at the Financial Opportunity Center at Preservation of Affordable Housing’s (POAH) Woodlawn Resource Center (WRC). She works with clients who are looking for employment and greater financial stability. Many of the clients of the center, and in the Woodlawn neighborhood, are held back in these efforts by their limited digital literacy skills. Casandra works with the financial coaching and employment coaching staff to ensure that all clients—some of whom are residents of POAH’s affordable developments in Woodlawn—feel comfortable using computers in the workplace, to manage their finances, and to communicate with friends and family. For those clients who are seeking jobs, Casandra works with them to develop resumes and cover letters and practice their basic skills. Other clients, especially senior citizens, are simply eager to have a chance to learn computer skills in an accessible and welcoming environment. Casandra creates this environment by holding structured classes as well as open computer lab hours, when clients can get one-on-one assistance.
Casandra is among the most dedicated volunteers the organization has. She has been especially eager to develop new classes and ideas in response to her clients’ feedback. When she noticed that senior citizen residents seemed interested in the computer lab but hesitant to try it out, she set aside time and space for classes open to seniors only and expanded her teaching repertoire to include typing games and social media. Casandra also learned about free advanced Excel classes being offered at the YWCA and used some of her training hours to increase her own knowledge of Excel and continue building her skills. She has also served as a mentor and supporter of newer and younger AmeriCorps members in the cohort by offering to let them shadow her classes, helping them with data entry, and brainstorming new ideas for engaging clients. She is a cheerleader for the AmeriCorps team, and takes particular joy in building others’ self-confidence.
Casandra’s commitment to her clients has highlighted the importance of digital literacy to workforce development and financial stability. She has forged strong partnerships with her colleagues, including working with the financial coach to equip clients to manage their bank accounts online and supporting workforce staff by integrating Microsoft Word skills into cover letter writing.
Chandler Horrel - Volunteer of the Week (June 12, 2017)
Chandler Horrell has been a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Warren and McDonough counties since July 2016.
Chandler volunteers as a School-based mentor to a now 8 year-old girl. As a mentor, Chandler meets with her mentee once per week, at the local elementary school, for a 45-minute lunch/recess period. During those meetings, Chandler and her mentee decide together how to spend the time, but meetings through the program usually consist of lunch followed by reading and/or educational activities. All reports from Chandler, the mentee, and the mentee’s parent have been extremely positive. She is a concerned member of the Macomb community, giving of herself to help a child in need. She has reliably fulfilled her commitment of weekly meetings, and has exceeded that expectation by participating in every agency-wide extra weekend/holiday activity (facilitated by the organization) since she was matched.
When Chandler is not volunteering she works with the Big Brothers Big sister organization as an employee to recruit and match big’s and little’s, as well as manage all the cases.
Darcy O'Connor - Volunteer of the Week (June 5, 2017)
Darcy teaches 4th grade at New Holland-Middletown ESD 88 in Middletown, Illinois. This past year, she pursued (and received) a grant to purchase Christmas gifts to distribute to parents so they could provide some Christmas for their children. When she received the grant, Darcy went shopping for children’s books, clothing, blankets, and of course toys and held a Saturday morning “shop” for parents to come pick out Christmas gifts. Not only did this help ensure the children in the district received a holiday gift, but it helped the parents feel like they were providing. Additionally, it helped to solidify the role of the school as a pillar of the community.
When excessive snow and ice arrived that Saturday morning, Darcy announced a second date to be held in the evening (of a day when school was closed for Winter Break) in order to ensure that all parents that wanted to get holiday gifts were able to. While all of this was going on, Darcy was teaching 4th grade full-time, finishing a course on her Masters’ degree program, and tending to her husband who had just been diagnosed with a kidney disease. This goes above and beyond and NH-M #88 is very proud to count Darcy as a member of their learning community!
Jeremy Dukes - Volunteer of the Week (May 29, 2017)
Jeremy Dukes has been an AmeriCorps member for 2 years. He is very dedicated and loves to help others in the community. The AmeriCorps motto is getting things done, and he truly displays and carries the motto in his heart. Jeremy is a great role model to the youth in East St. Louis and loves to mentor children in the after school programs. He volunteers at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House Food pantry as a driver for the goods that we distribute throughout the community. He drives to the food banks, local stores and various food pick- ups to gather the food that is needed to provide help to the community. He does every task with a smile, and he has such a giving and caring spirit. Jeremy is studying Criminology and wishes to work with juveniles upon coursework requirements being completed. Jeremy is a great asset to Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House AmeriCorps East St. Louis!
Susan Gawura - Volunteer of the Week (May 22, 2017)
Susan Gawura has been a volunteer at Lakeview Pantry for almost 3 years, but in that short time, she has made a huge impact on the clients she serves, the volunteers she works alongside, and the staff she supports. Susan commits at least 12 hours per week during the food distribution service, for a yearly total of over 660 hours! Lakeview Pantry would not be in operation without its volunteer corps. Out of the entire corps, Susan donated the MOST time in 2016! Susan is adept at assisting in orienting and leading the crews at the Sheridan site (Lakeview Pantry’s biggest/busiest location). With over 3,000 clients walking through its doors each month, Susan's job as crew leader is no easy task, but she does it with a great attitude and a graciousness that is felt by every person with whom she comes into contact.
As a Volunteer Ambassador (a special designation given to top volunteers at the Pantry) Susan is very experienced in client services. The empathy she demonstrates when serving Lakeview’s neighbors in need is a very special quality. She has a warmth about her that immediately puts clients at ease. One of Susan's most valuable contributions to the Pantry has been her assistance in the transition from the Pantry’s old building to its new 7,500 sq. ft. building at 3945 N. Sheridan Rd. As a graduate of the University of Michigan Engineering and Business schools, Susan used her advanced critical thinking skills, helping to design the new distribution process. Susan's engineering expertise, analytical skills and her pragmatic problem solving capability were all critical factors in the successful results. She was absolutely tireless in providing the analytical support and recommendations that were so important.
This was a time intensive activity that Susan graciously volunteered to do on top of her regular food distribution responsibilities. Susan is a rare gem and Lakeview Pantry is incredibly lucky to have her on their team! Lakeview can always trust her to effectively tackle any task we throw her way. She is truly an outstanding volunteer!
Gloria Parker - Volunteer of the Week (May 15, 2017)
Gloria is a Senior Companion Program SeniorCorps volunteer. Every week Gloria visits five or six clients in their home. Gloria provides transportation where ever a client may need to go, and she also provides needed socialization to her clients. Gloria frequently takes clients to local food pantries, to doctor appointments, and even to garage sales when the weather permits!
Gloria always receives positive feedback from her clients. One client is quoted as saying, "very good companion! She is a very nice person, and a good friend". Gloria does what she can to make her clients smile. She has a rule when she takes clients in her car-they have to "car dance" with her. Her clients may think that is crazy, but in the end they have fun! Gloria is always willing to help whenever she can, she has taken clients when the Program has been in a pinch. Gloria also takes several of her clients to local food pantries, even on the weekends. Gloria is always pleasant and has a smile on her face.
Gloria's efforts with the Senior Companion Program help to keep her clients as independent as possible. By being a Senior Companion, Gloria also helps her clients to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Gloria also helps her clients by being a positive and happy person.
Curtis Rocke - Volunteer of the Week (May 8, 2017)
Curt Rocke is Woodford County’s resident communications expert. Curt helps keep the Health Department and Emergency Management Agency radios up and running using his vast knowledge as a HAM Radio Operator. At the health department and EMA, Curt has helped setup and maintain the StarCom21, IREACH, and HAM radio modules. Curt also volunteers at and speaks to Metamora Grade School on weather and other related safety issues. Curt is also active and leads the ARES Commination’s group in Woodford County.
As a member of the Woodford County Health Department Medical Reserve Corps, Curt developed a class to help educate other volunteers about generator and emergency power options and usage. Curt presented a PowerPoint and answered questions in the aftermath of the Washington Tornadoes to ensure that everyone could learn from what had happened. Curt also keeps the weather radar computers at the EOC updated and operational. Curt also is always available for any additional project’s and assignments that our needed at the Emergency Operations Center.
While assisting the Woodford County Health Department, Curt helped educate Eureka College about the dangers of not having emergency backup power anywhere on campus. He gave the college valuable information on what their first steps should be when integrating emergency generator power, and how to improve communication between faculty members after a disaster. Not only is Curt an asset to all the agencies in Woodford County, he is also a devoted family man, grand parent, and church member.
Paula Thornton - Volunteer of the Week (May 1, 2017)
Paula is a Big Sister with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Illinois, where she enjoys being a Big Sister to her little sister Mackenzie. She says MacKenzie isn’t the only one who has grown during the process. Paula has grown as well.
MacKenzie has been the family that Paula lacked in the Decatur area. MacKenzie has been there for her through big and small events in her life, and though they are not blood relatives, Paula is proud to say that she still has family here; she has a little sister!
he years, Paula has enjoyed watching Mackenzie grow from a quiet, shy pre-teen to a much more talkative, focused young woman. She says, “it blows my mind that she will be graduating this year, and going on to college. I know that she will go on to be an incredible nurse and will be able to accomplish anything she sets her mind to accomplish.”
“At first, our relationship centered around food. From making homemade chili (her recipe), to luxurious chocolate cake (my recipe), to chowing down on pizza and watching movies, we got to know each other little by little," Puala said. "MacKenzie has always been a busy girl: a three-sport athlete with good grades. I wanted to provide her with a little guidance to help bring out her inner confidence, to help her build tools to form strong relationships, and to help develop her career aspirations. We discussed the need in the medical field, and agreed nursing would be a great fit!”
Kate Beaumont - Volunteer of the Week (April 24, 2017)
Kate Beaumont, an administrative judge, volunteered with iMentor because she was looking for a structured and relationship-based way to mentor a Chicago Public School student. Since being matched with Lorneesha in October 2015, Kate has not only invested in Lorneesha’s development, but has also learned from Lorneesha.
eesha is in the culinary career program at school but surprised Kate by expressing interest in pursuing a law degree. Kate invited Lorneesha to shadow her in the courtroom, opening Lorneesha’s eyes to various career paths possible in the field of law. Using iMentor’s curriculum as a guide, Kate has worked with Lorneesha on a college and career plan that provides continued flexibility as she explores her career interests – whether they are culinary or legal.
The two have also built a strong personal relationship. Lorneesha plays volleyball and basketball and since the passing of her father, hasn’t had someone consistently rooting for her at games. Kate has attended games and competitions, cheering Lorneesha on every step of the way. While becoming a part of Lorneesha’s world, Kate has also welcomed Lorneesha to be a part of hers. When Kate got married this past summer, Lorneesha was a guest at her wedding.
Lorneesha will be the first in her family to attend college and has already been accepted to the Art Institute of Atlanta, the College of DuPage, Kennedy-King College, Northwestern Michigan College, and Robert Morris University Illinois. Kate has committed to standing in the gap and being the champion Lorneesha needs as she navigates the road to college and beyond. Kate recently shared that “while iMentor has opened Lorneesha’s eyes to things she has never considered, it has also certainly done at least that, if not more, for me.”
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor like Kate, email
iMentor to learn more.
Sharan Subramanian - Volunteer of the Week (April 17, 201
g played chess competitively all throughout middle school and high school, upon coming to the University of Chicago, Sharan’s goal was to make a difference in the South Side of Chicago through teaching and promoting chess. Hence, in 2014, he founded Invest in Chess, a chess advocacy initiative that he is working on with his peers here at the University.
Though he and his peers engage in a variety of projects, they are particularly proud of the work they’re doing in Andrew Carnegie Elementary, a Chicago Public School. To date, they have directly impacted approximately 100 children at Andrew Carnegie Elementary not only through teaching in the classrooms, but also by leading the school’s chess club, which they helped create. The Principal of Andrew Carnegie Elementary has recognized Sharan and his organization’s service and believes that his teaching has benefited the students tremendously.
Additionally, in June 2016, Sharan organized the first-ever exhibition chess tournament between two Chicago Public Schools—Andrew Carnegie Elementary and John J. Pershing Magnet School. There was a total of about 60 students in attendance from both the schools, and the children were provided with snacks and participation medals at the conclusion of the tournament. For organizing this tournament, Sharan’s organization, Invest in Chess, was recognized by the Chief Education Officer of Chicago Public Schools.
Beyond Carnegie, Sharan has spread chess in Chicago by establishing the “Rebuild Knights” Youth Chess Club at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative, and by collaborating with SocialWorks, Chance the Rapper’s nonprofit organization. To date, all the initiatives conducted through Invest in Chess have impacted approximately 400 children.
Sharan has demonstrated a commitment to positively impacting Chicago through chess, and we would be honored if you featured Sharan Subramanian, our Founder and President, in order to highlight the work that he is doing and to raise awareness of the difference he is making.
Liz Schuster - Volunteer of the Week (April 10, 2017)
Elizabeth “Liz” Schuster has been a very dedicated and loyal volunteer at Tuscola Healthcare Center for the last 18 years. She retired from working in the facility as a C.N.A., but wanted to continue to spend some time with her residents.
She comes twice a day, Monday through Friday, and once on Saturdays, to help with the activity program. Her pleasure has been and continues to be spending time with the residents. She brings joy to them daily as she assists those that need extra one-on-one help during activities, organizes the library, sews, and much more.
In 2015 Liz was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she fought her illness, she continued to come and spend time with her beloved residents even during her cancer treatments. She missed only a few days. Outside of the facility, she spends countless hours helping her neighborhood friends.
A devout catholic, Liz and her husband Bob live in Tuscola and attend Forty Martyrs Catholic church. She always says this is what keeps her going, but actually Tuscola Healthcare Center feels it is she who keeps them going!
Keith Ellis - Volunteer of the Week (April 3, 2017)
Keith Ellis has been a volunteer mentor for the Spark program in Chicago since 2016. Keith come to Spark with much enthusiasm and wisdom to share with young middle school minds. Every semester, he goes above and beyond to ensure all of the students at his workplace, United Airlines, are able to explore new skills and discover their potential to achieve big dreams! He says, "As a kid, I thought that you could be a police man, banker, fire fighter, entertainer, but was not aware of the diversity of jobs in the work force." As a Spark mentor, he works with his mentees to find a common interest, and using skills like, creativity, networking, and teamwork helps them develop a project.
Morris Anyah - Volunteer of the Week (March 27, 2017)
Every week for the past three years, Morris Anyah and Williespend time together at Kelly Hall YMCA. They spend time challenging each other to one-on-one contests on the basketball court, but more importantly Morris helps Willie with his reading comprehension, vocabulary, math, and writing skills.
Morris began mentoring Willie while he was in the eighth grade. Before Morris came into his life, Willie had his mind set on being the next basketball star and wanted to attend a high school with a good basketball team. With the guidance from his mentor and support from his mom, he began to realize that basketball was secondary to getting a good education so he selected a high school that would help strengthen him as a student. As a high school sophomore, he continues to play basketball, but he knows that he must be a good student if he wants to get in the college of his choice. He knows that good grades will lead to many college scholarships opportunities.
During their weekly meetings, Morris and Willie also make time for fun. "I play basketball with him and I always lose," said Morris, a Nigerian native, who received his law degree from the University of Dayton. "In fact, I'm awful." Willie stated, "I needed guidance in my life and Morris gives me that. He always gives me his honest opinion, and I know that he wants the best for me."
Amudha (Mudha) Venugopalan - Volunteer of the Week (March 20, 2017)
Mudha volunteers across three departments at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago (Guest Engagement, Learning Programs, and Fishes), as well as special events. Mudha has only been a Shedd volunteer for one year, but has already donated almost 700 hours, the equivalent to 88 work days, of her time to Shedd!
Whenever there is an opportunity or occasion to help, Mudha is the first to volunteer. In her short tenure as a volunteer at Shedd, Mudha has learned how to facilitate Behind the Scenes Tours, Penguin Encounters, interpret to guests on the floor, assist the Fishes department with animal care, help run not one but two summer camps for middle schoolers, and assist at a variety of special events including overnight sleep-overs! Mudha truly is a jack of all trades—Shedd knows they can count on her to learn quickly, be an enthusiastic participant, and bring a sense of wonder and curiosity to all her roles at Shedd Aquarium.
As a representative of Shedd, Mudha’s role in all these areas is to connect guests to the living world while inspiring them to make a difference. She does this by using her past (and present) skills as an educator, cast member at Disney theme parks, and musician. Mudha makes scientific facts fun, accessible, and understandable for guests of all ages thanks to her specific skill set. Her enthusiasm for the aquarium’s work is unparalleled and makes her a guest favorite. While Mudha’s first love is music, and she performs throughout the Chicagoland area, her second love is definitely Shedd Aquarium, making her an ideal volunteer.
“We know Mudha’s presence at Shedd has not only made a difference to our staff, but also to each and every guest that she comes in contact with. We are so grateful for the time and effort that Mudha donates to Shedd each and every week!”
-The Guest Engagement Department at Shedd Aquarium
Ann Hopkins - Volunteer of the Week (March 13, 2017)
Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night deters Ann Hopkins from her tutoring. A volunteer tutor since June of 2012, Ann is dedicated to tutoring at the Illinois Youth Center – St. Charles, a correctional facility for adolescent boys. She walks to and from the entrance gate to the school building, a distance of several blocks, regardless of below zero wind chills, snow or our current challenge, very aggressive geese.
Over the past year she has provided 135 hours of one-on-one tutoring and she is currently tutoring three students, coming in three times a week. She is always on time and always prepared, a coordinator’s dream. Her lesson planning is tailored to each individual youth she works with. She searches out materials and exercises based on the youth’s interests and abilities and ends each session with something fun, like dominoes or Scrabble. She participates in volunteer events and tutor exchanges and works well with other tutors and staff.
Ann provides a consistent, affirming presence to the young men she works with, something very valuable in the sometimes chaotic world of corrections. She is non-judgmental and accepts each young man at face value and treats him with kindness and respect. She makes it clear that she cares about them and encourages them to do their best and to make positive plans for the future. Her warmth and humor are very appreciated, as are the hugs she gives them at the end of each session.
In the words of one of her current students:
“I like my tutor because she is always there for me. She also makes things easier than I thought…Ann is a great tutor who really cares about learning and helping students with grades. She is the best tutor ever.”
Nate Boss - Volunteer of the Week (March 6, 2017)
Nate Boss is an AmeriCorps member with Land of Lincoln/Southern 7 AmeriCorps. When Nate isn’t serving in a local school as a tutor and mentor, or with the Boys and Girls Club as an AmeriCorps Member, he is serving his community in a number of other ways. As an active member of his church, he often volunteers to help the elderly in the community with gardening, yard work, and with taking care of animals. As if that isn’t a load, Nate also took the time to volunteer as a date! Not just any date, but as a prom date for people with special needs for the Immanuel Baptist Church Night to Shine!
A Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience for people with disabilities ages 14 and older. On Feb 10th, there were hundreds of proms held across the U.S. They are put on and funded by the Tim Tebow Foundation. Nate volunteered as a "buddy" for the prom that was held at Immanuel Baptist in Benton, Il. There were over 130 prom dates that ranged from ages 14 to 65. The night included getting their hair done for the women, and getting their shoes shined for the men. They were able to ride in a limo, and they were dropped off at the red carpet. The red carpet was lined with fans and professional photographers who cheered and shouted. Everyone ate, laughed, and danced the night away. You can ask any volunteer who was there; it was the best prom anyone had ever seen!
Nate stresses that, “Immanuel Baptist is a wonderful church filled with wonderful people, and they are very involved in the community.”
Clare VanSpeybroeck - Volunteer of the Week (February 27, 2017)
Clare VanSpeybroeck is seventeen, and a junior at Alleman High School in Rock Island, Illinois where she is a member of the National Honor Society, Foreign Language Club, Key Club, Alleman Ambassadors, and is a Student Hunger Drive Leader. Over the past year she has volunteered over 250 hours with several organizations including 4-H Teen Hunger Ambassadors, the Student Hunger Drive, TEC (Teens Encounter Christ), and the Children’s Therapy Center. Clare enjoys playing volleyball and travelling. She also works at a locally owned Hallmark store.
Clare has been active as a 4-H Teen Hunger Ambassador since the group’s inception four years ago. The teens prepare and serve free monthly meals to the hungry at the Milan, Illinois Extension and pack snack bags for food insecure children to take home from school. Clare organized all the logistics for two annual meal packaging events, which included recruiting and instructing volunteers, fundraising, writing grants, ordering the meal ingredients and supplies from Illini Fighting Hunger, and running the events. Clare plans to prepare for and host another meal event this year, and hopes to possibly continue for years to come!
Alfred Hampton - Volunteer of the Week (February 20, 2017)
Alfred Hampton has volunteered with Central Illinois Foodbank since October 2014. By volunteering at Central Illinois Foodbank Alfred is able to see a different side of the food process and enhance his interest in the work we do from start to finish. Alfred is the type of the volunteer who is willing to do whatever we need him to do. This includes, but is not limited to, painting our sort rooms, cleaning, sorting food, and picking up retail donations. We are able to rely on him to do trainings for both volunteers and staff members that include warehouse safety and food safety. Alfred has been a real attribute to our organization over the last 2 years not just from the volunteer hours he commits to, but his input and ideas on how to complete tasks.
Beyond volunteering at Central Illinois Foodbank Alfred has many hobbies, including: woodwork, working with glass, making candles and soaps, and photography. He also enjoys the retired life with his wife and dogs here in Springfield. Alfred is a one of a kind man and a one of kind volunteer with ideas on how to get people to donate more through local grocers or donating their time. I think I can speak for all of us at the foodbank when I say we appreciate all that Alfred has done and will continue to do for our organization.
Amy Stearns - Volunteer of the Week (February 13, 2017)
Amy is a volunteer at Cluster Tutoring; which, has been providing one-to-one tutoring to students from the Austin community for the past 25 years. Amy started with Cluster three years ago when she was paired with Derrick. Since then, Derrick has worked diligently with Amy and has improved three grade levels in reading.
Derrick, like many Cluster students, is energetic, curious and hard-working. Amy notes, “Many kids face challenges that interfere with learning and their motivation to work harder. My overwhelming concern for kids led me to Cluster. When we’re together, Derrick uses his tutoring time well. He’s eager to learn. We’re really making a difference.”
Amy and Derrick are just one example of the incredible relationships that Cluster has helped foster throughout our years of service and hope to continue for many more years to come.
Robin Brown - Volunteer of the Week (February 6, 2017)
Robin is a mentor at the Saving Lives, Inspiring Youth (S.L.I.Y.).
Robin has been a wonderful young adult mentor to both of her mentees (ages 12 and 13), within this cross-age peer mentoring program. Amidst her busy high school, and now college schedule, she has dedicated many hours of her own time outside of the weekly mentoring program to attend their sporting events, walk them through their dangerous neighborhood to attend after school programming, speak with their parents, and help them process difficult problems that come up in their lives.
Robin is truly dedicated to fostering their success in school and life and cares deeply for their well-being. She capitalizes upon their strengths and helps them improve on what they do not do as well in. Her mentees display a great deal of admiration and respect for Robin, and staff have noticed qualitative shifts in their behavior and attendance during mentoring. Mentees speak highly of their relationship with Robin and have worked through some tough family issues and concerns with her. Overall, Robin and her mentees maintain a strong bond that is likely to positively impact both of their lives over the long-term.
Victoria Kuzlik - Volunteer of the Week (January 30, 2017)
Victoria Kuzlik began Coats for Hope in 2015 with her father Bob Kuzlik. Victoria had received two new coats from her father and wondered what to do with her old coats; from there, her original idea grew rapidly into Coats for Hope.
In 2016 Victoria’s goal was to collect 1,500 coats and winter wear items. They had to stop counting at 5,000 items and there was a very large stack still to go. It is estimated that there were over 6,000 items. Victoria had a financial goal to raise $20,000, and in December that number stood at $8,126. Monetary donations were set to continue being received until the end of January in order to assist in reaching Victoria’s goal of $20,000.00.
Victoria desires to share her story with as many people as she can, as she and her father were previously victims of domestic violence. While sharing her story and working hard to secure donations for Coats for Hope, Victoria is also involved on the volleyball team at the middle school in Byron. She is currently team manager, attending practices daily and being with the team at all games, including the weekend tournaments. She is also a member of the student council, and even with all of her charitable drive events, including talking at different organizations at least twice a week and sometimes having to be pulled out of school for a breakfast or lunch meeting, she was still named as the academic student of the month for October and was named the student of the week for the first week of December.
If that is not enough, she acted in Byron’s Community Theater’s play of “It’s A Wonderful Life” where she was practicing 4 evenings a week from October to December, and performing 6 shows. Victoria was named Omni Student of the Year at Byron Middle School in 2015, which is voted on by the teachers, students and staff of the middle school, her first year of being at the Byron’s school. Victoria is a very busy young lady, and loves to be the spokesperson for domestic violence issues.
You can learn more about Victoria and Coats for Hope at:
http://www.coatsforhope.org. She and her father can also be reached by phone (815)677-3406 or (815)973-8512.
Imani Lewis - Volunteer of the Week (January 23, 2017)
Imani Lewis is a great mentor because she cares about the whole girl. She joined Ladies of Virtue (LOV) because she felt like she wanted to share so many of her lessons learned and help mentor young ladies in areas that we don't typically learn in school. This is her calling.
Imani is the mentor of Destinee Bronson and has mentored her for two years. Before joining LOV, Destinee had just suffered a tragic loss when her brother was sent to jail. During her first year of LOV, Destinee was rather quiet and reserved. Imani has been a positive role model in Destinee’s life. She has participated at her prom, graduation, trunk party and she visited Destinee during her first year of college. Imani goes above and beyond what LOV requires of their mentors and has truly been life changing in Destinee’s life. Imani has taught Destinee how to make good decisions, always be prepared and to stand on strong values.
Imani Lewis has been a constant figure in Destinee's life since becoming her mentor. She has displayed sincerity when it comes to Destinee. Imani helped prepare Destinee for college by asking her to send her copies of her essays for scholarships to make sure she was answering the questions correctly. She even helped prepare Destinee for scholarship interviews. Imani actually spends quality time with Destinee as well. They go shopping, out to dinner, and even have sleepovers.
Imani Lewis displays leadership qualities, and Destinee looks up to her. She sees a young woman who has a career, her own house, and a car. Imani ensures that Destinee gives back to her community by having her do community service together. I also love our Imani incorporates Destinee’s mom in mentoring as well. Imani is also family oriented and is successful. Now, Destinee is on the right path in her first year in college and she credits her success to her mentor, Imani Lewis.
Mark Floerke - Volunteer of the Week (January 16, 2017)
As a newcomer to the Chicago area Mark was interested in contributing to the local community, with no expectations and no idea how much he would get back from mentoring, or how big a difference it would make to CJ (Cornell Jr.) and those he touches.
When CJ and Mark met, they quickly found common ground in their love of food. This has remained constant in their relationship and has also been an evolution. Mark works in food ingredient application research for ADM which helped make for some interesting ideas and discussion, and CJ has tried more new things than he ever would have imagined before.
In elementary school CJ was getting a lot of C’s and even D’s, but the teachers saw that there was more to him. Not long after Mark and CJ were matched, CJ started getting straight A’s and has maintained this most of the time right through to high school as a senior including placement in honors and advance placement classes. He has been accepted by 2 colleges and also qualifies for scholarships to pursue his degree in electrical engineering.
“We’ve had a lot of adventures and good times together with so many different learning opportunities, often for the both of us, from learning to maintain and repair a bicycle to now repairing and looking after a used car to get around. He has learned to play the guitar and we play a song together by one of his favorite artists, Bruno Mars. He also enjoys volunteering with me and has joined me a couple of times help serve at the Good Samaritan Inn, as well as other events around town with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Special Olympics, and United Way.
Seeing how much he has changed over the past 7-1/2 years and the positive impact he is now having on others as well, is the biggest reward I never had anticipated to experience from this.”
Jamila Trimuel - Volunteer of the Week (January 9, 2017)
Jamila Trimuel, Founder and Executive Director of Ladies of Virtue, met her Mentee Salena Tucker during the summer of 2010. Salena, a first generation college student, was a participant of New Life Covenant Identity teen ministry where Jamila served as a Servant Leader. At the time, Salena was a Junior in high school and arrived to class fifteen minutes early. During the conversation Salena expressed to Jamila that she was having difficulty applying to college and needed help on how to navigate the process. The rest is history.
Jamila assisted Salena with her college applications, identified summer programs and gave her guidance for her career. Now, almost seven years later, Salena Tucker, is not only a college graduate from Grinnell College (class of 2016) but she is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Iowa State University.
"I recently looked at my resume and felt super proud! I feel like I wouldn't have such a great resume and other phenomenal experiences if it hadn't been for my mentor - Jamila Trimuel" Salena says of her mentor.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed mentoring Salena. I gave her the framework on how to succeed in college and in her career but she had to do the work. I am proud to say that Salena excels in every aspect of her life and not afraid to ask for help. Salena and I have become more like sisters and she was even in my wedding! Mentoring is about walking life on life with our youth through the good and challenging times. I am proud to be a mentor." - Jamila Trimuel.
email Jamila Trimuel for more information about Ladies of Virtue and to learn more about becoming a mentor.
Michael May - Volunteer of the Week (January 2, 2017)
Michael May is an active mentor and board member at the Springfield non-profit known as the Outlet. He has been part of The Outlet for over 12 years, and has been a key member of the organization from the beginning.
Mike desires to see young men reach their potential and to see Springfield thriving with mentors who are giving back.
The Outlet is thankful that Michael has plugged in, and continues to be a valuable asset to all that they hope to accomplish in the lives of youth in Springfield.
Marianne Marlow - Volunteer of the Week (December 26, 2016)
“When I see someone from work and they ask me how my retirement is going, maybe they expect me to say that I'm taking exotic trips around the world, but that is not who I am and it never was,” says Marianne Marlow of Rockford. “My passion is to help improve students’ reading achievement and lay a strong foundation for their success in school and in life.”
Marlow began volunteering when she retired in 2012 from the Winnebago County Health Department. Marlow volunteers through multiple organizations to improve literacy in Rockford. “I will be reading to children at Rolling Green School and I help Ann Holliday, a kindergarten teacher, with her class of 28 or so students. Also, through the United Way’s I-READ Program, I work with four students at Whitehead Elementary School—two first graders, one second grader, and a kindergartner. This year, for the first time, I will be at Haskell Elementary School working with a first grade refugee child whom I worked with at Rolling Green last year.”
The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) recognized Marlow’s community efforts by recognizing her as an outstanding volunteer in 2015. Her story has been featured in local media, including the Rockford Register-Star. Marlow has experience with readers of all ages, including those learning English as a second language. She volunteers approximately six hours a week and in addition to her time, she donates books and money to support area programs.
Scott Hildebrand - Volunteer of the Week (December 19, 2016)
Scott Hildebrand is a retiree from the Illinois Department of Corrections, and each Christmas Scott goes above and beyond to decorate his house in Moline. This year he has put out more than 150 inflatable decorations, including a 32.9 foot tall Santa which is 25 feet taller than his house! Each year he tries to add more and spread Christmas cheer! This year he even had to borrow some of his neighbor’s yard!
As if the display isn’t amazing on its own, Scott uses the attraction to raise funds and canned goods to be donated!
This past weekend, the Tabernacle youth group offered hot cider and raised $200. This Christmas Eve cider will be offered again to add to the total to be donated to Grow Ministries in Cambridge, Illinois.
Each Christmas Eve Scott has Santa, Joe Swank, a retired sheet metal worker, and his elf Jake Eastburn, who is an Executive Producer of the Paula Sands Live show on KWQC Channel 6 in Davenport, volunteer at Scott’s house where people can come enjoy the decorations and bring a canned good donation. Last year there were over 900 cans collected. This year with over 1200 canned goods collected already, the goal is to have 1500 cans by the end of Christmas day that will be disbursed through the Tabernacle Baptist church food pantry.
Freddie Thomas - Volunteer of the Week (December 12, 2016)
Freddie, like most people, began volunteering at Bolingbrook High School after being asked. Both she and her husband Robert have engrossed themselves into giving back to the community. In her 28 year residency in Bolingbrook her youngest daughter was a graduate of the high school and currently four of her grandchildren attend. The F.A.N.S.S program allows the now retired Freddie to give back to the kids in the community. She spends about two hours each week in the cafeteria, where she says she spends her time trying to encourage students and talk with them to let them know she cares. Freddie says she enjoys giving back to the children, and looks forward to coming each week. It makes her feel good, and she knows the kids appreciate the program.
Volunteering with F.A.N.S.S. is not the only volunteering Freddie does. She is also active in The Progressives-Harambe, Inc., a community-based non-profit women’s organization dedicated to helping children educationally, culturally, socially and emotionally. In emergency situations this non-profit also provides support to families in crisis.
Freddie is strong believer that in order to make communities better you have to give back. She hopes other residents will do the same!
Lindy Rubin - Volunteer of the Week (December 5, 2016)
Lindy Rubin has been bringing art appreciation to young children at the Child Care Center of Evanston for over 15 years. At the beginning of each year she and the teachers sit down and choose great works of art for the children to learn from. Lindy comes monthly and talks about the artist and their work and the teachers have projects for the children based on the style of the artist. The discussions with the children expand knowledge and increase vocabulary. Ms. Rubin also shares her collection of beaded love letters and costume pieces from South Africa. The ‘Reading Art” program culminates in a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago where Lindy shows the children the artwork in situ. Other visitors at the Institute listen to our 3, 4 and 5 year olds children discuss pointillism in front of ‘Sunday in the Park” and the brush strokes in Van Gogh’s Bedroom.
Lindy visits other Centers in Evanston and several CPS schools with her program; she believes strongly that children should be exposed to beautiful art at an early age. She is always upbeat and interested in what the children have to say about the artwork. Without Ms Rubin’s dedication and volunteerism we would not be able to have this wonder enrichment program, we are very grateful and look forward to next year’s choice of artists.
George A. Pempek - Unites States Army Veteran - Volunteer of the Week (November 28, 2016)
George A. Pempek began his service at the young age of 17, serving in both World War II and the Korean War, also serving tours in Germany and continuing in the United States. Mr. Pempek earned numerous awards and decorations for his service, including the Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal with 5 campaign stars (1950-1951), United Nations Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal (6th Award), Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant, National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Presidential Unit Citation, Academic Commendation, and Letter of Commendation.
After serving his country in the military, George Pempek has been dedicated to serving other veterans and his community for many years. His selfless service consists of lifetime membership with the Catholic War Veterans where he has served as Treasurer and State Adjutant; member of the Korean War Veterans and serving as the Treasurer; member of the World War II Illinois Veterans Memorial Committee; member and delegate to the Illinois Combined Veterans Association where he served as Commander from 2001-2002 and was selected as “Person of the Year” in 2007; delegate to the Inter Veterans’ Council; delegate to Veterans Assistance Commission; longtime member of the Illinois State Fair Veterans’ Day Committee; past member of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Veterans’ Day at the State Fair Committee; and past member of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Veteran Advisory Council.
Recently, Mr. Pempek became the recipient of the Patriotic Volunteer and Appreciation Award presented to him by the Department of Veteran Affairs. This award highlights and honors the work of Illinois veterans whose contributions in service to the veteran community and their local communities are truly above and beyond. You can learn more about honoring veterans at Illinois.gov/veterans.
Leslie Rodriguez - United State Navy Reservices - Volunteer of the Week (November 21, 2016)
Leslie Rodriguez, a Chicago native, is a combat veteran of Afghanistan with eight years of service in the United States Navy Reserves as a Builder in the Construction Engineering Corps. As a Naval Seabee she excelled in project management and vertical construction for large infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. She is currently utilizing her Post-9/11 GI Bill pursuing her BA in Human Resource Management. Leslie offers a broad skillset and has a strong desire to help veterans and their families. She left her previous employment as a Corporate Veteran Career Counselor for Walmart's Veteran employment initiative joining Leave No Veteran Behind as their Chief of Staff. She is leveraging her skills to empower veterans through education and employment so that they can solve our nation's most pressing issues.
Read a letter about Leslie’s Volunteer Service below!
I am honored to have the opportunity to write to you regarding Leslie Rodriguez. Leslie Rodriguez serves as a Medical Sexual Assault Advocate for the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Parks Francis Center and has excelled as a volunteer in our organization. Leslie completed the 40 Hour training with our Sexual Assault Program in December 2016 and has been a very active volunteer since that time. As a volunteer medical advocate volunteers are required to cover two twelve hour shifts per month to meet and assist victims of sexual assault in the emergency rooms of hospitals in our community. Leslie has exceeded that by taking additional shifts when needed. Providing medical advocacy services is difficult work and Leslie has proven herself to be more than capable exceeding every challenge she has faced. Beyond these attributes, Leslie has an amazing passion to advocate for every victim of sexual assault she encounters. She has a genuine caring heart and a conviction for justice, by nature that most people don’t have by practice. She fights for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves, and she does this with integrity every time. Leslie has advocated for a child victim in the middle of the night, helped a stranger in need on the side of the road and then traveled to a second hospital to help another victim of sexual assault all within a 12 hour shift. Leslie is one of those volunteers that make me want to be better. I excel because of our volunteers and their commitments and Leslie is a volunteer that leads the pack. I am blessed to know, and serve, with her.
Jim Niksch - Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army Reserves (Retired) - Volunteer of the Week (November 14, 2016)
Jim Niksch, age 78, is a retired banker and is a graduate of Southern Illinois University. He served 9 years in the U. S. Army Reserve attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class.
In 2010, Niksch attended the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency basic and advanced gravestone restoration courses in order to be a volunteer gravestone worker. Since then he, Joe Hawker and other volunteers have restored about 1200 gravestones in 11 old cemeteries. Most of the old stones were of marble and ranged in size and type from small “infant” to large pedestals which contained several pieces. They were typical of stones common in the 1800s to early 1900s.
The larger stones too heavy for two men to handle were lifted by a tractor using nylon straps to avoid metal to stone contact. Most stones required that foundations had to be removed and were replaced with a crushed limestone material called “road pack”. Prior to resetting, the stones were cleaned with an ammonia and water solution.
Jim, and his friend Joe Hawker, who is a Veteran of both the Navy and Air Force for a total of 8 years of service have now “retired” from grave stone restoration.
Lou Vargas - Vietnam Veteran (1966-1968) - Volunteer of the Week (November 7, 2016)
After fighting to receive his benefits Lou Vargas has made it his mission to help other Veterans receive the benefits and help they deserve. He has since implemented a program at the VFW. His Top Notch Service Officer comes to the VFW on a weekly basis to help veterans in the community get all their deserved benefits. Thanks to this program, veterans are getting help to receive their benefits, without this many veterans would not know where to begin. Lou has been helping to provide this service for more than three years.
Helping veterans navigate the path to their benefits is only one of the many hats Lou Vargas wears as a volunteer. Previously he has served as the commander of the VFW post 9545 in New Lenox, IL. Lou also served as Senior Vice Chairman of Will County VAC, where he received the award for Prestigious Chairman in 2010. Currently Lou serves as Commander of the Stone City Post 2199 VFW, is the Judge advocate for the district 18 VFW, has begun his 11th year as Commander of the Disabled American Veterans of Will County 103, and is the Northern 12th district commander of the DAV.
Lou Vargas doesn’t stop there, he also spends time visiting veterans at the hospital and nursing home. He visits a neighbor veteran who is living with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma twice a week, and offers assistance to him and his family. Lou participates in community service efforts, and helps his neighbors with tasks such as shoveling snow free of charge.
A 94 year old Gold Star Mother who lives in Lou’s neighborhood had a son who was sent to Vietnam when Lou returned. He promised to help the soldier’s mother any way he could. The son was killed in Vietnam in 1968. Lou runs her to doctor appointments, the grocery store, and assists with any other needs she may have. When he discovered that she never received the Gold star from the Marine Corps after her son’s death, Lou took it upon himself to make sure she received it. Lou ensures that he keeps his promise to her son to take care of his mother any way he can.
Lou has been the recipient of the State of Illinois Veteran of the month award for July 2011. He tries to visit Capitol Hill every year to fight for veterans rights. He also makes sure to visit Illinois state senators and representatives to fight for Veterans.
Lou is the true definition of a Veteran Serving Veterans.
Claudia Nelson - Volunteer of the Week (October 31, 2016)
Claudia Nelson is no stranger to volunteerism. For the past 8 years, she has been a Project VITAL volunteer tutor to numerous adults who are learning English as a second, third, or fourth language. She currently meets with 14 students one-to-one at the local library who are from various countries including: Mexico, Poland, Brazil, Jordan, Czech Republic, and Korea. Claudia has dedicated hundreds of hours of volunteer service just in this past year alone.
She comes with much knowledge and experience. Claudia has her Master’s Degree in teaching English as a Second Language. She also lived overseas for 7 years, teaching English in Bratislava, Slovakia. She returns there once a year to lead workshops for the teacher orientation. Claudia’s skills, experience, and compassionate heart help her to have much success with her English language learners.
Claudia says, “My favorite part about being a volunteer ESL tutor is that I get to see how their progress in their English language skills makes a positive impact on their daily lives in their work and leisure time.” Claudia’s students and the VITAL staff are very thankful for her dedication to helping English language learners achieve their goals.
Sheryn Strauss - Volunteer of the Week (October 24, 2016)
Sheryn Strauss has been a volunteer with the Shawnee Alliance Volunteer Money Management Program since 1997.
During Sheryn’s 19 years of volunteer service she has provided assistance to low-income older adults with money management tasks such as: managing income and expenses, writing checks to pay bills, balancing and reconciling bank statements. This unique role as a volunteer has allowed these older adults Sheryn has assisted to remain independent in their own homes.
Sheryn has always been willing to work with challenging situations. Sheryn strives to assist and meet the needs of the clients. Sheryn provides home visits to clients to deliver spending money and food money. She would also shop for the clients if needed. Sheryn will always take the time to visit with her client and inquire about the needs of her client to refer for services in the community if needed. Sheryn makes deliveries to provider agencies so clients have money for food and personal needs.
When asked how she felt about her volunteer experience Sheryn stated “Volunteering has allowed me to meet and assist some very interesting people through the years. I have enjoyed listening to their stories and being available to provide support to those who have no family or support system in their lives. I feel I developed good relationships with the clients I have assisted in the Volunteer Money Management Program.”
Akilah Davis - Volunteer of the Week (October 17, 2016)
This week’s volunteer of the week is a special addition!
Akilah Davis works early mornings for WICS-TV News channel 20, and the Good Day Illinois broadcast reporting some of the biggest stories to viewers across Illinois.
When she isn’t reporting the news, Akilah spends time giving back to the community in any way she can. Since coming to Springfield from the Quad Cities she has become a Volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois and continues to share her time with the children there.
As if volunteering her time to children isn’t impressive enough Akilah also finds time to emcee important events across the community. Lucky for us here at Serve Illinois we have had the privilege of having Akilah volunteer her time and emcee for our Recognition Day event for the past two years. Having her take the time to recognize National Service members, bring added recognition to our event, and genuinely care about volunteerism efforts is a beautiful thing. We can’t thank her enough!
Stan and Lois Clark - Volunteers of the Week (October 3, 2016)
When it comes to commitment, Stan and Lois Clark are the experts. They have been committed to each other since meeting as children and have since committed their lives to service. Stan and Lois first met in Kentucky as children and they were both involved in Scouts, raising two daughters who earned the Gold Award and a son who earned his Eagle Scout. Stan is an Air Force veteran and Lois continues to work as a nurse. They moved from Kentucky to various locations abroad and then settled in Trenton, Illinois.
They both volunteered with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as they raised their children and continue to volunteer with Girl Scouts today. Combined, they have nearly 100 years of volunteering experience! Some of Stan’s previous positions include Co-Leader, Council Facilitator, Canoe Instructor, Camp Director in Greece, Training Coordinator, Registrar, Cookie Cupboard Manager, Troop Cookie Manager, and Troop Organizer Consultant as well as serving on the Board of Directors. Lois has also held many positions including Troop Leader, Neighborhood Chair, Cookie Chair, First Aider, Training Coordinator, Council Facilitator, Town Organizer, and Cookie Committee Chair as well as serving on the Board of Directors.
Perhaps the volunteer role they are most passionate about has been serving as Red Cross instructors for First Aid/CPR/AED courses benefiting Girl Scouts and the local community. They give their time to maintain their certification and to provide courses as needed. If someone needs a course, Stan and Lois will work to find a time a location to make it happen. The impact Stan and Lois have made is not through one of the titles they have held over the years, but by the wonderful example of leadership and service they have shown to countless children and adults.
Stan and Lois Clark have both received the Girl Scouts of the USA Thanks Badge II Award which is the highest adult award.
Marian Gionnette - Volunteer of the Week (September 12, 2016)
Marian has been a volunteer at Crisis Nursery in Urbana for about 10 years. There she helps the staff provide direct child care for families who experiencing a crisis situation.
Marian is credited for being a reliable source of help for the Crisis Nursery. She comes in for extra shifts when needed, and always has a smile on her face! Thanks to Marian the Crisis Nursery has been able to provide services to more families.
She is loved by employees, and other volunteers. Marian is always willing to rock a child, read them a story, make a lunch, and just do whatever needs to be done.
Marian has been a valued volunteer for the Crisis Nursery team. She is dedicated to their mission of preventing child abuse and neglect. The staff is very thankful for her service and dedication to children!
Eric Smith - Volunteer of the Week (September 9, 2016)
“Eric Smith has been and continues to be a monumental part in the growing success of Special Olympics, IL and continues to go above and beyond in his community and in our organization to serve Special Olympics, IL athletes.”
-Lynde Pavich, Area Director for Special Olympics Illinois Area 17/Sangamon
Eric Smith is the former Chief of Police for the Sherman Police Department. In addition to serving his community through law enforcement, Eric has served as a volunteer for the Special Olympics for 11 years. He also serves as the Director for the Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), is an organizer for the Texas Roadhouse Benefit Lunch, and the Springfield Dunkin’ Doughnuts Cop on Rooftop event. Thanks to Eric’s leadership the fundraising for the LETR reached tremendous heights, with $3 Million raised in 2013 and $4 Million reached in 2015.
Eric’s reach spans globally for the Special Olympics’, not just Illinois. In 2015 Eric traveled to Los Angeles to be the LETR Final Leg Runner for the World Games. He couldn’t quite explain the greatness of the experience as he carried the flame of hope through California for two weeks.
Smith, his wife, and daughter all enjoy the rewarding experience of being volunteers for the Special Olympics. His daughter has become a part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run in Kansas! Eric says that volunteering for the Special Olympics has been one of the most rewarding things his family could be a part of.
Special Olympics Illinois is grateful to have him and his continuing dedication.
Mary Cole - Volunteer of the Week (August 29, 2016)
Mary Cole is credited for making a huge impact behind the scenes of the North Morgan County Water Co-op since 1998. When it was revealed that 84.3% of wells in Northern Morgan County were contaminated a serious threat to the health and well-being of those citizens were at stake. Mary, whose husband is on the board of the Co-op, became the point person for the Co-ops members. She handles many of the duties that help make the co-op successful. Mary travels eight hours along the 100 miles of water lines to read the meters; handles the billing and phone calls, and has become well acquainted with the families involved.
Thanks to Mary’s involvement the co-op has been able to address a critical health issue and has secured over 5 million dollars in funding to do so. She has helped to grow partnerships with many communities and organizations. The co-op has been able to work with most of the towns and villages in the area including Jacksonville, Ashland, Virginia, Literberry, Arcadia, and Concord. The Co-ops waterline has even been able to be extended to provide water to the entire village of Arenzville. There are workings in place to connect Virginia as an alternate source of water for Jacksonville in the case of flooding.
Mary’s tireless efforts and support to the North Morgan Water Co-op has allowed the board to focus on building over 100 miles of an interconnected water system that has multiple water sources. There are also workings in place to extend it even further and include more rural families. This system will allow hundreds of families to have a healthy sustainable water source for many years to come. Mary is continually looking for ways to enhance the system in place, and make the paperwork system more efficient as she continues to serve the Co-op.
Madeline Webber - Volunteer of the Week (August 22, 2016)
Madeline Webber is a junior majoring in Social Work at Western Illinois University. She recently made headlines for her service to Loaves and Fishes in Naperville, Illinois.
Madeline is the youngest of five daughters, and when she was younger she remembers having benefited from the services of Loaves and Fishes. Madeline says she had begun volunteer hours at her school Health office but needed a place to continue during the summer. Her first thought was Loaves and Fishes. She had never forgotten the help her family received from them when she was younger, and she has always remained grateful. She believed there was no better place to dedicate her time than the place that had served her and her family years ago.
Madeline says her experience was fun, the atmosphere was very welcoming, and that the people were so happy. She plans to do more volunteer work in the future, and hopes to further her experience in Social Work in Colorado after graduation. She isn’t sure where she wants to focus her degree exactly but she hopes to help those with addictions, or in a hospital or school setting.
Hilda Marshall - Volunteer of the Week (August 15, 2016)
They say the most common reason people volunteer is because they are asked. For Hilda Marshall, being asked turned into 19 years!
In 1996 Hilda's son was attending a summer program at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago when she was asked to volunteer as a mentor for Y-pals. What started as a one year commitment working with at risk youth became 19 years of helping young women to become successful.
Hilda’s duties as a mentor have been to focus on helping improve education and literacy. She helps students prepare for college, improve attendance rates, and improve their grades. Yet she tries to ensure there is fun to be had as well. Each year she and her mentees embark on an educational road trip.
Hilda says, “if you give your time to someone or something else, it will be you who receives the most in return.” She maintains many of the relationships she has formed with the young women she has mentored, all the way back to her very first mentee 19 years ago!
Last December Hilda received the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund Year of the Volunteer Award. With that she was presented with a donation of $1000 for the organization she volunteers with.
Hilda is now in charge of the mentoring program at the YMCA she serves, but she continues to personally mentor youth.
Daniel Olivieri - Volunteer of the Week (August 8, 2016)
At the age of 18 Daniel began volunteering with the American Red Cross in Chicago. The summer before beginning his freshman year of college Daniel became the main point person for the American Red Cross Youth Clubs. The Chicago area had about fifteen clubs at the time, and some were at risk of deactivating. Daniel took the lead and set out to make sure all clubs were registered, active, and had projects for the year. He also helped to open clubs in three new schools.
Daniel continues to work closely with club leadership to ensure the clubs are sustaining from his dorm room in Indiana, and visits whenever he is in the area. Thanks to his creative efforts, two new youth club activities, a Youth Leadership Conference and a Bone Marrow initiative, were initiated.
Currently Daniel has been active in international volunteering. In March he visited Havana Cuba to conduct a research grant on access to healthcare polyclinics in urban areas of Havana. He is active in Timmy Global Health, a non-profit that works to expand access to quality healthcare and empowers volunteers and students to tackle global health challenges. In addition to those, Daniel also volunteers his time to Camp Kesem; a camp aimed to help children affected by cancer at Notre Dame. Daniel maintains a busy schedule, but is always willing to help in any way he can.
Elizabeth Einig - Volunteer of the Week (August 1, 2016)
Elizabeth, a senior from James B. Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, is a mental health advocate for teens. Her own struggles with depression led her to shine a spotlight on the need to help others. To fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage outreach, Elizabeth produced a video and spoke at a gala to help raise $140,000 for a Libertyville counseling center. She has also spearheaded the establishment of a mental health awareness day at Conant that is on its way to becoming an annual week-long event.
In addition, Elizabeth is co-president of the Schaumburg Township Coalition for Positive Youth Development Youth Advisory Council. In this role, she works to promote healthy behaviors, decrease risk factors and improve the quality of life for youth. She serves on the data committee to analyze youth substance use trends in District 211, identify root causes behind the trends and brainstorm ways to address issues. She helps organize events for at-risk teens such as a benefit for pregnant and parenting teens and an instrument drive. She led mental health discussions with over 100 high school students in partnership with the Kennedy Forum and Chicago Community Trust, and facilitated a community Town Hall about teen substance use. This summer she was one of two representatives from Schaumburg to attend the Communities Anti-Drug Coalitions of America training for youth-led civic change.
Elizabeth also volunteers with seniors at Friendship Village, pediatric patients at Alexian Brothers, and reads to local elementary students. She’s a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, Cook County Sheriff’s Youth Service Medal of Honor, Village of Schaumburg Youth Volunteer of the Year and has earned the Girl Scout Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. Elizabeth’s passion for volunteering comes from a belief that we’re all connected. Helping someone in need makes all of us stronger.
JC Kids' Lunch Bunch - Volunteer of the Week (July 25, 2016)
This week’s volunteer of the week is a group from Johnston City, IL known as the JC Kids’ Lunch Bunch. This isn’t your average summer lunch program! For the last seven years Johnston City’s Free Will Baptist Church has hosted the summer lunch program. Kids’ and their parents or care providers are able to attend and enjoy a free meal. Thanks to the USDA lunch is served, but kids don’t just have to eat and go home! After the meal the children are engaged in a multitude of activities from bounce houses, musical entertainment, or a fire truck “hose down” to name just a few.
Throughout the week JC Kids’ Lunch Bunch can serve up to as many as 75 children. This wouldn’t be possible without the help of wonderful volunteers. The JC Kids’ Lunch Bunch is all made possible by 100 percent volunteer effort. Each day there are about 15 to 20 volunteers that help serve meals and facilitate activities.
The program runs every day beginning at 11:30 A.M. this month will mark the end of the program until next summer! You can see some of the fun that happens on their Facebook page JC Kids’ Lunch Bunch!
Kayleen Shaw - Volunteer of the Week (July 18, 2016)
Kayleen is in her second year as an AmeriCorps member. She currently serves at Career Connections, sponsored by the YWCA of the Sauk Valley where she assists clients with resume writing, job search, and interviewing. In addition to preparing clients with those endeavors, Kayleen serves in the YWCA’s Career Closet boutique. There she has utilized the skills she learned at Maurice’s clothing store to transform the boutique into a place where women would want to shop. She inventoried all the clothing, sorted by type and size, and then staged the store by putting complete outfits together strategically placed with jewelry and handbags. She even enlisted the help of her mother and grandmother to assist with the endeavor.
Thanks to Kayleen’s mention to Maurice’s staff about the shortage of larger size professional clothing Maurice’s now offers a discount on purchases for every clothing item donated to benefit the boutique. Kayleen’s site supervisor says “She went above and beyond”. The Career Connections Boutique has been transformed into a place where women can shop for career clothes (free of charge) and feel confident in their appearance for their interview, and ultimately starting a new job. The YWCA and ABC AmeriCorps are ecstatic about Kayleen’s worthwhile efforts.
Benny Skelton - Volunteer of the Week (July 11, 2016)
“He uses his gift of unconditional love and understanding to make things easier for those at his site”
Benny Skelton served four terms as an AmeriCorps member at Light the way in Metropolis Illinois. During his service Benny worked as a handyman, and transported clients for trips. Though he was only a part time member, Benny often worked extra hours each day. He was a leader in AmeriCorps, and never missed an opportunity to continue training and help other members. During his service there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t try. Without his efforts many things at the Haven House wouldn’t have been able to take place or be completed. His service at the Haven House made the clients feel comfortable and safe.
Benny’s time as an AmeriCorps member has ended, but he still continues to serve in any way he can. He works hard to make sure Light the Way is a quality place to live for all residents. His continued service and dedication to Light the Way is an example of someone who lives a life of service.
Rachel Baraks - Volunteer of the Week (July 4, 2016)
Rachel Baraks is a long time Quad cities resident who has been making a difference in children’s lives through service. While working on her Masters in Counselor Education, Rachel has been making an impact in a Moline preschool classroom. At Skip-a-Long Child Development Services - Moline Campus, Rachel works with children between the ages of 3 and 5 who are at risk of failure in kindergarten. Since consistency is vital to success for many of these children, Rachel has served two consecutive years in the same class room. Rachel has now become an “integral part of the classroom”. Her implementation of teacher planned activities, reading to students, and various other activities and projects of her own have earned her respect from the classroom teachers.
Rachel has earned the confidence of her students, and has helped them make wonderful strides towards success in literacy. After Rachel’s first year in the classroom almost all the students met Illinois Early Learning Standards for literacy. When she began most students only met 50%, if any of the categories for literacy. Thanks to Rachel’s dedication in the classroom many of the children she worked with were able to move on to kindergarten. Remaining students in the classroom have still been able to benefit from Rachel’s presence and activities.
In addition to Rachel’s success in the classroom, she has become the driving force of the Literacy in the Garden Program at the Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, Illinois. There Rachel has spent summers reading nature themed books, and conducting developmental activities for children who visit the garden center. She has also served many community service hours participating in events to enhance literacy in the Quad Cities.
Katie Dunbar - Volunteer of the Week (June 27, 2016)
“Katie is an amazing 8th grader that came to me with an idea for a student led anti bullying group as a 7th grader. The group has now grown to have a worldwide influence and impact, and it helps define the culture of our school.”
– Nick Sutton, Lombard Principal
Katie Dunbar is an eighth grader on a mission to make her community a better place. In 2014, when she was a seventh grader she sought out to help other students throughout her school. She took the initiative to found the Take a stand club after receiving the go ahead from school administration. She then mapped out the frame work, sought out sponsors, and created goals for the clubs future. The Take a stand Club encourages students to seek out a Take a Stand member when they need someone to talk to, or are struggling with something at home or school.
Katie’s efforts have been recognized throughout Lombard Middle School where Katie attends the eighth grade. She has even earned recognition from Galesburg’s Mayor and became the recipient of the City of Galesburg Youth Extra Effort Award. This award is given to youth working to make their community a better place.
Founding the Take A Stand Club also earned Katie Global recognition. She was nominated for the Global Random Acts Organization Caught in the Act Award. This award which had Sixty-seven people nominated all the over the world was earned by Katie. She was surprised with the news at a school assembly! Lombard Middle School is very proud of her efforts and all she has accomplished for the school.
More information about the Take a Stand Club can be found at the Take A Stand Website.
Vinona Summers - Volunteer of the Week (June 20, 2016)
“Mrs. Summers is very active helping out in the 006th District and the community”- Officers Oates and Daily
Vinona Summers was requested to be Our Serve IL Volunteer of the week by two police officers of the Chicago PD. 006th District of Community Alternative Policing (CAPS). Tim Oates and Rasah Daily wanted to ensure Vinona was recognized for her amazing dedication to their district and community.
Each summer the 006th District has an annual event for fallen police officers called “Peace in the Park after Dark". During this event 50-60 children from the community are engaged in a camping experience by sleeping in tents overnight in a park. The CAPS office starts preparing for this event in January. Mrs. Summers spends countless hours and organizes activities for this event from start to finish. She is vital in helping the CAPS office recruit children, secure donors, and plan activities. The 006th District Caps Office wanted to give recognition to Mrs. Vinona Summer’s because “she is an outstanding example of giving back to the community”.
Jacob Martin - Volunteer of the Week (June 13, 2016)
Jacob Martin joined AmeriCorps in August of 2015 as a multi-subject tutor with Belleville AmeriCorps. Jacob continues to go above and beyond as an AmeriCorps member. During site visits and member reviews, Belleville staff has received countless positive remarks about his service.
For example, one of Jacob’s supervising teachers said the following, “Jacob has established positive relationships with both students and adults. He is passionate about working with children. He gets excited about influencing students’ lives and understands the impact he has on the students”.
Another moving example of Jacob's work was from an email sent from the Superintendent of the school district he serves. She stated, “The AmeriCorps member we have at Ellis school is saving a child. He is assigned to touch base with a little kindergartner on a regular basis and if it weren't for their relationship, the kindergartner would probably have to be placed elsewhere. He is golden”.
Jacob continues to impress us with his gifts and talents. We know he will leave his mark at his service site and the program. The Belleville staff is looking forward to the rest of his term of service with AmeriCorps!
Mary Wiesbrock - Volunteer of the Week (June 6, 2016)
To volunteer is a gift to self
"Volunteering is good for the soul
Making the body seem more whole!
Go to a school, help the little ones
Learn to read and do their sums!
Go to your church, always something to do
Even if only to sit in a pew!
Help to clean, raise some money
Their expenses are really crummy!
Rewarding experience, a nursing home
Help to feed, read a poem!
Help to feed, read a poem!
Start some games, write a letter
Your being there makes them feel better!
Or to the hospital, visit the sick
Join the Auxiliary, take your pick
Of the many services they offer too
Every patient and to you!
Hold a hand, say a prayer
They appreciate your being there!
In our young people the future rests
Lead them well to do their best!"
At age 91, Mary says it is hard to pinpoint a time when she wasn’t volunteering. When she discovered that her hometown of Streator was in need of volunteers she felt she could inspire others with a poem on volunteering. Her poem, "To Volunteer is a Gift to Self", was published in the local paper.
Living in Streator her entire life Mary raised four children who all attended Eagle Grade School. There she became President of Eagle Grade School PTA. Her involvement allowed her to spend many hours helping at fairs, drama programs, and various other activities. She also became a member of the Streatorette’s 4-H club.
In 2003, Mary recalls her first non- school volunteering experience at her Church. Her dedication to service earned her the Pere Marquette Award from the Diocese of Peoria. Along with service to her church, Mary and her husband were caretakers for the Lost Land Cemetery Association. After being a Certified Nurse’s Aide for 18 years at St. Mary’s Hospital she served on the Auxiliary board for five years. For twenty years she volunteered in the Hospice program of the hospital, where she offered company and comfort to patients. She also aided in distributing food to the community with the Shared Foods of Central Illinois for ten years.
Today Mary continues to serve wherever she can. She currently bakes and serves lunch every other month for the Knights of Columbus council 790, continues to serve at her church, makes holiday breads with another church in the community, and continues to provide care for others by driving them to appointments, delivering groceries, and anything else they may need.
Mary says she wouldn’t trade the friends she has made or the things she helped accomplish through volunteering for anything.
Ann Hyler - Volunteer of the Week (May 30, 2016)
“Every day she volunteers with the food bank she helps more families in need and we are in debt to her service as a community.”-Abby Johnson
Ann joyfully joined the Skills-Based Volunteer program at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in 2015, and has volunteered over 112 hours thus far to help solve hunger in Northern Illinois. She works specifically with the SNAP Volunteer Team, also known as Food Stamp Assistance team, where she tirelessly works to ensure all people who reach out in need of assistance have everything they need to be at peace.
Although she was only trained to help community members apply for SNAP she doesn’t stop there. She listens to all of their needs, and works hard to connect her clients with other resources in their particular area. Because no one is just hungry, Ann connects her clients with other resources including; housing assistance, transportation, and prenatal care just to name a few.
Ann has also volunteered in the warehouse where she helps to pack, sort, and label food products that are sent out to the local pantries in a 13 county service area. She has also assisted the Northern IL Food Bank in reaching local seniors who are in need of food assistance.
Ann is a joy to the Northern IL Food Bank staff. She participates with a team of seven SNAP volunteers who have helped feed hundreds of families in Illinois, and continues to do more and more for the community!
Dominique Wilson - Volunteer of the Week (May 23, 2016)
Dominique Wilson, is a senior at the University of Illinois - Springfield majoring in Communications. Currently he sits as the Springfield campus Student Trustee for the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Dominique says he is a true believer that no matter who you are, you can make a difference.
In 2014, Dominque received a grant that allowed him to travel to The Gambia, Africa. Thanks to a surplus of money from his grant Dominique was able to donate additional resources to a school there. The money went toward a pavilion named in honor of Dominique that will house school events. Though he was there for educational purposes, he soon became inspired by a young boy. The boy reminded him of himself when he was young by saying to Dominique, “I want an education.” Dominique remembers saying something similar growing up in Chicago. He now has committed to funding the education of that boy and his little brother for the next five years. He hopes to continue until they finish college. One of Dominique’s biggest goals is to return to The Gambia to visit the boys he sponsors and offer any other services he can.
Dominique continues to remain active with community organizing and is currently active with many other volunteer opportunities. He is a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and when time allows he enjoys serving with Habitat for Humanity and any other opportunity that may arise.
Set to graduate in May, Dominique plans to complete the LSAT for Commercial Real-Estate. He is considering the next steps in his education in Law, Public Health, or Non-Profit Development.
Sara Stoneski - Volunteer of the Week (May 16, 2016)
Sara is a full-time AmeriCorps member serving her second year at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge through Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps out of Rend Lake College. Sara is extremely dedicated. She had a late start to the program last year after filling a spot for Land of Lincoln after someone left the position early. Even though she started months after everyone else, she completed a full-time volunteer placement in the program, and now, she is at it again. Sara puts in long hours when necessary, but even with all of that work, she always has a great attitude and smile on her face. She is a great asset to the Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps program and the community she serves.
Kenneth Jennings - Volunteer of the Week (May 9, 2016)
Kenneth Jennings is a man who doesn’t like to remain in one place for very long. Instead, he has made it his mission to be out in his community working to protect student athletes, and mentoring many along the way.
In 1988, when he was a junior in high school, Kenneth suffered a paralyzing spinal injury. The injury changed his life in many ways, and the financial strain took a toll on his family. For this reason Kenneth has worked hard to help ensure student athletes are insured. The insurance will help ensure injured athletes and their families do not have to suffer financially. His dedication has allowed him to be instrumental in changing the way Illinois supports the health and safety of its athletes. In 2013 he played a big part in bringing Rocky’s law into existence. This law requires all schools in Illinois provide insurance to protect against financial ruin in the event of a devastating injury.
Instead of letting his injury hold him back Kenneth has chosen to use his life to serve others. He looks at his injury as a new life, and that new life has put him in a position to help others who have similar experiences. Kenneth Jennings has dedicated many hours to peer mentoring young individuals who have suffered spinal injuries. He enjoys sharing his testimony, speaking with medical students, and still loves football. Currently, he is looking to assist in coaching another team, and continues volunteering as a peer mentor for injured athletes at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Kenneth has also been busy working to finish writing his memoir How Eight Seconds Changed My Life. The title represents the first eight seconds of the game Kenneth was injured.
Kenneth Jennings is a true example that “Everyone can be great, because anyone can serve”- Martin Luther King Jr.
Jennifer Hickey - Volunteer of the Week (May 2, 2016)
Meet Jennifer Hickey, she is a senior majoring in the Social Work, and CAP Programs at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Jennifer is involved in a variety of volunteer opportunities on campus at UIS. She has sustained a heavy involvement in Leadership for Life. Last year she served as the Youth and Ed Committee chair, and coordinated last year’s homecoming service project. Now she has become one of two co-directors for Leadership for Life. She helps to create volunteer projects, facilitate meetings with the executive board and committees, as well as control the budget. In addition to Leadership for Life, Jennifer is the Entertainment Chair for the Dance Marathon at UIS. This second year organization is connected through the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center. Jennifer’s service includes creating crafts, music lists, and the menu for the marathon event. She also helps to fundraise for Alternative Spring Break, is a CAP Mentor, and CAP peer tutor. Her service as a mentor and peer tutor for the last two years earned her recognition, and she received the Mentor of the Year Award. She is now the senior tutor at Writing Studios on campus.
Though she is very involved on campus, Jennifer’s primary involvement is now at the Autism Clinic through the Hope institute for Children and Families. She has been an intern for the last two semesters, and spends about 25-30 hours a week helping diagnose kids on the ASD spectrum, providing therapy groups for kids and families, and also providing resources for families and the community. For her CAP Senior Symposium and STARS presentation Jennifer has been researching the availability/lack of services surrounding Autism in Illinois, as well as policies that go with it. She plans to graduate in May and pursue a graduate degree in Social Work.
Trina Reynolds-Tyler - Volunteer of the Week (April 25, 2016)
Trina is a 2015-2016 Public Allies AmeriCorps Member. She is noted for being a passionate and genuine volunteer. As a Public Ally, Trina was placed at the Illinois African American Coalition for Prevention. There she coordinates restorative justice and violence prevention activities for youth.
Trina is always eager for new experiences, and driven to learn. She faces challenges with excitement and is quick to volunteer her time and talents. Her peers have recognized her leadership and drive. Therefore she was elected as a Class Representative and nominated to participate in the Peace Circle-Keeper Training.
Trina has also mentored high school students while working at LINK Unlimited, a non-profit focused on college success. Her humanist yet analytical approach allows her to empathize with the people she serves through volunteer work, recognizing the intersections of different experiences and inequalities.
Rachel Maurer - Volunteer of the Week (April 18, 2016)
Rachel Maurer is the Retail Administrator and Social Media Representative with Illini Bank. On March 3rd, 2016 Rachel was the recipient of the Illinois Bankers Association Volunteer of the Year award. This award recognizes a banker who has devoted endless hours to an IBA committee or board, and has gone above and beyond in their efforts to support the IBA and Banking Industry. She actively participates in the Teach Children to Save Campaign each year by doing different activities such as going to class rooms and talking to students. Most recently on April 4th, she met with the Sangamon County METRO 4-H group to discuss savings and financial literacy.
Rachel currently serves on the Women in Banking Committee and is the vice-chair for the Future Leaders Alliance board. She has attended numerous IBA events and training programs, and is a 2011 graduate of the Future Leaders Alliance program through the IBA, and a 2014 graduate of the Dale Carnegie program. In addition to her work in the banking industry, Rachel currently serves as the treasurer for the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. She likes Turkey hunting, and likes to joke that occasionally she trades in her “designer bag and five inch heels for some muck boots and a shot gun”. She is also active in her church, and volunteers in the nursery. Although Rachel is clearly busy with her career and service, she says she enjoys spending the majority of her time with her two beautiful daughters ages 4 and 1, and her amazing husband of seven and a half years.
Cassie Jibben - ABC AmeriCorps of Sauk Valley Community College - Volunteer of the Week (April 11, 2016)
Cassie Jibben is a 4th year AmeriCorps member serving at Dillon Elementary School in Rock Falls with kindergarten students. Although this is Cassie's 4th year, this is her 1st year at this site. She has found the task of working with the little ones enjoyable and rewarding, making connection with several of the students. One student in particular was having a rough time and have break downs throughout the day. Cassie had discussed these breakdowns with the teacher but they were both perplexed by what was bothering him. Cassie decided to take this little one for a walk and talk to him about what was going on, seeing if he would open up one on one. Her approach worked. The little guy told her that he was upset because he could not play at recess since he did not have snow pants or snow boots. Knowing that this child comes from a home where finances are an issue, Cassie took it upon herself to seek out items for him. She was able to get him snow pants, snow boots, and a winter coat. Since receiving his items he has become his normal self again and the breakdowns stopped. Cassie did not stop there though. She was able to get additional winter wear to have on hand for her classroom, just in case there are other students struggling with the same issue. Cassie has gone above and beyond for her students and exemplifies the definition of an AmeriCorps member.
Credell Walls - Public Allies Chicago - Volunteer of the Week (April 4, 2016)
“Credell is always pushing the limits of his efforts to support young people and create opportunities where they might not normally exist.”
Empowering under-privileged youth has been a passion for Credell Walls for many years. Growing up under many of the same circumstances as the youth he seeks to empower, Credell understands what needs to be done for youth to succeed. For over 15 years his dedication to the empowerment of youth has been innovative and has created connections on various levels. Credell uses an innovative approach to reach youth by seeking out unique opportunities for them to take part in. Using his plethora of experience and his connections to the community, Credell is able to connect youth with experiences that teaches, includes strength building, and encourages growth. Some examples include Credell’s involvement in the University of Chicago’s efforts to support youth who are dealing with the death of loved ones due to violence. Also his efforts to create a partnership with the juvenile detention center and Safe Humane Chicago have allowed detainees to learn professional skills to care for animals and support emotional healing. This has now been a longstanding program for over three years. He has also been instrumental in the outdoor education of Lost Boyz Inc. His goal is to create memorable opportunities to change lives. His efforts to support this mission include: presenting workshops on bereavement methods, facilitating youth solidarity events, recruiting under-privileged youth to Public Allies, and supporting mentorship opportunities.
Credell is always working to ensure that his connections remain strong and last far after his service with Public Allies. His leadership has been amazing for Public Allies and all they set out to accomplish within their organization. Credell has already changed so many lives and his commitment to service is sure to change many more!
Allison Acevedo's "Citizenship Through Community Service" Students - Volunteers of the Week (March 28, 2016)
Meet Allison Acevedo’s “Citizenship through Community Service” Students!
Pictured here are just a few of the 500 students who brain storm, plan, and implement volunteer service projects at
William B. Orenic Intermediate School in Plainfield, Illinois.
In the “Citizenship through Community Service” class as well as club LEAD (Leadership, Empathy, Action, and Dedication), Allison Acevedo instills in students the importance of service in their communities.
So far this year the students have participated in four different service projects. All of which the students discovered a community need, determined how to fill it, and participated in the actions needed to do so.
Students have held a book drive for Pre-School students at Marycrest Early Childhood Center in Joliet. They reached out to their peers and community to donate books, as well as monetary donations, to increase their collection. The books were donated during a family reading night held by their school after which the students read books to the younger children and participated in literacy based activities with them. This took time and dedication, helping instill the importance of literacy to the pre-school students.
That same month students began collecting care package items for Operation Care Package. They created letters and encouraged other students to write letters and donate items as well. While at the site of Operation Care Package the students helped package the items by using an assembly line to sort and move all they had collected. They even decorated the boxes the items were shipped in, involving students in the entire process.
Later the students planned a visit to Hopeful Tails Animal rescue. To prepare for their visit, students collected items for “doggie starter kits”, an idea they thought of themselves. During this service project students donated kits; blankets for dogs, leashes, collars, tennis balls, and 50 pull toys they made themselves from t-shirts. The students played with the dogs, walked them, and gave them baths. They made some very happy dogs that day! Students also helped give some lucky dogs a great start in their new homes with their “doggie starter kits”!
Their latest service project was a visit to a local food pantry back in February. Students held a food drive, collecting food to take with them for their visit. While there, they helped sort food and check expiration dates. The director of the food pantry says the students “basically ran the pantry and all it involves”.
Students will have completed nine service projects by the end of the school year. After each project students are asked to write down their feelings about what they have done. Many are so humbled and inspired to do more after each project is completed.
Jan Meadows - Volunteer of the Week (March 21, 2016)
After retiring from teaching Jan Meadows has been very instrumental with providing great services to the students in her community. At Kinsley Jr. High in Normal Jan has orchestrated initiatives with the Promise Council that seeks to remove obstacles that may prevent children from learning. In a community where many of the students are at-risk, Jan has helped to provide a variety of resources to aid in the promise councils initiatives. Jan has recruited volunteers to provide things such as tutoring, hats, gloves, and winter coats. Her work with the Back 2 School Alliance has provided school supplies for up to 3000 students in McLean County. In her spare time Jan continues to teach pre-service elementary education teachers part time. She is the Vice President of the IEA retired chapter in her area, a youth minister at her church, and volunteers for the Education Committee for Schools. She is also a volunteer for Not In our Town for schools (NIOT), where they strive to combat racism and support healthy relationships. Thanks to Jan’s connections in the community her volunteer recruiting grows every year. She has clearly demonstrated the importance of meeting the needs of local children in her community through service.
Angie Zahn - Volunteer of the Week (March 14, 2016)
Angie is truly an amazing volunteer who gives so much to the Girl Scouts and our mission of building leaders for America… girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.
- Jay Strobel
Angie Zhan is a Managing Broker by profession but a Girl Scout at heart. Currently, she serves on Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois’ (GSSI) Board of Directors as Secretary. Angie previously served as president of the Girl Scouts of River Bluffs Council (legacy council to GSSI). She has been a Girl Scout volunteer and mentor for 29 years. Not only has Angie served on the Board of Directors for many years, she also served as a National Delegate to Girl Scouts of the USA. She has also been a troop leader, a cookie chair, Property Task Force member among many other volunteer activities. If there is a need, Angie is always one of the first to volunteer and say, “I can do that!” Angie is a great supporter of camp, outdoor experience, and programs like Haunted Camp Torqua. Her most important role in GSSI is her work with older girls, and mentoring these girls while they are working on their Girl Scout Gold Award. To date Angie has mentored 7 girls to receive the Girl Scout Gold Award, Girl Scouts’ highest individual award. As a Girl Scout volunteer Angie always strives to ensure all girls benefit from the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. She gives her time, her talent, and her money to ensure that Girl Scouting is a place where girls gain the courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place for all of us.
Jada Miller - Volunteer of the Week (March 7, 2016)
Jada Miller has been an AmeriCorps Member with Operation AmeriCorps East St. Louis since September 2015. Jada has a true spirit for service and a passion for the youth in East St. Louis. Her positive attitude and ethic of service is not only contagious for her fellow AmeriCorps Members, but recognized by the staff and faculty at Lincoln Middle School as well.
For the Martin Luther King Day of Service, Jada was instrumental in planning her groups’ project. Each project was led by a team of AmeriCorps members; however Jada quickly emerged as the leader of her group. She went above and beyond to secure monetary donations for her project. The My Very Own Blanket Project, where volunteers made fleece tie blankets for youth in a homeless shelter for women and children in East St. Louis yielded 35 blankets.
Jada currently serves at Lincoln Middle school with the Academic Skills Center and was instrumental in the planning and implementation of the skills center. Jada’s communication skills keep the Academic Skills Center team focused and reminded that the true reason they are all there, the one goal they are all working towards, is focused on the youth that they serve. Jada is also extremely talented in providing immediate positive reinforcement to students. When they are doing a good job, she recognizes it. When there is improvement, she encourages it. These small things go a long way in improving student behavior and overall school climate. Jada’s commitment to the youth in her school and community is definitely making a positive impact.
She serves by the motto: “The only thing that beats a failure is a try”. Shermaine’s want to serve her community goes beyond her work in tutoring. Thanks to her efforts Project MORE has seen an increase in donations and support from businesses in the community. It is Shermaine’s hope that services like Project MORE continue to help members of her community defeat illiteracy. She strives to encourage those she works with to know the importance of volunteerism. Shermaine says she has discovered her purpose, gained leadership skills, and has increased confidence through her work with Project MORE. She hopes to continue serving and strengthening communities for many years to come.
Oriel Maxime - Volunteer of the Week (February 22, 2016)
“Oriel has given to Little City and the community by sharing his interests and talents. We are truly thankful to have him as a volunteer”
Oriel volunteers at Little City in Chicago, when he began he set out to make a difference for the staff. He felt empowering the staff would create a large impact on the community. During his time at Little City Oriel worked with their training department to develop creative methods for staff to handle a challenging field of work. His goal was for staff to have better tools to continue their support of individuals with disabilities. Oriel dedicated over 80 hours to educating staff on ways to provide teamwork in the work setting.
Little City has a children’s program where about 80% of the children have severe Autism. With this in mind Oriel developed a creative approach to increase staff morale. He created different tasks set up across the campus for staff to participate in. One of the highlights of those tasks was a sensory room that mimicked the feeling of having autism. This was a unique hands on experience of a day in the life of the children the staff help support daily. Oriel had a great impact on the staff, and continues to check on their progress.
He is a member of American Mensa, has a degree in Applied Mathematics from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and greatly enjoys all aspects of the subject, ranging from the recreational to the highly abstract and technical. He has also done a lot of study in the area of recursive functions, computability, and various complexity classes. He adores games and puzzles of all sorts: he plays them, creates them, and sometimes even publishes them.
Rebecca Ozaki - Volunteer of the Week (February 15, 2016)
Rebecca Ozaki serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Asian American Community Empowerment Project in the Chicago area. There she serves as a Volunteer Manager for her VISTA position. Since entering her position Rebecca has been able to increase the number of volunteers for her host site through some innovative ways. Rebecca began by revising and creating a volunteer program that included a plan she would implement among other VISTA’S in her position. Along with this plan she created a monthly strategic plan for recruiting volunteers and focusing on volunteering retention and opportunity. Thanks to Rebecca’s efforts there is now an internal staff process all staff will use to recruit and work with volunteers at their site. By the end of her term Rebecca will have a full tool kit on the volunteer process that she will share across ten other sites. In her first 6 months Rebecca has re-engaged 23 volunteers and recruited 98 new. She has run 3 volunteer events and added 17 new ones to the organization. In total her efforts have allowed for 605 volunteer hours to be performed in just 6 months. Rebecca’s efforts have ensured that the Asian American Empowerment Project will continue and have sustainability. Her long standing tool kit will continue to help staff in her site, as well as others to increase volunteer work to better serve the community.
Josh Spencer - Volunteer of the Week (February 8, 2016)
Josh discovered the need for children and their families with long-term stays in local hospitals to have a sense of normalcy during the holidays. Many are restricted to the hospital environment during these specials days, so Josh set out to fill this need. In doing so he discovered the Holiday Heroes foundation. They are an organization that strives to meet this need for children, but had been struggling to do so. Josh became a member of the board and helped the organization grow. His impact on the organization is described as “nothing short of incredible”. Thanks to his efforts Josh has helped make it possible for HHF to grow vastly with members and volunteers. He has well increased the staff, events, and financing of the organization. In doing so he has strengthened the foundations ties to the community, and his impact has made it possible for the Holiday Heroes to continue serving children for years to come.
Trevon Jordan - Volunteer of the Week (February 1, 2016)
“Trevon not only works hard, but he pushes himself to go above the necessary requirements of the task, to fulfill and accomplish more than anticipated”
As an AmeriCorps member Trevon served four years of service in the Belleville school district. He was aware of the needs in his community, and remembered attending after school programs with AmeriCorps members. Once able, Trevon decided to also become an AmeriCorps member so he too could assist in serving those needs. Within the school district he became a “positive presence” for the children, tutoring them in both reading and math. He often worked in small groups, was a summer camp counselor, and has been known to be “tackled” by the students on the playground a time or two! During his four year term Trevon never hesitated to get his hands dirty. He participated in 17 service projects in just three months, which was far more than his required six. Upon a quarterly review he had served some of the highest service hours of all the members within his site. Trevon has been described as an inspiration to other AmeriCorps members. His commitment, passion, and reliability have set him apart from others. Both his AmeriCorps site and the school district he serves rely heavily on his dedication. Trevon managed to accomplish his abundance of service to his community while attending college. Since finishing his term Trevon accepted a position within the Belleville school district. He continues to be a person passionate to make a difference in his community.
Lauren Fifarek - Volunteer of the Week (January 25, 2016)
“Lauren infuses everything she does with energy and enthusiasm and it can be truly contagious and exciting to hear”
Lauren Fifarek was an Illinois Public Health Association AmeriCorps member for Erie Family Health Clinic in 2015. There she set out to meet the needs of the community by encouraging people of low income status to utilize the clinic. Lauren visited food pantries, schools, libraries, and community events to provide important health information and increase her efforts to encourage people to visit Erie Health. Her efforts at Erie have formed strong partnerships and connections in the community. Another great example of Laurens efforts is the success of a new prenatal nutrition class offered by Erie. Lauren helped to recruit women to attend the class. She made reminder calls to those who already planned to attend. She also made calls to potential patients who could benefit from the class, and informed them about the important information that would be provided. Each session grew thanks to her efforts. As an added measure Lauren wanted to be sure the next AmeriCorps member had a foundation to build from when she left. She made sure there was a physical reference for them to begin their service. Lauren is now a Full time employee at Erie Health Clinic, and continues to serve the community.
Shanae Drummond - Volunteer of the Week (January 18, 2016)
Shanae is an AmeriCorps member who facilitates a 9th grade leadership class at East St. Louis Sr. High for students with high rates of suspension. Some of the lessons include civic engagement, decision making, conflict resolution, etc. As part of their evaluation, students are tasked with developing and implementing a service activity within their community. Without any assistance these students collected over 200 items to fill donation boxes, allowing them to reach the initial goal of providing five families with a donation. The additional support and dedication of our extended East St. Louis Sr. High School family helped them meet the needs of additional families. AmeriCorps staff thanks Shanae for setting high expectations and modeling integrity through service learning. Because of her leadership, students were able to see the direct impact of community collaboration through their efforts.
This is the first project the students have facilitated since the implementation of the leadership courses in September. They plan to move forward with the next project beginning in January. The students will focus on collecting socks to donate to the homeless. This project will be coordinated with the AmeriCorps MLK day of service on January 18, 2016 and assist in creating "Blessing Bags" for donation on January 26, 2016.
Mandy Bozart - Volunteer of the Week (January 11, 2016)
Mandy Bozart joined AmeriCorps in August 2014, at the Literacy Education for Adults and Families (LEAF) Program as an ESL instructor with Asian Human Services. Coming off a year abroad teaching English in South Korea and already carrying extensive experience, Mandy’s transition into her AmeriCorps position was a natural and rewarding one.
Not only did Mandy excel as a Level 2 ESL instructor—she also earned the respect and admiration of fellow members, employees, and students alike with her drive and passion for adult education. Now in her second year of service, Mandy has taken on even greater responsibilities, stepping up as a true leader. Aside from her primary duties as an ESL instructor, Mandy also serves as the AmeriCorps Team Leader amongst her peers and has taken the initiative to create a citizenship class she will co-teach with another member. The support that Mandy provides Asian Human Services—and the care in which she serves her students—are invaluable, and the program would not be the same without her.
Tom E. “Woody” Woodhouse - Volunteer of the Week (January 4, 2016)
“Woody is a compassionate, reliable, and dedicated volunteer who we are honored to have as a member of our community of caregivers”- Brenda Waremburg, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center
Woody, an 85 year old veteran of Peoria, Illinois, has been volunteering for OSF since September of 2011. Since then he has served over 529.32 plus hours and has made over 1000 visits to the facility. Woody believes the “Good life is helping others”. He visits the Children of OSF weekly every Wednesday. He likes to be present for children when their parents are not able to. He has been described as an “Angel worker” for entertaining the children in the hospital with his presentations of submarines and the Korean War history. Woody uses this presentation as an entertaining learning experience for patients and their families. Woody enjoys giving back to others and makes sure to always make the most of his time and visits to OSF. When he is not entertaining children at the Saint Francis medical Center he participates in National Veteran organizations to promote submarine history.
Ashley Blessing and Rachel Evrard, AmeriCorps Members - Christmas Party 2012
On December 19th, 2012, AmeriCorps members Ashley Blessing and Rachel Evrard planned a Christmas party for children of clients who are involved with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois’ (LSSI) Prisoner and Family Ministry program. 100 clients and their children received two to three gifts per child and all the gifts were purchased with donations from community members and local businesses. LSSI presented its Employment Skills School graduate at the party.
Tony Boyd, AmeriCorps Member - Christmas Tree Recycling 2012
As an Illinois Public Health Association AmeriCorps Member at the Clay County Health Department Tony Boyd duties include promoting Solid Waste Committee projects. One of the many projects that he has been working on is Christmas tree recycling. Tony believes that the simple act of recycling a biodegradable object will lead communities to recycle other objects that may not be biodegradable. When real Christmas trees are recycled they become more than a “one time” use item. The Christmas trees collected will not only be recycled, they will be reused and ultimately this will reduce the landfill waste. All three “R’s” are used for Christmas tree recycling.
Tony hopes that the community’s efforts make a difference and help inspire others to reduce, reuse and recycle not only for the holidays, but the whole year through.
Youth Volunteers Create Camp S.C.O.R.E.
The Effingham County 4-H Youth Ambassadors (ECYA), consisting of 22 youth, decided they wanted to help other youth have the opportunity to learn about leadership. Paige Logan, a 15 year-old from Altamont, IL and Haley Hahn, a 16 year-old from Effingham, IL began grant writing so the ECYA could hold a leadership camp in their area. After writing four different grants, Paige was notified by Farm Credit System Foundation, Inc. that they were supporting ECYA and were awarded the Douglas D. Sims Fund for Rural Leadership grant for $10,000 to host a leadership camp.
All ECYA members were thrilled and the planning began. Camp S.C.O.R.E. (Skills Created together to Reach Excellence) was the name chosen for their Leadership Camp. Sixty five area youth were delegates at Camp S.C.O.R.E. and are now better prepared to step up and demonstrate needed leadership skills. For more information, please visit the
Effingham County 4-H.
Lifting for Lend-A-Hand VIII Raises over $30,000
Dan Cotter and Mike Abramson, attorneys and competitive weight lifters, used their muscles to raise more than $30,000 to benefit Chicago area kids at the American Powerlifting Federation / Amateur American Powerlifting Federation Summer Bash 7.
Cotter lifted a total of 1,510.0 pounds and came in first place in the Masters 1 category (ages 40-44). Abramson totaled 1,449 lbs, coming in first in the Men's Open division at a bodyweight of 181 lbs with a personal record squat of 601 lbs. Cotter has been raising money for kids with his unique fundraising tactic for the last eight years. Abramson, Cotter's training partner, joined in the fundraising effort for the first time this year. Abramson cited the potential for a profound impact on the lives of both mentor and mentee as a reason for his joining the Lifting campaign.
To date, Lifting for Lend-A-Hand has raised over $150,000 for the
Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth program.
Sarah Stoner - 19,000 Hours of Service
Proctor Service Auxiliary member and volunteer Sarah Stoner recently received a pin for 19,000 hours of service, giving her the most accumulated hours by any active volunteer at Proctor Hospital in Peoria. "I sure enjoy volunteering and I often wonder how my life would be different if I hadn't met all these great people I've met through the years."
Sarah still works six afternoons and two mornings each month. Sarah has volunteered with Proctor since 1971. She resides in East Peoria with her husband Donald. The couple has four children, five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
Troop 181 Gives Back
In 2009, Boy Scout Troop 181 of Downers Grove gave a total of 4,794 hours of service to their community. The 17 Scouts and their leaders have volunteered for many events and organizations including; "Diveheart" a group that provides scuba diving classes for special needs children and wounded veterans, Operation Support our Troops, Illinois (OSTIL), and Downers Grove "Recycle Extravaganza." Troop 181 looks forward to continuing to live by the Scout Slogan of "do a good turn daily!"