SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) Director Charles D. Johnson today inducted four people into the Illinois Senior Hall of Fame and presented several Governor’s Unique Achievement Awards during a special ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield.
The Illinois Senior Hall of Fame was created in 1994 to honor Illinoisans age 65 and older who excel in four categories: Community Service, Education, Performance and/or Graphic Arts and the Labor Force. Since then, 68 people have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Illinois Senior Hall of Fame has been sponsored by Walgreens since 1995.
“Older people have taught us how to live, how to work hard, serve the community and lead by example,” Director Charles D. Johnson said. “The individuals and organizations honored today have left a positive and lasting mark on our state.”
The 2007 inductees into the Illinois Senior Hall of Fame are:
• Betty Estes (Pontiac, IL), the winner in the community service category, has spent the past decade and a half working to spread the word about the community she loves and lives in. Estes started the city’s Tourism Department from the ground up, becoming the first Tourism Director for the city of Pontiac. Every visitor that came to Pontiac received the royal treatment, where the red carpet would literally be rolled out when guests arrived. This treatment gained attention, even overseas, and Estes went on to develop the “Red Carpet Corridor” which is a cooperative effort by communities along Route 66 from Joliet to Towanda. She spearheaded the idea of opening a museum to bring in more tourists to Pontiac, and in 2005, the Route 66 Museum and Hall of Fame was opened in the city’s former fire station. Estes wanted to honor all Veterans who have bravely and honorably served this country, so she spearheaded the Livingston County War Museum, which opened in 2006. She even convinced the City of Pontiac to purchase a trolley that is in service today, to transport visitors around the city. Today, tens of thousands of people visit Pontiac, due to Estes’ dream and hard work.
• Carole Rita Nolan (Arlington Heights, IL), the winner in the education category, has lived a career of dedicated public service by applying her gifts of teaching and leading to promote quality education in Illinois. Nolan earned degrees in education from DePaul University in Chicago in the 1950s but she never quit studying and learning herself. She even attended Oxford University in England in 1999. Early in her career, Nolan taught science at Northeastern University and has been an Adjunct Professor of Communications at DePaul University. Nolan was the Director of Telecommunication and Broadcasting for the Chicago Public Schools, designing and producing hundreds of hours of educational television programs. Most notably, Nolan established Public Radio Educational Broadcasting in Chicago in 1971. Today, WBEZ Chicago is the premier public education station in the nation with a 50,000 watt transmitter atop the John Hancock Building to reach nine million listeners. As President, General Manager and CEO of WBEZ, Nolan opened a state-of-the-art facility on Navy Pier and conducted a $7 million capitol campaign to make it happen. Nolan serves on many boards and remains an active volunteer in causes affecting teachers, children, hospice, seniors, neighborhood groups, libraries and more.
• Eugene B. Redmond (Fairview Heights, IL), the winner in the performance/graphic arts category, has been a patron and an anchor serving his community, nation and world through the arts. Retired from Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville, Professor Edmond was dedicated to teaching English, Literature, Poetry and African-American Cultural history. Currently serving as chair of the creative writing committee and the editor of the several publications, Redmond has authored and edited more than 25 volumes of poetry, and plays for theatre and television. In 1976 Redmond was named Poet Laureate’ of East St. Louis. He has been a writer in residence at California State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Lagos, Nigeria, Southern University at Baton Rouge, and today, he still leads the charge in improving community relations and the arts through his charitable services.
• Bob Blazier (Crystal Lake, IL), the winner in the labor force category, has provided over four decades of business leadership throughout Illinois, working to ensure the quality of life and protection for tens of thousands of senior citizens. He has served as Executive Director of the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce and chaired the McHenry County Political Action Committee that successfully educated residents to vote for and pass a tax used to establish a senior center in Crystal Lake. Thousands of county residents have participated in activities and companionship programming at the senior center, while thousands seniors have been helped by the caseworkers and services available at the facility. In 1959, he established The Elm City Center in Jacksonville which helped patients who had been released with no job skills after a 30-year-stay in the State Hospital. Blazier has provided business strategies and acumen from 1996 to 2006 as the Board Chairman for the Fitness and Rehabilitation Center for seniors recovering from surgery and illness. The Crystal Lake City Council even proclaimed “Bob Blazier Day” in 1996 and 2007, as a way to recognize Blazier’s attributes and accomplishments.
The Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement recognizes groups, individuals and programs that make a positive impact on the lives of seniors in the state. The winners of the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement are:
• Love INC (Rockford, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Northwestern Illinois Area Agency on Aging. Love In the Name of Christ (INC) is a strategy to help churches help their neighbors in need. Love INC has a phone ministry clearinghouse which receives requests for help, screens the request and refers it onto a local church program or volunteer, or to a community service agency. The ministry is supported by donations from individuals, businesses and churches and has made a difference in countless lives since 1992. In an average month, about 45 percent of Love INC’s care goes to young families, mostly single parent households, and 35 percent to seniors, with young people making up about 20 percent.
• Bridge The GAP (Growing, Aging and Participating) Senior Conference (Kankakee, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Northeastern Illinois Area Agency on Aging. In 1993, the Kankakee County Senior Service Providers identified that there was no place for older adults to meet, have fun, socialize and be educated on available services and programs. Providers decided to take action and planned the first Bridge The GAP Conference for Kankakee County, which included 68 participants. This year, the 13th Conference was held with 250 participants, 28 exhibitors, 16 workshops, health, hearing and balance screenings, a catered lunch and entertainment.
• Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging. RSVP is a nationwide program administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, which provides opportunities for people age 55 and older to volunteer in their communities. The RSVP of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois is unique in that it is a bi-state program with offices in Rock Island and Monmouth as well as Scott County, Iowa. It has more than 1,000 volunteers and more than 132 “stations,” which are community agencies where volunteers provide service. From January through June 2007, 834 RSVP volunteers provided more than 76,760 hours of community service in Rock Island and Warren Counties in Illinois and Scott County in Iowa.
• Peace Meal Senior Nutrition Program (Charleston, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. Established in 1974 and sponsored by Eastern Illinois University, Peace Meal serves 74 meal locations, including 58 congregate sites across Champaign and McLean’s metropolitan counties as well as 12 rural counties in east central. Last year, Peace Meal served 132,107 congregate meals to 4,266 older persons and served 217,465 home delivered meals to 2,123 older persons.
• Prairie State Legal Services (Peoria, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. The Peoria office of Prairie State Legal Services serves five counties. It assists those older adults of the greatest social and economic need who need legal help. Prairie State attorneys often make home visits and serve clients in hospitals and nursing homes. Prairie State Legal Services has teamed up with libraries in five counties to provide free Living Will-Health Care Power of Attorney clinics to seniors.
• Virgil Niewohner (Quincy, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. Niewohner is 87 years old and has been volunteering at Quincy University since 1958 and at Quincy Notre Dame High School for 47 years. He remains an active member of St. Francis Holy Name Society and as an usher at his church. He also serves on the Meals Plus for Seniors Board of Directors. Niewohner is a volunteer at the Quincy Senior and Family Resource Center and spends several days a week packaging bread for the home-delivered meals program.
• The Parent Place (Springfield, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Area Agency on Aging for Lincolnland. The Parent Place is a community-based organization that works to meet the needs of parents and grandparents raising children by providing information, resources and services to help these relative caregivers. The Parent Place sponsors an annual community event, the Diaper Drive, which served over 1800 babies last year, reducing some of the financial burden on relative caregivers. The Parent Place also runs the Individual Family Coaching program, which allows each relative headed household to explore its own unique situation and challenges, and how to focus on and achieve enhanced family values.
• Betty Doehler (Belleville, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois. Doehler has been an active volunteer with BEACON of Belleville, which is an organization of interdenominational churches that operates as a social outreach clearinghouse providing personal assistance through church volunteers and others. She is the Volunteer Furniture Coordinator for Beacon’s Furniture Ministry. Currently, Doehler is President of the resident association where she lives, coordinating many activities for the residents. She serves as President of the Church Women United and is the Education Chair for the Women of the Moose, as well as a member of the local newspaper’s advisory board.
• David Katt (Effingham, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Midland Area Agency on Aging. Katt is the President of the Board of Directors for Effingham City and County Committee on Aging. When ECCCOA was on the brink of financial collapse, Katt didn’t give up. He dedicated countless hours to get the ECCCOA back in good financial condition, by working with creditors, maintaining honest communication with staff, making key changes in staffing and assignments, and working responsively with the Area Agency in the quest to get back on financial footing.
• The Carterville Lioness Club (Carterville, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by the Egyptian Area Agency on Aging for all their hard work, compassion and dedication to older adults in Carterville and Williamson County. The Carterville Lioness Club considers it their community responsibility to help people in need. The club has adopted both Shawnee Alliance, which works with the most vulnerable seniors and the Women’s Center, which works with people in domestic violence situations. Working with the Shining Starts Program, the Lionesses make sure seniors receive gifts at Christmas.
• James Durkan (Hinsdale, IL) was nominated for the 2007 Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement by AgeOptions, the Area Agency on Aging of Suburban Cook County. Durkan has been a guiding force in the development of Aging Well – an AgeOptions project to meet the long-term care needs of greater Lyons Township. He has served as a co-chair of the Governing Council of Aging Well since its inception and has provided crucial funding for Aging Well through the Community Memorial Foundation, for which he is President and Chief Executive Officer. Last year Durkan was named “Man of the Year” by the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce in LaGrange.