Exceptional Elmhurst Volunteers Recognized at Service Awards Program
Volunteers take on everything from Leader Dog training to providing sports equipment in other countries.
Elmhurst City Council, Commission on Youth, Senior Citizens Commission and Character Counts in Elmhurst co-sponsored the 13th annual City of Elmhurst Character Counts Service Awards for Youth and Adults.
On March 22, youth and adult volunteers were recognized for demonstrating exemplary commitment, providing for the health and well being of the community at large, and promoting the spirit of volunteerism.
Youth Exemplary Voluntary Winners
Abigail Jane Elf: This York High School senior took on the responsibility of becoming a certified Leader Dog trainer, a specially trained companion for the blind and visually impaired. The intensive training takes 26 days to complete. She then trained an animal for one year beginning in May, 2010, and has done a wonderful job. Without volunteers such as Abigail, there would be far fewer Leader Dogs available to assist those that need them in order to lead independent and self-sufficient lives.
Iavor Entchev and Nina Vujasinovic: These two York High School seniors served as co-chairmen of this year’s York All Youth Relay for Life and were nominated together for their efforts. They were in charge of planning, fund-raising, organizing, setup and cleanup. They have gone above and beyond the rest of the group by investing the creativity and enthusiasm to make this event even more successful than ever before.
Joe Gaudio: A York High School junior, Joe saw a group of youngsters playing soccer in the streets of Acapulco, Mexico, and it changed his life. He solicited donations for soccer equipment and uniforms from Elmhurst soccer teams and the Chicago Fire, and asked the Rotary to provide shipping. Enough was collected for 18 teams to be equipped. The Acapulco Rotary helped select the schools that had the most need to receive the equipment Joe collected.
Grey Miller: A seventh-grader at Churchville Middle School, this nominee travelled to Cuba as part of a mission trip from his church with a suitcase full of baseballs, gloves and soccer balls, knowing that items such as these are hard to come by there. Grey is an avid sports fan and athlete, so he wanted to take something that would benefit kids just like him.
Adult Exemplary Volunteer Winners
William Friberg: This nominee serves as president of the Men’s Club at Elmhurst Epiphany Lutheran Church. He takes initiative for organizing Men in Mission events and for carrying out the main thrust of this organization, which is to raise funds for needy families in the community. Friberg is also a mentor in Elmhurst Unit District 205, a member of the Senior Citizen Commissionand a member of the DuPage County Senior Citizen Council.
Janet Hodge: A member of the Elmhurst Heritage Foundation Board of Directors for four years, Janet is passionate about helping to promote the Elmhurst Historical Museum and the Churchville One-room Schoolhouse, which was re-opened last fall. She works tirelessly to raise funds and has recently taken on the role of co-chairman of the Governance and Board Development Committee, which will take on the responsibility of finding other members of the EHF Board.
Karen Stezowski: This parent volunteer has provided countless hours of planning and implementation for a variety of activities at Edison Elementary School, such as organizing the Opening Day of School ceremony, co-chairing the U.S. Blue Ribbon Award Committee and coordinating this year’s Edison Week honoring Thomas Edison. Karen is an Edison PTA officer and Board of Education representative. In addition, she serves on the Elmhurst Bicycle Safety Task Force and is a den mother to Edison Scouts.
Also earning Service Awards in the Adult category were Betty Laliberte, Becky Nemchock and Deb O'Keefe Conroy and in the Youth category, Joseph Ciannella, Erin McHugh, Evan O'Brien, Katie Beth Pasternock and Claire Toliver.
The York All Youth Relay for Life Team included Mary Kate Cicinelli, Rob Crowe, Mimi DeGaetano, Rya Gorecki, Annie Hart, Caroline Hogan, Sean O’Keefe, Paige Perto, Kayla Spencer, Julie Sulkin and Will Sullivan.
The York Pride Snowflake group included Anastasia Gliatis, Dominick Gliatis, Kelly Kopp, Scott Milling, Alex Mimlitz and Laurel Miner.
Nominees for Service Awards were required to be at least 12 years of age, and service had to be voluntary and unpaid. York High School Social Worker Bonnie Salvo and Elmhurst College Chaplain Rev. H. “Scott” Matheney served as judges. Selection of exemplary volunteers takes place through a blind review process.
Nominees and guests were entertained by the York Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Mike Pavlik. Award winners were congratulated by Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni and members of the City Council during a ceremony and reception held in the Frick Center on the campus of Elmhurst College. ABC 7 Chicago anchor, reporter and Elmhurst resident John Garcia served as master of ceremonies for the evening. He was introduced by Heather Winter, Elmhurst College’s director of government and community relations. Jack Hennessey, a York junior and 2010 Exemplary Volunteer award-winner, gave an address on the merits of volunteering.
Serving on the Elmhurst Commission on Youth, which annually organizes the Exemplary Services Awards program, are event Chairman Kathleen Gusloff, Cindy Szkolka, Erica Brady, Darlene Heslop, Susan Chansey, Hosi Mehta, Darin Evans, Melea Smith, Patti Palmer and Frank Visconti. Under the auspices of the City of Elmhurst, the Commission on Youth was first established in 1995 with a mission of advocating for positive opportunities that promote the health and well-being of Elmhurst youth. The commission has published a Directory of Youth Services, been involved in supporting Operation Snowball/Snowflake programs, laid the groundwork for the Elmhurst District 205 mentoring program and promoted various youth-oriented activities.