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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
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
are really crummy!
experience, a nursing home
Help to feed, read
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
Auxiliary, take your pick
Of the many
services they offer too
Every patient and
Hold a hand, say
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 councel 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
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.
Project MORE works with head start parents in her community to encourage literacy, and offers GED preparation. There Shermaine is an inspiration as she tutors these individuals. As a single mother Shermaine set out to receive her GED in 1975. She recalls the struggles that went along with achieving her goal. She knows firsthand the adversity many of the parents she works with face on a day to day. This is why Shermaine seeks to continually encourage and remind others what they are working toward.
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!"