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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2000

GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES HOME TOWN AWARD WINNERS; COMMENDS ILLINOIS VOLUNTEERS

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan tonight congratulated winners of the 19th annual Governor's Home Town Awards for their many contributions to volunteer projects throughout Illinois.

"Every single day, somewhere in Illinois a volunteer is making a difference in the life of a fellow citizen. Whether it was being a mentor to a high school student, building a new running track, constructing a playground or preventing abuse of our senior citizens, these volunteers went the extra mile to make Illinois a better place to live," Governor Ryan said. "Every year, the Governor's Home Town Awards give us an opportunity to show our appreciation to the volunteers of Illinois for their unselfish efforts to help their neighbors and their communities."

The Governor's Home Town Awards competition is administered by the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA).

"Volunteers often give their best effort without recognition, and these awards are one way we can make sure the results of their labors are not overlooked," said DCCA Director Pam McDonough. "These volunteers add immeasurable value to the quality of life in their communities, which is a key ingredient to promoting economic development."

Awards are presented in eight categories based on community population. Eligible projects involve general community service or facilities, economic development, achievements for or by youths, and achievements for or by senior citizens.

The Governor's Cup, a traveling silver trophy, is awarded each year to the community whose project was deemed most representative of the spirit of volunteerism in Illinois. The 2000 Governor's Cup was awarded to Newton for the volunteer efforts that contributed to establishment of the Newton Library and Museum complex.

An outstanding public library and museum complex may seem beyond the financial reach of many small communities, but volunteers in Newton made that dream a reality. In March of 1999, the building next door to the Newton library was put up for sale. A generous member of the community offered to donate the purchase price of $30,000 if volunteers in Newton raised the remaining $70,000 to renovate and expand the library.

Even though Newton and Jasper County were experiencing very difficult economic challenges, community leaders decided to raise the remaining funds completely through donations. No tax or grant money was tapped for the project, which was completed just a few months later with overwhelming support. Space in the library has almost doubled, there is a special area for children, and the rooms are large, open, well-lighted and conducive to a working library and museum. This library and museum project declares to the world that the community of Newton treasures its past, and looks forward to the future.

All of the judges who evaluated the applications and chose the winners were themselves former Home Town Award winners. These volunteers reviewed the applications, ranked the projects based on local need and participation, as well as continuity and results, and made site visits to communities selected as finalists. They then reconvened to make their final decisions and chose the winner of the Governor's Cup.

First place winners receive a commemorative plaque and road sign proclaiming the community's selection as a winner in the competition. Second and third place winners receive plaques noting their achievement.

The 2000 competition saw awards presented to 70 projects from 53 cities and villages, 10 counties and 10 townships. A list of the 2000 winners is attached.

GOVERNOR'S HOME TOWN AWARDS WINNERS

CATEGORY I (POPULATION 0 - 2,499)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place
Elmwood - All-weather Track and Outdoor Improvements - The community won funding for installation of an all-weather track, making improvements to the site and a nearby area to provide recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.

Second Place
Cobden - Community Park Project - Volunteers were organized to construct a new community park, giving the residents a place to gather, hold family reunions and to celebrate the efforts that made the project a reality.

Third Place
Buffalo - Spring Cleanup Day - This annual event mobilizes the community to cleanup trash items that have collected in residents' homes and yards. The long term impact is a village with more pride and more value.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place (tie)
St. Rose Township - Brent's Dream - Following the death of their friend in a tragic auto accident, a group of young people led fundraising efforts to purchase the "Jaws of Life" for the local fire department.

First Place (tie)
Beecher - Beecher Community Scholarship Association - At the annual Beecher High School graduation ceremony, more time is spent awarding scholarships than is spent on any other part of the program, thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Association.

Second Place
Merrionette Park - Field of Dreams - The location of the local baseball field was needed to construct a new police station. Volunteers joined to build a new baseball field, allowing the baseball program to continue to serve as a safe and wholesome activity in the community.

SENIOR CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Richmond - Senior Bus Service and Recreation Program - Volunteers saw a need for senior citizens to have transportation to shopping and recreational opportunities, and found a way to make use of school buses while they are not transporting students.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

First Place
Oblong - Oblong Lake Restoration Project - Erosion had left Oblong Lake with a water level of barely six feet. Volunteers undertook the mammoth task of restoring the lake, repairing the shoreline, installing fountains and lights and constructing a walking path.

Second Place
Saunemin - Community Celebration Series - Saunemin residents were proud of their new Community Building, but felt it was underutilized. The answer was a series of "celebrations" to bring the community together and showcase the new facility.

CATEGORY II (POPULATION 2,500 - 4,199)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place (tie)
Newton - Newton Public Library and Museum - Funded entirely with donations, $100,000 was raised to purchase and renovate a building for a state-of-the-art library and museum complex.

First Place (tie)
Tuscola - Actors Rural Theater Company - A local theater group needed a new home, and found one when volunteers worked together to convert a church in Tuscola into a theater and music center.

Second Place
Lena - Lena-Winslow Athletic Complex Pressbox - The old pressbox fell far short of filling the needs of those using the athletic complex. Volunteers worked together to construct a new three-story building that boasts several restrooms and an up-to-date concession area.

Third Place
St. Joseph - All Weather Track Facility - After a narrow defeat 15 years ago, area residents tried again to convince the community to construct a new all-weather track at the local school football field. Volunteers raised more than $150,000 to put the project on a "fast track" to success.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Marshall - Message of Marshall - The Marshall Area Youth Network (M.A.Y.N.) is a group of committed volunteers sponsoring "The Message of Marshall", offering mentoring, local activities and business resources to help prevent substance abuse.

Second Place
Genoa - Random Acts of Kindness Month - The Genoa Chamber of Commerce led volunteers in initiating this event, where citizens, especially schoolchildren, exchanged "tickets" leading to good deeds throughout the community.

Third Place
Galena - Galena Art and Recreation Center - Volunteers offer activities ranging from youth basketball, baseball and football to dance and gymnastics and an after-school "Kids Club."

CATEGORY III (POPULATION 4,200 - 8,799)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place
Olympia Fields - Enhancement Organization of Olympia Fields (EOOF) - The Organization was established to promote racial and cultural diversity in the community. The EOOF sponsors many activities and instituted scholarships at the local high school.

Second Place
Olympia Fields - Arcadia Home Owners Association - When a convicted sex offender was found to reside near the elementary school without having registered in accordance with state laws, residents petitioned against allowing sex offenders to reside in close proximity to schools and parks, resulting in state legislation.

Third Place
Sugar Grove Township - Bliss House Restoration - Volunteers raised funds and conducted work on Bliss House, one of the earliest homes in the community, which now serves as the new location of the Sugar Grove Historical Society.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Edwards County - Safe School Seminar - With only minimal guidance from adults, Students Active in Leadership, or SAIL, organized a highly successful seminar on safe schools in the wake of the Columbine High School tragedy, involving other students, local officials and judges.

Second Place
Putnam County - Putnam County Connection - Founded to fight substance abuse problems among teens, the Putnam County Connection continues those programs and has become involved in many new projects, such as a used clothing store.

Third Place (tie)
Countryside - Haunted Manor - More than 400 young people contributed to this Halloween attraction, giving youths the opportunity to learn many new skills, meet other people from diverse backgrounds and positively contribute to the vibrant life of the community.

Third Place (tie)
Flora - Main Street Historical Mural - After many hours of designing and painting by students, a wall in the downtown area now displays a mural depicting historical buildings, occupations and industries during the past century in Flora.

SENIOR CITIZENS INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Berkeley - 75th Anniversary Celebration - An all-volunteer Anniversary Committee planned and implemented events that included a Memorial Day parade, ice cream social, block party and craft show.

Second Place
Mascoutah - Berger-Kiel House - The Mascoutah Historical Society purchased and moved this log home when its proximity to a new airport would have led to its demolition. Now at its new location in a local park, the structure has been restored by volunteers.

Third Place
Clarendon Hills - 75th Anniversary Celebration - Members of the community came together to celebrate this joyous occasion, with yearlong volunteer activities that included a Clarendon Hills Cookbook and a quilt sewn by local craftspeople.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

First Place
Greenville - Westminster Chimes and Carillon for Downtown Courthouse - With help from many volunteer organizations, the carillon and chimes were installed, creating a charming atmosphere that encourages people to pause and linger in the downtown area.

Second Place
Chillicothe - Spider Hill - The Chillicothe Optimist Club and Three Sisters Park, a living history farm and community, joined forces to create Spider Hill for four weekends in October. A haunted house, walking trail, and bonfire were among the scary attractions offered. .

CATEGORY IV (POPULATION 8,800 - 17,999)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place
Murphysboro - Elizabeth A. Smysor Memorial Plaza - After many volunteer hours of planning and execution, an empty downtown lot became the Plaza, with a beautiful fountain and mural depicting famous local residents.

Second Place
Mokena - Mokena Clean-Up Week - Sponsored by the Mokena Environmental Commission, this annual event culminates in a community-wide Clean-Up Day, mobilizing the efforts of some 300 volunteers.

Third Place
Kewanee - "Oasis" Family Aquatic Center - The community rallied behind replacing a closed swimming pool, passing a $1 million referendum, securing state funds and private donations. The effort paid off, with the new Aquatic Center opening in July of 1999.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Washington - Washington Community Leadership Challenge - Founded by a student, the Leadership Challenge fosters the spirit of volunteerism and community service in young people through leadership activities during their four years of high school.

Second Place
Sterling - Great Times Summer Youth Program - Sponsored by the Sterling Police Department, the goal of the Great Times summer program is to teach through entertainment the importance of graduating from high school.

Third Place
Olney - Bird Haven Revitalization - Eagle Scout Kyle Henton discovered the need to improve an arboretum and bird sanctuary created in 1906. Kyle recruited volunteers to help with repairs and educate the community and schoolchildren about the preservation of this natural resource.

SENIOR CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Palos Hills - 1999 Year of the Healthy Heart - Noting that heart disease is a growing concern among seniors, the city's Senior Advisory Board sponsored activities planned and attended by seniors that included line dancing lessons and heart healthy potluck lunches.

CATEGORY V (POPULATION 18,000 - 28,999)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place
Lake in the Hills - Interfaith Food Pantry - Because of the efforts of volunteers in Lake in the Hills and Algonquin, the two communities now have a food pantry to assist families that have experienced a sudden illness, unemployment or other difficulties.

Second Place
Glendale Heights - Christmas Sharing Program - Volunteers from throughout the community are dedicated to providing the most needy residents and families of Glendale Heights with a "home town" Christmas.

Third Place
Elmwood Park - "The Taste of Elmwood Park" Festival - Volunteers from throughout the Village join to organize and work at the Festival, which draws up to 50,000 attendees each year. The proceeds from "Taste of Elmwood Park" have benefited a variety of civic projects.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Maywood - Cook County President's Office of Employment Training (POET) - Summer Youth Employment Program participants competed in an essay contest, where each young person summarized their employment experience. The top six essayists were awarded IBM computers.

Second Place
Jacksonville - Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Business Education Partnership - In this partnership, Nestle Beverage, USA and the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) joined together for the benefit of students and professionals.

Third Place
Mundelein - Youth Committee Project - The Youth Committee was created to develop strategies to make Mundelein a healthy place for young people and families to live. Youth activities have led to a reduction in drug activity, gang graffiti, and juvenile crimes.

SENIOR CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Bloomingdale - Street Smart Seniors - The program provides a forum for senior citizens to interact with the police department and other Village departments. As a result, senior participants take a more active role in the community and share information for community-policing efforts.

Second Place
Mundelein - A-May-Zing Mundelein - A Day of Caring - This event brings together the residents of the community to work side-by-side with senior citizens. More than 450 volunteers came forward to assist seniors in chores such as painting, yard work, and errand running.

Third Place
Mundelein - Senior Citizen's Police Academy - The goals of this educational effort are to open a dialogue with the senior community and reduce crime and the fear of crime. By providing seniors with information, a major step was taken to prevent them from becoming crime victims.

CATEGORY VI (POPULATION 29,000 - 49,999)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place (tie)
Pekin - Spruce Up Pekin Program - This effort to "spruce up" the community has grown to a twice-a-year event, with activities scheduled in the spring and fall. Approximately 15,000 residents volunteer in different ways to make the events successful.

First Place (tie)
Elk Grove Village - Smart Parents, Safe Kids.com - Concerned about the potential for the exploitation of children via the Internet, the Elk Grove Village Police Department, the local high school, and the Children's Advocacy Center initiated a series of seminars to educate parents.

Second Place
Hoffman Estates - SummerConcert Series - Residents desired a venue for concert opportunities, leading to the birth of the Summer Concert Series. Volunteers from the local Arts Commission organized the concerts, which included blues, gospel, jazz and barbershop performers.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Urbana - Mentoring Program - During 1999, approximately 65 volunteer mentors spent an hour each week with students from local schools. Mentors read to students, helped students with homework, or just provided an ear to students who needed to talk to someone.

Second Place
Alton - First Night Riverbend - This family-oriented New Year's Eve celebration appeals to volunteers and participants of all ages, especially children. The Children's Venue has many activities, performers, and story tellers, and is so popular that it is held in a double gymnasium.

Third Place
Addison - Student Participation Center - The Addison Police Department and the DuPage Prevention Partnership joined forces with high school and community volunteers to open the Student Participation Center to help prevent gang activity.

SENIOR CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Elk Grove Village - Police and Seniors Together (P.A.S.T.) - The goal of this program is to unite the seniors in the community in the hope that they become close friends who will turn to each other, and the police, for assistance when faced with abuse.

Second Place
Niles - By Popular Request: Seniors After Hours - The Niles Senior Center offers special events and regular activities staffed by senior volunteers in the evenings and on weekends, since those can be especially lonely times for seniors.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

First Place
Alexander, Johnson and Pulaski Counties - Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, Inc.- These three counties joined together in applying for Empowerment Zone status, recognizing that all of the areas faced similar economic problems and a regional approach to development was needed.

Second Place
Quincy - Quincy Business and Technology Center (QBTC) - The Quincy Business and Technology Center has made a strong comeback from declining occupancy and revenues. Now, the QBTC has become a primary force in the community for providing services, jobs, and helping to create new businesses.

CATEGORY VII (POPULATION 50,000 - 99,999)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place
Rich Township - Unity Coalition of the South Suburbs - A Unity Day Celebration included a "Hands Across Southland" event patterned after "Hands Across America." More 7,000 people participated in this human chain to show their commitment to diversity and unity.

Second Place
Elgin - Fiesta Salsa - City leaders found an excellent way to celebrate the community's diversity when they created Fiesta Salsa, bringing together all segments of the population to enjoy hispanic culture.

Third Place
Orland Township - Orland Township Food Pantry - The Orland Township Food Pantry provides nutritionally balanced packages of emergency food to those residents who qualify for the program. Many other special programs are also offered.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Bloom Township - Neighborhood Restorative Justice Mediation Program - The program brings juvenile offenders and victims together with a mediator, and the result is often a young person who learns community service and responsibility.

Second Place
Cicero - "Kidsnews" - The official newsletter of the Cicero Youth Commission, Kidsnews is a monthly publication that lists upcoming youth events in the community. Volunteers are responsible for all aspects of Kidsnews, from writing to photography, printing and delivery.

Third Place
Cicero - Cicero Youth Commission - The purpose of the Cicero Youth Commission is to provide young people with viable alternatives to gang activity. Since 1994, youth crime in the area has decreased by 29 percent.

SENIOR CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Palos Township - Senior Advisory Board and Ambassadors - Input received from these senior volunteers, members of senior citizen clubs throughout the township, has guided officials in addressing the needs and concerns of Palos Township senior citizens.

Second Place
Schaumburg - Senior Advisory Council - The Schaumburg Senior Advisory Council is composed of seniors elected by their peers and is responsible for numerous educational, social and physical activity programs that benefit the senior community.

Third Place
Wayne Township - Wayne Township Senior Center - One project sponsored by this concerned group is called "Seniors Helping Seniors". A less fortunate senior is chosen to receive anything up to and above what public aid or Medicare provides.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

First Place
Charleston, Mattoon, and Coles County - Working Together for Tomorrow's Future - In the past few years, a group of citizens of Charleston, Mattoon and Coles County saw an opportunity to broaden joint planning efforts. Now, these local governments share long term goals.

CATEGORY VIII (POPULATION OVER 100,000)

GENERAL AWARD

First Place
Frankfort Township and Will County - Fort Frankfort - This community playground is the result of a group of citizens seeking a volunteer-based community project. Land was donated, fundraisers were held, and construction took place all with the help of volunteers.

Second Place
Winnebago County - Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program - These special volunteers serve as advocates and friends of abused and neglected children moving through the court system. Many children are placed in nurturing homes as a result of the program.

Third Place
Schaumburg Township - General Assistance Holiday Adopt A Family Program - Because of the generosity of the community, more than 1,200 adults, and children in more than 500 households, received food and gifts at Christmas.

YOUTH INVOLVEMENT

First Place
Palatine Township - "Apple Tree Campaign" - More than 500 youngsters in kindergarten through junior high received backpacks filled with school supplies donated and collected by volunteers.

Second Place
Will and Grundy Counties - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties - The innovative "Career Path Program" utilizes positive role models from the business community to help students develop skills that are necessary for success at both school and work.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

First Place
Aurora - Tax Assistance Program - This non-profit organization provides free tax preparation services to lower income individuals and families that need assistance. In 1999, the Tax Assistance Program prepared more than 300 returns that resulted in refunds of $355,000.



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