Wednesday, April 24, 2019

UIS Good as Gold awards honor more than 60 local volunteers, businesses and organizations

The University of Illinois Springfield, Junior League of Springfield and the United Way of Central Illinois honored more than 60 Sangamon County volunteers and businesses during the 11th annual Good as Gold Ceremony. The event was held on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at the UIS Student Union.

The Good as Gold Ceremony was started in 2008 to honor people, businesses and organizations who freely give their time and talents to make Sangamon County a better place to live.

Distinguished Volunteer Award 

Donna Jean Gibney of Springfield was honored with the 2019 Distinguished Volunteer Award. Gibney has been involved in leadership roles within two local organizations since 1996: King’s Daughters Organization (KDO) and the Sangamon County Medical Society Alliance (SCMSA).

“During my service with both of these organizations, I ended up overseeing a major restructuring of each, first while president for KDO and later while chairperson of the board for SCMSA,” she said. “I had always been dedicated to each and offered a large amount of my time to each, but I will say that being involved in the restructuring processes, especially for KDO, made me even more passionate about and dedicated to them and their missions.”

From a personal perspective, Gibney feels that volunteering involves being productive beyond just family and friends.

“My belief is that volunteering is critical to the well-being of any community, not just our local community. There are not enough financial resources to pay for all the work that needs to be done, often that desperately needs to be done,” said Gibney. “In thinking of the big picture, without volunteers of all sorts giving their time freely, our society would suffer horribly, not just locally, but nationally and even globally. Each one of us volunteering in our local community is part of a much bigger picture."

The 2019 Distinguished Volunteer finalists include Cheryl Garvin, Joe O’Beirne, Mark Pence and Barb Walker.

Star Student Award 

Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) student Sonia Kenney of Springfield was honored with the Star Student Award for her volunteer efforts.

Kenney was accepted into Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County’s Homeownership Program in August of 2017 and did not hesitate jumping right into her position from the start. She attends LLCC, works two jobs, has three teenage daughters, and still finds the time to volunteer and make a difference.

“Volunteering to me is not being obligated to do something kind,” said Kenney. “Something that’s meaningful to not only the volunteer, but also to the organization or person I am doing it for. Volunteering is doing something from the heart. It doesn’t require compensation.”

As a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, she has worked at the Restore and has also volunteered on five home build sites. Her volunteer work has helped other families’ lives, and she has been a positive example to these other families.

Other organizations through which Kenney has volunteered include the St John’s Breadline, various schools throughout District 186, the Special Olympics and the Girl Scouts.

Star Staff Award

Angela Try of Chatham, a public relations specialist at the University of Illinois Springfield, was honored with the Star Staff Award for her volunteer efforts in the community. Try is a Girl Scout leader for Troop 6130 in Chatham, and her daughter is an Ambassador Girl Scout. Try has also served six years as the committee chair for Cub Scout Pack 79 in Chatham, and her son is currently a Cub Scout.

“There’s no other feeling like doing something for others with no expectation of it being returned. It’s how my husband and I live our lives,” said Try. “Leading by example and teaching my kids, and the other youth that I work with, about service to others is the most important aspect of volunteering to me.”

Try teaches middle school faith formation classes at St. Joseph the Worker in Chatham, has volunteered to attend Catholic Heart Work Camp with the high school students and has been involved with the Glenwood High School speech team, serving on the booster executive committee.

“I only hope I’m leaving a legacy of kindness, thoughtfulness and genuine integrity in my wake with the youth and people that I come in contact with,” she said.

Youth Volunteer Award

Chatham Glenwood High School senior Athena Try, daughter of Carl and Angela Try, was honored with the Youth Volunteer Award. For 13 years, Athena Try has served the Chatham Girl Scouts and the Girl Scout community of central Illinois by volunteering throughout her elementary and high school years. She has racked up approximately 200 hours of volunteer service in just this past year alone.

As a younger scout, she earned her bronze award by hosting a World Thinking Day/Princess event for the Girl Scout community. As an older Girl Scout, she has taken on more leadership and responsibility in the community of Chatham as well as the Girl Scout community as a whole in central Illinois.

“By being present and leading activities in the community, Try has encouraged young girls to become leaders by providing them a strong example,” said her nominator. “She serves as a role model in and outside of Girl Scouts and demonstrates daily what service and leadership truly mean. Athena has taken the leadership quality that scouting has taught her and applied it to several school and church organizations.”

As part of her volunteer service, Try designed and built a reading garden at Matheny-Withrow Elementary School in Springfield. The project took a year-and-a-half to complete.

“This selfless project has given the students of Matheny-Withrow Elementary School a beautiful reading garden to enjoy,” said her nominator.

Finalists for this award include Kylie McMillan, Emily Monroe and Gwen Rees.

Heart of Gold Community Awards 

Thirty-one local volunteers were also honored with the Heart of Gold Award. Recipients included: Carl M. Affrunti, Judith Barringer, Michael Blitstein, Stacey Ann Bredemeyer, Connie Butts, Thomas J. Byerly, Nancy Canady, Cindy Denby, Andrea Fuchs, Dr. Sam Gaines, Sarah Goleman, Tiffani Graham, Tammy Gilchrese, Carol Gruwell, Diane Hayes, Jim Keys, Rita Keys, Jamie Kuhlmann, Paul Layton, Patricia Leamon, Rena Leggitt, Rochell Logan, Megan Mitchell, Robert J. Moore, Sharon Nichols, Lori Payne-Mullett, April Poole, Matthew Scrivano, Beth Sonneborn, Eileen G. Tepatti and Joann Wente.

Organization Agent of Service Award

The winner of the 2019 Organization Agent of Service Award is King’s Daughters Home (KDO). The organization has been serving the seniors of Sangamon County for the past 125 years. From the beginning in 1893, the focus of KDO has been on the well-being and health of all seniors in Sangamon County, and in 1895 the Home for Women opened for those who had no other means or family to care for them.

“We have nine, what we call circles of friendship, that are made up of 350 members,” said Brenda Staab, president of KDO. “We do not have staff here. Everything we do here is volunteer. Of the 350 circle members, more than half are active volunteers.”

From 2006 to 2018, KDO has awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to more than 160 organizations in Sangamon County that serve the needs of seniors. Beyond granting $200,000 each year to support organizations that help seniors, KDO members volunteer their time with the organizations it supports.

Last year, KDO volunteers contributed approximately 5,000 hours of service. Members have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Senior Services of Central Illinois, the Loami Food Pantry, the First Presbyterian Church food pantry, Land of Lincoln Honor Flights and the Fair Hills Residence at the Illinois Presbyterian Home.

Business Honor Roll

A total of 21 Sangamon County businesses were named to the Business Honor Roll sponsored by the UIS College of Business and Management. The honor roll recognizes businesses that have made giving back to our community a priority.

Three businesses were listed at the top of the honor roll as Golden Distinction Winners including the Butler Funeral Homes and Cremation Tribute Center, Illinois Educators Credit Union and Marine Bank.

Other businesses making this year’s honor roll include AlignLife of Springfield; Bank of Springfield; Formea Insurance Group, Inc.; Horace Mann; Illinois REALTORS; Kerber, Eck & Braeckel; Koch, Sylvia, and Associates - Ameriprise Financial; Memorial Health System; President Abraham Lincoln Springfield - A DoubleTree by Hilton; Scheels; Sangamon Reclaimed; Sensible Innovations; Serious Lip Balm; Springfield Electric Lighting & Design/Springfield Electric Supply Company; St. Joseph’s Home of Springfield; UNDERDOG Sports, Memorabilia & Games; United Community Bank and Wells Fargo.

For more information about the awards, please visit, email or call 217/ 206-8448.

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