SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today congratulated winners of the 21st annual Governor's Home Town Awards and commended them on their efforts to improve their communities through volunteerism.
“In the past year, we have seen dramatic evidence that volunteers are the heroes of our nation," the Governor said. "Following the tragedies on September 11, people from throughout the country stepped forward to help. Some traveled to New York, some organized local efforts to help the victims and their families, some comforted their neighbors affected by this profound event. Their efforts demonstrate that when there's a need, volunteers are there to help.
"The efforts we recognize today remind us once again that Illinois volunteers are ready and willing to step up, take the lead and work in the trenches to meet challenges and address opportunities in communities throughout our state. As Governor, it is my privilege to thank Illinois' volunteers for their contributions to improving the quality of life enjoyed by the people of our state."
Illinois State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka presented the awards for the winning projects during a luncheon at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.
"In Illinois there is a long standing tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, where volunteers perform a service to the community,” said Treasurer Topinka. "I congratulate all of the Governor's Home Town Award Recipients, whose true reward comes with the great joy and satisfaction that is found in their dedication to the community and society.”
The Governor's Home Town Awards program is administered by the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA).
“Volunteers generally do their work out of a sense of duty and purpose, not for rewards and recognition," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough. "But these awards give us a chance to call attention to those efforts and emphasize the contributions of volunteers in making our state a great place to live, raise a family, and do business."
Awards were presented in eight categories based on community population. Volunteer judges reviewed and ranked applications based on local need, volunteer participation, project continuity and results. After an initial review that narrowed the applications to a maximum of nine in each population category, the judges visited those communities, then selected one project from each category to compete for the coveted Governor's Cup -- a traveling silver trophy presented to the community whose efforts were deemed most representative of the spirit of Illinois volunteerism. The 2002 Governor's Cup winner is Champaign County, in recognition of volunteer efforts to expand the Crisis Nursery.
Founded 17 years ago, the Crisis Nursery provides a place where young children can be safely cared for in times of family crisis. Volunteers, ranging from university students to senior citizens, are its lifeblood, assisting with daily operations, special projects, serving on the board, and undertaking numerous fundraising activities. In 2001, thanks to their efforts, grants and generous donations, the Crisis Nursery moved into a new building designed specifically for its programs, enabling the nursery to expand services and be licensed to care for up to 12 children at a time. Over the course of the year, the nursery handled nearly 1,700 admissions.
Each of the award winning communities received a road sign and plaque recognizing its efforts. The eight finalist communities also received special plaques and road signs noting their achievement, and the Governor's Cup winner received a unique road sign that proclaims its status as the overall winner.
This year, 84 projects were reviewed. A list of the 2002 winners follows.
2002 GOVERNOR'S HOME TOWN AWARDS WINNERS
CATEGORY I (Population 0 - 1,300)
Royalton-Royalton Public Library - Volunteers helped raise funds and donated labor and materials to build a new public library accessible to those with disabilities.
Dieterich-Community Veterans Memorial - More than 300 people worked to raise funds and build a memorial to the community's veterans, Revolutionary War to the present.
Burritt Township-Township Museum - Volunteers helped renovate a room at the township hall to house a museum, contributing items to honor the township's past.
Persifer Township-First Responders - First Responders are volunteers who provide first aid and emergency assistance to residents of Oak Run until an ambulance arrives.
Winslow-Paradise Cove Covered Bridge - Volunteers converted a flatbed trailer into the only covered bridge in Stephenson County, attracting tourists and building area pride.
Milledgeville-Chadwick/Milledgeville Football Lights and Running Track - More than 120 volunteers helped raise funds and build Carroll County's only all-weather running track.
Hanover-Ambulance and Building - Hanover's Ambulance Association bought a new ambulance and built a garage for it, thanks to the fundraising and labor of volunteers.
CATEGORY I Governor's Cup Finalist:
Oakdale-Easter Egg Factory Eggstravaganza - More than 1,700 people attended the Eggstravaganza in 2001, enjoying volunteer efforts to create an Easter fantasyland.
CATEGORY II (Population 1,301 - 3,800)
Newton-Peterson Park - Volunteers raised more than $37,000 to help purchase new playground equipment, then helped install the equipment in Newton's Peterson Park.
Irving-Historical Museum - Volunteers helped turn the village's original bank building into a museum that preserves a link to the community's history.
Gibson City-GCMS Booster Club "On Track" Project - Volunteers helped develop a plan, raise funds and landscape a new all-weather track at the high school.
Lebanon-Visitors Center - Community pride was renewed and visitors have a central place for information thanks to volunteers who raised funds for a new visitors center.
Waverly-Project Signs - The Waverly Community Development Committee spearheaded efforts to buy, install and landscape signs welcoming visitors to Waverly.
Bushnell-All-Weather Community Track - A 29-member committee was key in raising funds and helping to build a new all-weather track replacing a 50-year-old cinder track.
Jerome-Neighborhood Park - In 2001, the master plan for Jerome's neighborhood park was completed, thanks to help from volunteers who organized events and raised funds.
CATEGORY II Governor's Cup Finalist:
Rushville-SchuyLight Christian Coffee House - Volunteers turned an old supper club into a coffee house where youths can "hang out" and enjoy wholesome activities.
CATEGORY III (Population 3,801 - 11,000)
Edwards County-Dinner Theater - Dinner Theater, organized by volunteers, draws more than 1,000 people annually and supports music and art programs at the high school.
Vandalia-Lincoln Park - Volunteers raised funds to commission a statue and landscape a small park where visitors to Vandalia can relax and enjoy the Old State Capitol view.
Peru-Illinois Valley Peer Jury Program - Trained youth volunteers serve as "jurors" to hear cases against youthful offenders and assign appropriate sanctions.
Fulton-Dutch Windmill Grinding Stone - To enhance Fulton's authentic Dutch Windmill, volunteers raised funds to buy a grinding stone. Volunteer millers trained to grind flour.
Frankfort-Earth Day/Arbor Day - Nearly 100 volunteers participated in the 2001 Earth Day/Arbor Day celebration, picking up trash and planting flowers and trees.
Johnson County-Oral History Project - Volunteers organized a Storytelling Festival to collect stories from America's war veterans and others. Plans call for an annual event.
Princeton-Veterans Park - A small grassy area was renovated into a showplace honoring veterans, thanks to fundraising, landscaping and organization by volunteers.
CATEGORY III Governor's Cup Finalist:
Lake Villa-Baseball Park - Lake Villa offers an impressive four-diamond baseball facility, thanks to efforts by volunteers of the Lake Region Youth Baseball Association.
CATEGORY IV (Population 11,001 - 17,000)
Lemont-Lemont Legends Cruise Nights - Downtown Lemont is bustling on summer evenings as people enjoy classic cars and store specials during weekly Cruise Nights.
South Elgin-Riverfest Express "A Special Night for Special Kids" - Nearly 120 volunteers pitched in to help children with disabilities enjoy Riverfest Express.
Washington-Senior Center Meal Program - More than 450 meals are delivered on weekdays each month by volunteers who also check on the welfare of senior citizens.
Coloma Township-Knowledge Increases Developing Skills for Success - In 2001, Rock Falls dedicated a new handicapped-accessible library, built with help from volunteers.
Country Club Hills-Police Cadets/Explorers - Youthful Police Cadets volunteer their services at community events. Many have gone to college to major in criminal justice.
Hazel Crest-Volunteer Task Force - Six volunteer task forces have been formed to address issues such as economic development, public safety, seniors and youths.
Mt. Vernon-Police Athletic League - Two retired Marines developed the Police Athletic League to help low-income youths learn self-confidence and develop respect for others.
Bond County-Utlaut Health Services Auxiliary Old Time Christmas - Nearly 1,000 volunteers work throughout the year to stage a bazaar and raise funds for the hospital.
CATEGORY IV Governor's Cup Finalist:
Piatt County-Faith in Action - More than 275 volunteer caregivers assisted 327 senior citizens in 2001, helping with yard work, home repair, meals and companionship.
CATEGORY V (Population 17,001 - 24,000)
Limestone Township-Splash - Splash is an annual fundraising event spearheaded by volunteers that helps raise money to maintain and operate the community pool.
Lisle-Main Street Pedestrian Tunnel Project - Volunteers transformed a graffiti-strewn
pedestrian tunnel into a work of art by painting murals. It's helped revitalize the area.
Palos Hills-Teen Employment Program - The program, run by volunteers, helps teens learn how to write resumes, interview, dress for success and successfully find jobs.
Carbondale-Main Street Pig Out - The annual Main Street Pig Out brings college students and community residents together and showcases the Main Street District.
Macomb-Big Brothers/Big Sisters - More than 45 volunteers coordinated the first "Bowl for Kids Sake" fundraiser, raising $18,500 for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.
Evergreen Park-The Evergreen Parkettes - Senior volunteers kick up their heels and entertain others through their dance performances. The average age of dancers is 74.
Roselle-Roselle Nature Savers - Volunteers have been instrumental in undertaking a wetland restoration that attracts wildlife, filters water and reduces flooding in Roselle.
Palos Hills-Halloween Happenings - Concerns about Halloween safety in the wake of the September 11 tragedies led volunteers to organize fun, safe activities for children.
CATEGORY V Governor's Cup Finalist:
McHenry-McHenry Zone Skate & Bike Park - Parents and kids volunteered to raise funds to build a skate park and bike ramp worth more than $350,000.
CATEGORY VI (Population 24,001 - 33,000)
St. Charles-Lazarus House - Lazarus House relies on volunteers to help operate the facility, which provides shelter, meals, laundry and support services to the homeless.
Highland Park-Kid Couriers - This intergenerational program pairs volunteer students with seniors needing help with shopping. Kids and seniors alike reap satisfaction.
Westmont-Emergency Management Agency - Trained volunteers assist with emergency management needs. In 2001, they outfitted a trailer into a command post.
Grundy County-Operation St. Nick - Operation St. Nick volunteers raised nearly $96,000 in 2001 to help needy families at Christmas, Easter and back-to-school time.
St. Charles Township-STC Underground Teen Center, St. Charles Park District - Volunteers helped create STC Underground -- a drug- and alcohol-free teen center.
Boone County-Council on Aging - More than 450 volunteers helped raise funds and provide services to build the new Keen Age Center facility for seniors in the county.
Westmont-Citizens Fire Academy/Alumni Association - The Citizens Fire Academy helps citizens learn about fire safety and the operations of the fire department.
CATEGORY VI Governor's Cup Finalist:
Mundelein-Youth Committee - With help from more than 500 volunteers, the Youth Committee helps develop wholesome community-wide activities for the entire family.
CATEGORY VII (Population 33,001 - 85,000)
Whiteside County-Our Food Pantry - Funded entirely through donations and grants, volunteers operated a food pantry that fed more than 1,900 people in 2001.
Adams County-Quincy Area Partnership for Unmet Needs - The Partnership relies on volunteers to complement the social service system by assisting with emergency needs.
Bolingbrook-Jonas E. Salk Playground - Volunteers raised funds and paired with other volunteers from CNA Insurance to build a new playground at Jonas E. Salk School.
Belleville-Old Town Market - Volunteers help operate and raise funds to improve the Old Town Market -- a summertime "farmers' market" that brings people downtown.
Danville-AMBUCS Playground for Everyone - AMBUCS members coordinated fundraising and construction of a playground accessible to children of all abilities.
CATEGORY VII Governor's Cup Finalist:
Skokie-Peace and Harmony Committee - Committee volunteers organize activities to demonstrate community diversity and harmony; over 4,000 volunteers are involved.
CATEGORY VIII (Population 85,001 and above)
Peoria-Giving Tree - Employees at OSF SFMC "adopt" families to fill needs at Christmas. In 2001, over 1,000 needy employees and patients received assistance.
Cicero-Police Explorers - Police Explorers are young volunteers who take a course in police training. They help provide security and traffic control at various area events.
Bloom Township-Emergency Food Outreach Program - Some 1,123 volunteers helped ensure that the food pantry delivers food to the disabled, seniors and those in need.
Cicero-Senior Services - Seniors may access many free services and a bus service, helping them remain in their homes. Volunteers assist with coordinating the efforts.
Will County-Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) - CASA has more than 50 trained volunteer advocates who represent abused and neglected children in court.
CATEGORY VIII Governor's Cup Finalist:
Champaign County-Crisis Nursery - Volunteers are the lifeblood of Crisis Nursery, a safe place for young children in times of family crisis. The nursery expanded in 2001.
2002 GOVERNOR'S CUP WINNER:
Champaign County-Crisis Nursery