Monday, April 19, 2021

UIS Good as Gold Ceremony honors more than 50 local volunteers, businesses and organizations

The University of Illinois Springfield, Junior League of Springfield and the United Way of Central Illinois honored more than 50 Sangamon County volunteers and businesses during the virtual 13th annual Good as Gold Ceremony. The winners were announced in a video released Monday on the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center’s website.

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

Steve Koch of Chatham was honored with the 2021 Distinguished Volunteer Award. He was nominated by Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County.  

Koch’s talents as a financial advisor have been used to help Habitat and other organizations stay on track with their financial goals. He has donated more volunteer hours for his time and talent than can be counted. 

While at Habitat, Koch has served as a Board member since 2019. He has volunteered at build sites since 2018 and recruited clients, friends, and family to help. He is personally responsible for increasing the number of volunteers on the build site by more than 100 volunteers. Koch has served as a project coordinator for two new home builds and will chair another in 2021. 

Not only does he challenge himself to do more to help the neediest in our community, he encourages others to do so as well. Koch is very passionate about the help he can provide, and shows his emotion easily when touched by a story of helping someone get out of the situation they are in.  

Koch is also an active volunteer with the Central Illinois Foodbank, St. John's Breadline and St. Joseph's the Worker Church. He is a regular volunteer at the United Way's Day of Action, SJ-R’s Friend in Deed, and for Wreath's Across America (putting wreaths out at Camp Butler National Cemetery). He is a former board member and past president of the Sangamon Valley Estate Planning Council, former board member and past president of the Springfield Lake Homeowner's Association and a former Republican Precinct Committeeman. He’s also president of the Lincolnland Illini Club and has served in leadership roles at the Island Bay Yacht Club.

In the Chatham community, he has also served as a lector and religious education teacher, volunteered at the pancake breakfast and the mostaccioli dinner.

He has also made financial contributions to more than 20 local charitable organizations and fundraising campaigns. 

The 2021 Distinguished Volunteer finalists include Melissa Boastick, Julie Chrisman and Rabbi Barry Marks.

Star Student Award

University of Illinois Springfield political science major Bryce Thomas of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois was honored with the Star Student Award. He was nominated by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

In the two and a half years that Thomas has volunteered at the Museum, he has donated close to 150 service hours. In that time, he has fostered many meaningful relationships and friendships with the other volunteers and is appreciative of their knowledge and stories. 

He summarized, “I enjoy interacting with the public, especially those who are first-timers or from other countries. I like to watch our guests interact with the history of our nation and better understand how this history impacts our future.”  

The other finalist for this year’s award was Sara-Ann Rosen.

Star Staff Award

Elizabeth Ribarsky of Springfield, associate professor of communication at the University of Illinois Springfield, was honored with the Star Staff Award for her volunteer efforts in the community. Ribarsky was nominated by the Illinois Humane Society, who notes that her communication knowledge and skills have been extremely beneficial to the organization in fundraising and taking a lead in social media.

Ribarsky has chaired the annual Illinois Humane Trivia Night; in which she demonstrated effective leadership skills. She has solicited and directed help from additional volunteers and has developed crucial relationships with donors. In just two years, she raised an additional $25,000 for the organization with this event. 

In 2020, she continued innovative fundraising projects via social media. Getting such significant contributions during a year that challenged many businesses and individuals only speaks to the quality and quantity of relationships Ribarsky has formed and her ability to communicate the importance of the Illinois Humane Society’s mission.

Youth Volunteer Award

Reagan Weichold of Chatham was honored with the Youth Volunteer Award. She was nominated by the Animal Protective League (APL).  

Weichold is a mentor for the APL’s Junior Volunteer Program. She has assisted with the adoption process by taking and posting high-quality photos of dogs and cats online and on social media. This has been a tremendous help with the adoption process, as adopters are now asked to view potential pets online before walking into the shelter.

The APL values her time, energy and talents with connecting dogs and cats with adopters online.

Other finalists for this award included Tyler Lancaster and Audrey Lupton.

Heart of Gold Community Awards

Twenty volunteers were also honored with the Heart of Gold Award. Recipients included: Dennis Ahlberg, Anne Anderson, Stacey Austin, Jim Barr, Sandy Bellatti, Sally Cadagin, Becky Gabany, Paula Harris, Dorothy Hart, William G. Holland, DeeDee McCarty, Allison Montney, Traci Moore, Kristie Parkins, Megan Philpot, Renate Selby, Teressa Shelton, Kate Ward and Laura Winkelmann.

The entire Mostaccioli Dinner Committee, nominated by Sacred Heart Griffin High School, was also honored with the Heart of Gold Award. If not for the pandemic, the Mostaccioli Dinner would have celebrated its 62nd anniversary on Sunday, March 7, 2021. Top years of service on the current Mostaccioli Committee include Mike Ryan (50 years), Judy O’Shea (45 years), Carl Affrunti (41 years), Mary McMann (37 years), Mike Costa (30 years), Andrew Affrunti (22 years), Mike Orlando (20 years), Carrie Richardson (20 years), Maureen Long (15 years) and Jeff Tatarek (10 years).

Organization of the Year Award

The winner of the 2021 Organization of the Year Award is the Knights of Columbus Council 364. The Knights of Columbus have raised nearly $250,000 in the last year with their all-volunteer members.  The Volunteer team is under the leadership of Larry Johnson, Dave Groesch, Mike Workman, Mike Noonan, Terry Farmer, Steve Strack, Andy Adams and Greg Langdon. 

Through its various fundraising events such as ‘Big Raffle’ and ‘Feed the Hungry,’ the Knights of Columbus were able to make donations to local Catholic grade and high schools, the St. Martin de Porres Center and Helping Hands. 

During the winter, the Knights of Columbus continued to support the Helping Hands Shelter by preparing, delivering and serving protein-filled breakfasts on Saturday mornings to 40 shelter clients. The Knights of Columbus truly showcased their community spirit by stepping up and giving back during this pandemic.

Business Honor Roll

A total of 16 Sangamon County businesses were named to the Business Honor Roll. The honor roll recognizes businesses that have made giving back to our community a priority. Awards were divided into four categories: businesses with 1-10 employees, 11-50 employees, 51-150 employees and more than 150 employees. One business in each category received the honor of Golden Distinction.

Businesses honored with 1-10 employees includes Align Life of Springfield, Formea Insurance Group, Inc., Gem PR & Media/Illinois Local, Serious Lip Balm and UNDERDOG Sports, Memorabilia & Games. The Golden Distinction was awarded to The Storyteller Studios.

In the 11-50 employee’s category, Three Twigs Group was honored with the Golden Distinction.

St. Joseph’s Home was honored in the 51-150 employee’s category with M. J. Kellner Foodservice receiving the Golden Distinction. 

The following businesses with 151 employees or more were honored: Kerber, Eck & Braeckel, LRS, Lutheran Child and Family Services, Marine Bank, Memorial Health Systems and the YMCA of Springfield. SCHEELS received the Golden Distinction designation. 

For more information about the awards, please visit, email or call 217-206-7828.

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