SPRINGFIELD – During his second inaugural ceremony on January 8th
, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich will honor the recipients of his People Are Today’s Heroes (PATH) Award. These honorees are people who, through their hard work and commitment, have improved the lives of people in their community and have helped Illinois move forward in the areas of health care, public safety, education, environment and economic development. To learn more about PATH recipients and inaugural activities, visit www.celebrateillinois2007.com
. The PATH Award winners will be honored at the Governor’s Swearing in Ceremony with a video dedicated to their contributions throughout the last four years.
“Our state is the great state it is because of people like Judy Weber-Jones, a drivers’ education instructor who created a program to make sure students are safe and Patty Metzler, a registered nurse at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, who dedicated herself to injury prevention in her community and throughout the state. These people are selfless in their public service, each finding their own way to make this state better. They motivate me to get up every day and do the kinds of things that make life better for working families,” said Governor Blagojevich.
The PATH Award winners for Governor Blagojevich’s first term include the following:
The Rockford Health System: Emergency Medical Services (EMS)/REACT (Regional Emergency Acute Care Transport) and OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center/Lifeline Emergency Helicopter Service helped to bring down the number of teen fatalities in Illinois. Since its initial flight in 1981, the OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center/Lifeline Emergency Helicopter Services has logged more than 15,500 flights and was the first hospital-affiliated emergency helicopter service in Rockford and the 13th in the nation.
Utica Mayor Fred Esmond and LaSalle County Sheriff Tom Templeton showed strong leadership in their community following the devastating tornado that struck Utica in April 2004.
The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), the fire services mutual aid organization, activated response from fire departments as far away as Chicago and brought 450 fire personnel to assist with the rescue of nine people from the collapsed Milestone Tap building, where eight others perished during the 2004 Utica tornado.
The Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) was activated by the mutual aid organization during the 2004 Utica tornado just five days after the mutual aid plan was finalized. At least 25 squad cars and more than 30 officers were dispatched to Utica to assist local law enforcement agencies in controlling the area.
Besse Rush and Family to Family were honored for their work with Illinois Department of Child and Family Services to keep troubled families together. Based out of Peoria, the Family to Family program was able halve the number of children entering foster care between 2000 and 2004.
Ohio, Walnut Volunteer Fire Department Firefighters were chosen for recognition by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for their tireless effort fighting fires at Green River State Wildlife Area and Sand Prairie Habitat Area.
Teacher Janet Weiss and the fourth-grade Safety Advocates of Indian Grove School in Mount Prospect have dedicated class time to studying safety statistics and applied their lessons to teaching the community about bicycle safety. As part of that effort, the students took their concerns to their village board and taped a public service announcement that aired on the local cable television station.
Rev. Phoenix Barnes, Jr. showed significant leadership in his work with the Fathers’ Center, an East St. Louis-based program of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS) that is a national model for fathering initiatives. Under Rev. Barnes’ leadership, the Fathers’ Center offers guidance to husbands and fathers in the East St. Louis area who feel alone, frustrated and think they have no alternatives.
Donald Martin has been an extraordinary volunteer at the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Manteno since September 2001 after retiring from Lincoln Mercury Ford Company with 40 years of service. Mr. Martin has been instrumental in organizing a unique “God Squad,” through which he has recruited 20 volunteers from the community to help escort residents to Catholic Church services.
The Students of the James B. McPherson Elementary School
in Chicago created a peace garden and park to memorialize their fellow student Alex Godines, who died suddenly after being diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Students from the 6th
through the 8th
grades, including those in special education and autistic programs, came together to construct models, plot the land and write letters to their local alderman who determined if they could use the adjacent land to build the park and memorial garden.
Chad Pregracke founded Living Lands & Waters, the nonprofit environmental organization based in East Moline, which cleans up Illinois rivers. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has been pleased to work with Chad and Living Lands and Waters, including providing a $50,000 grant in November 2003 from an enforcement settlement.
Mike Brokaw of Decatur was honored for his work to help disabled farmers keep farming. He is the manager of the AgrAbility Unlimited Program, which helps people like Brenda Besse who is now a successful farmer thanks to the program.
Brenda Besse of Hillsdale, a disabled former athlete and current farmer, has worked as a volunteer in this Northern Illinois community. With the aid of a custom-made prosthetic leg and John Deere Gator to improve her mobility, Besse resumed farming in 1997 after a 15-year hiatus when she and business partner Ron Paaske started Brierwood Farm. Together they have bred and raised a champion herd of Brown Swiss dairy cattle that won blue ribbons at the Illinois and Iowa state fairs and the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin.
Juanita Wingerter has volunteered more than 6,000 hours of her time at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy. Because of her love of books and people, she began volunteering at the Home’s library in February 1997. She can be seen helping at the home 3-and-a-half hours per day, five days a week.
Joe and Rose Mary Gerace have faithfully volunteered at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in LaSalle since it opened in 1990. They have been deeply involved with veterans’ issues, coordinating a hospitality service that offers personal care products, stationery, cards and other necessary items for residents of the Home.
Normal Police Department conducted its Annual Summer Youth Program, designed to strengthen the relationship between today’s youth and officers of the NPD. The Normal Police Youth Program is a summer program geared to youths aged 9 to 13. This week long program focuses on building relationships, expanding self-confidence, bolstering self-esteem, teaching valuable team concepts, enhancing leadership skills, and embracing community pride.
Maria del Socorro Pesqueira of Chicago, President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Accion, played a strong leadership role with the New Americans Initiative, a unique public-private partnership aimed at helping eligible permanent residents become naturalized U.S. citizens. A partner in the New Americans Initiative since its beginning in 2004, Mujeres Latinas en Accion was a key actor in the legislative hearings that were pivotal in the passing of the New Americans bill.
B. Diane Williams and the Safer Foundation of Chicago help incarcerated individuals re-enter their communities. Safer has been working for more than 30 years to reduce recidivism by helping people with records obtain employment and social services.
Jessica Bacon, an 18-year old high-school student from Rockford, has dedicated time to teaching her peers about seatbelt safety. After surviving a tragic car accident, Jessica began working with Sergeant Youngblut on a crash survival story for a seatbelt promotion program, which she now shares as she travels around the state.
Arlene and Vernon Coffey of Goreville, have tirelessly committed to rearing over 70 children from the state’s child welfare system as well as adopting four other children. The Coffeys also contributed countless hours to help other foster parents with difficult issues.
Amber Anderson was instrumental in organizing a teen summit on violence for more than 300 young people held at The New Main Street Church of the Living God in Decatur. The summit aimed to educate youth on making sound decisions and the detrimental effects of violent and sexually explicit video games.
Dianne King was honored for her remarkable work bringing health services to hundreds of students and the community. She was instrumental to the founding of the Gallatin County School-Based Health Center, which opened its doors in 2003 with a focus on critical health issues for the community’s Pre-K through 12th grade students.
Gina Hopper, curriculum director of the Litchfield School District, was instrumental in implementing the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program in the Litchfield School District. The CATCH program is designed to teach and promote healthy lifestyle choices to children and their families.
Howard Heavner, the Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor and agriculture teacher at Valmeyer High School in Monroe County, along with his FFA chapter were recognized for their efforts in furthering agriculture education through a concentration on alternative crops. Heavner reaches beyond the traditional corn and soybean practices, teaching future farmers to diversify operations by planting crops like grapes and nursery stock.
Sharon Lang R.N., program manager for Well Woman of Northwest Illinois, was honored for her commitment and passion for educating women about breast and other types of cancer, and her continued work connecting low-income women with the health care screening services and information around the state. Lang works with the Well Woman/Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) at the Stephenson County Health Department where she helps low income or uninsured women get free mammograms and Pap tests to ensure they are screened regularly.
Dan Thompson of
Jacksonville was honored for his leadership and excellent service as a teacher at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI), and his tireless fundraising efforts on behalf of not for profit organizations across Central Illinois. Mr. Thompson, an ISVI alumnus, is an Assistive Technology Educator at the school.
Dr. Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago Hospitals and an international leader in breast cancer research, helps scientists gain a greater understanding of the disease. Dr. Olopade serves on the medical advisory board of the Young Survival Coalition, a network of breast cancer survivors and supporters, which seeks to provide education and resources for young breast cancer patients. In 2004, Dr. Olopade organized an international conference to promote breast and cervical cancer awareness in Nigeria.
Dr. Marilyn Miller
, Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of the Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Section at the
University of Illinois, Chicago received the PATH Award for her devotion to children for over 30 years. In addition to her research and clinical responsibilities, Dr. Miller participates in children’s health fairs in the Chicago area, has a major commitment to international ophthalmology, especially in children’s eye programs, and has taken many trips to developing countries around the world (Nigeria, India, and Pakistan).
Sister Rosemary Connelly, Executive Director of Misericordia Heart of Mercy in Chicago, has demonstrated tireless and continuous dedication to help children and adults with developmental disabilities. Misericordia Heart of Mercy supports individuals with developmental disabilities in maximizing their level of independence and self-determination within an environment that fosters spirituality, dignity, respect and enhancement of quality of life. Sr. Rosemary Connelly, the Executive Director of Misericordia, has run the nationally recognized home for hundreds of disabled children and adults since 1969.
Madison County Health Department has been instrumental in implementing the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Heart Smart for Teens, a program that has educated hundreds of teenagers on matters of good health and nutrition. 484 girls completed the nine-week series during the 2004-2005 school year.
Bishop Simon Gordon, pastor of Triedstone Full Baptist Church on Chicago’s Far South Side, was recognized for his compassionate and effective work increasing awareness among hundreds of women in the African American community about effective ways to screen and prevent breast and cervical cancer.
The Village of Lemont worked tirelessly to increase public safety by working with the Illinois State Police (ISP) in the implementation of the Illinois Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting System (ICLEAR) initiative. Since most of the federal funding for this project is earmarked for local law enforcement, Lemont agreed not only to be a leader on the ICLEAR Oversight Board but also to assume significant fiduciary and logistic responsibility for the project. While it is not normally the responsibility of a village to spearhead a statewide police records system, the foresight of Lemont’s leadership recognized the significance and consequently, stepped up to the plate.
The Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon implemented the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Heart Smart for Teens, a program that has educated hundreds of teenagers on matters of good health and nutrition, in an exemplary fashion. The Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center goes above and beyond in promoting the Heart Smart for Women program in the area, offering sites and providing extra materials for the program especially program facilitator Lori Richardson.
Diana Knaebe worked with the Homeward Bound program, which has successfully initiated several housing projects for nearly 700 homeless, low-income individuals, and persons with severe mental illnesses. Knaebe’s leadership, vision and hard work on behalf of the people in Decatur and Macon County have made it possible for hundreds of vulnerable residents to have a better chance of getting back on their feet.
Anderson Hospital showed initiative in recruiting and hiring staff through the Illinois Skills Match program (ISM). Designed by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, ISM matches employers with qualified job applicants. Anderson Hospital is a primary health care provider for multiple counties and provides approximately 1,200 jobs for people in the Metro East area.
Judy Weber-Jones, a driver education instructor at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School (GCMS), created a program to make sure students are safe drivers. The program has significantly increased seatbelt usage among young drivers, and significantly decreased speeding tickets and accidents in the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley area since 2004.
Karen Popowski, the former Executive Director of the Polish American Association in Chicago, was honored for her leadership and excellent service in her community as well as her dedication to the Governor’s All Kids program that provides affordable healthcare coverage to every child in the state. Karen Popowski retired in 2006 after 17 years of serving as the Executive Director of the Polish American Association.
Ann Muniz, of Downers Grove in DuPage County, increased awareness of threats to groundwater supplies. Concerned about residents consuming contaminated water from their private wells, Ann encouraged her neighbors to have their wells tested. Ann helped organize and then lead the Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) for what is now a Superfund site in Downers Grove.
Patty Metzler, a registered nurse at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, began seeking ways to help prevent childhood injuries following the loss of a pediatric patient who suffered fatal injuries in a bicycle accident. She has been central to the planning and implementation for the “Day in the Park” Safety Fair, hosted annually by Carle Foundation Hospital and the Safe Kids Campaign.
Mid Valley Neighborhood Improvement Association (MVNIA) in St. Charles is a non-profit organization which operates the ReUseIt Center, an environmentally and economically friendly facility. MVNIA Serves the Greater Illinois Fox Valley Communities and is committed to environmentally and economically-conscious work that has helped its community save significant amounts of money and reduced tons of waste from ending up in landfills.
Soyoung Kim and Younhee Harm were honored for their dedication to helping the people of Chicago’s Korean community and for the creation of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program- a project that provides free mammograms to Korean women in Chicago.
Robbie Lawrence, a nine year old from the Pekin area, is known as the “Little Lobbyist” to his friends and neighbors. Robbie met with Governor Blagojevich and lobbied to have his neighborhood connected to the town water supply so that their water would come from a safe and clean source.
Marcia Soto is a businesswoman and active civic leader on behalf of thousands of hard working immigrants from her native state of Durango. She’s the co-founder and first president of Durango United in Chicago, a non for profit group representing nearly 300,000 immigrants from Durango, and vice-president of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities. As a volunteer she’s worked on issues of adult education, domestic violence awareness and women's empowerment.
Nancy Kelly-Jones was honored for her hard work on behalf of students at the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville for the past 16 years. She has helped many young people achieve their dreams. Throughout her entire professional life, she has been a tireless advocate for deaf students and adults.
Walter Mulica was honored for his leadership and excellent service in the Polish community in Chicago, and his dedication to the Governor’s All Kids program. Mr. Mulica’s instrumental work and commitment to All Kids have contributed to the improvement of the availability of health care coverage to children in the Polish community.
Wanda Majcher has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and promote the importance of breast cancer in the Chicago’s Polish community. She was involved in the promotion of Governor Blagojevich’s Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program at the Taste of Polonia. By promoting and getting involved with All Kids she touched the lives of thousands of Children. Ms. Majcher also helped organize Community Forum on Education to promote Gov. Blagojevich’s initiatives to provide preschool to all children and make college more affordable.
The PATH award recipients will be recognized during the inaugural ceremony on Monday, January 8. The ceremony will be held at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center in Springfield from 11:00 a.m.–12:55 p.m. (doors will open at 9:00 a.m.). At the ceremony, more than 5,000 attendees will watch as the Governor and Constitutional Officers take the Oath of Office.
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