2016 Outstanding Volunteer Awards

These six awards (five adults and one youth) have been chosen based on the nominee demonstration of commendable service to others.

Kayla Button, nominated by Kankakee County Center Against Sexual Assault

Kayla Button epitomizes the true meaning of volunteerism. Her dedication to provide hope, help and healing to survivors of sexual assault is relentless.

Kayla was initially hired in 2011 as a certified Counselor and remained in that position until 2013 when she then returned to school to complete her MSW. She works for the Iroquois Mental Health Center in Watseka as the Director of Child and Adolescent Services, however, she still finds time to work as a volunteer advocate with KC-CASA and has provided over 1,624 hours in just two yeas by working on the Crisis Hot Line, helping survivors of sexual assault.

As a certified counselor, her expertise and experience is priceless along with her ability to speak Spanish helping to serve an ever growing part of our population. She is an excellent mentor to new volunteers and provides survivors the compassion and help they are entitled to.

In addition to her KC-CASA involvement, Kayla also serves as a volunteer counselor for Teen Moms H.O.P.E. for the past two yeas, providing a supportive and nonjudgmental environment. Teen Moms promotes and helps these young woman to becoming more self-sufficient, confident, mature, giving and self-aware. She is also found volunteering at the daycare and provides parenting lessons.

The volunteering duties include her working at her church’s cafe, Adventure Christian Church; involvement with Youth for Christ in Manteno and Momence and continuing to mentor those in need.

Kayla is originally from the Detroit area and finds the time to regularly visit her family. She loves to travel and is an avid sports fan… of Detroit Lions! To maintain her bust schedule she is extremely health conscious and has a healthy and active lifestyle.

This vibrant, caring, empathetic, intelligent and giving young woman is a shining light to all who know her. Kayla, thank you for all that you do to make our community a better place to live.

Gary Dahn, nominated by St. John United Church of Christ

Gary was nominated by St. John United Church of Christ where he has been a member for over 30 years. In those years he has served in almost every capacity, council president, deacon, elder and on numerous committees. Gary has organized several trips the past ten years to Back Bay Mission to do hurricane relief work. These groups range in age from 16 to 85 of varying skill levels. Gary’s patient demeanor helps others to do the word under his supervision and helps them feel valued in the process.

He volunteers on a weekly basis with Blessing in a Backpack, a community effort to provide weekend nutrition for children who live with food insufficiency. In addition to volunteering at his church he also helps with Salvation Army Sunday Dinners, Church camp staff, Mission trips, Christmas in April, Tower Hill Church Camp Conservation Easement and serves on the Limestone Library Board as well as a Limestone Township Trustee. Over the years, the congregation has become aware of needs for individuals not part of the congregation. He has also built ramps for seniors and made the ramp so that when it was no longer needed it could be moved to a new location. He has also provided funds to families for utilities, food, or figuring out how to house them until they get back on their feet.

He is an exceptional volunteer who displays leadership and commitment whenever and wherever he is helping people. Mr. Dahn embodies the word volunteerism and he does so with grace, peace and humility.

Curt Dykstra, nominated by Hospice of Kankakee Valley

As a founding leader of Hospice of Kankakee County Board of Directors in 1983, Curt Dykstra has served in various capacities including Board President, Treasurer and has always had a sear on the executive committee. He has serve on ad hoc committees including: the search committees of two executive directors, finance committee, building committee, and fundraising committees. Curt currently heads the Finance Committee of Hospice which ensures the financial stability for the organization. Curt’s vast experience with HKV has given him the unique opportunity to serve as a mentor for the staff, board and volunteers.

In addition to his HKV volunteerism, Curt has served as treasurer and board member for Youth Opportunities Unlimited, as a past president of the Kankakee Rotary Club, and served on the Bradley Bourbonnais High School Foundation. He presently serves as Treasurer for Gathering Point Church of the Nazarene in Bourbonnais and is an ex-officio on that board.

Gwen Hopkins, Chairman of the HKV Board of directors, states: “Amazingly his enthusiasm for all KVH does is fresh and sincere, never pointing to how things were done in the past. He is always looking for how we can grow and evolve further to meet our mission.”

Thank you Curt, for years of selfless dedicated served to HKV and to other organizations in our community.

Rebecca Schatz, nominated by Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra Women’s Board

Rebecca exemplifies the meaning of volunteerism. We all have heard the term “hit the ground running”, and Rebecca has demonstrated this time and again. Upon joining KVSOWB she immediately took on a leadership role and has taken on the position as Secretary and later as Treasurer. She has been a Co-Chair to the successful and popular Second City Fundraiser, head numerous positions for the Symphony of Sweets Holiday Dinner, and Cabaret Spring Fundraisers. She also is a member of the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra Association of Board Directors.

Never hesitant to take on a leadership ole, Rebecca volunteers as Treasurer to KC-CASA and helps with their fundraising efforts.

She is involved in her church and serve as the Sunday School Superintendent, teaches 7th/8th grade Sunday School and heads the ELCA Barnyard Fund where children raise money that goes towards the purchase of chickens, ducks, and livestock in countries facing hunger. This year’s goal is to raise enough money for a cow! Rebecca’s intention is to install financial responsibility and agricultural knowledge to these children.

Rebecca is not only the financial brains of KVSOWB, KC-CASA and ELCA Barnyard Fund, she serves as a Clifton Community Food Pantry Board Member and the Pantry’s Christmas gift basket Coordinator. Plus, Rebecca’s baking skills are outstanding.

This intelligent, gifted and giving young woman is a shining beacon to all volunteers. The term Servant Leader best describers Rebecca’s commitment to her community. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” He must have meant Rebecca Schatz.

Lois Warenominated by Kankakee Kultivators 

The Kankakee Kultivators are please to nominate Lois Ware for volunteer of the year. Very deserving of he titles Master Naturalist and Master Gardner, Lois has been a model for members in her lifelong practices and stewardship, leadership, and he loving and nurturing ways to outdoor environments. Not only has she opened her homestead to the public for the annual Garden Walk, she has taken responsibility for printing, distributing, selling tickets and keeping financial records the sales. She has helped create and maintain the community Column Garden and the “Let Freedom Ring” garden. She helps plant flowers in downtown Kankakee, at the Historical Museum and the French Heritage Museum. Lois is a nationally accredited Master Flower Show Judge. She has served several times as the Kultivators Flower Show Chairman. Lois is a great educator and a true leader! She is able to make the other members feel included, engaged, befriended and encouraged.

The Kankakee Kultivators have benefited greatly from the wealth of contributions Lois Ware has made to other organizations and in some cases other communities. In addition to her gardening and flower arranging skills, she was a 27 year member of the Momence Woman’s Club, Gladiola Festival Flower Show, 4-H leader, Sunday school teacher, band booster, land scape designer and a nurse. Lois spearheaded the development of the outdoor environment for the Momence First United Methodist Church. Being the thrifty Master Gardener that she is Lois has taught the church committee how to divide plants and transplant them. The Kankakee Kultivators are proud to have Lois Ware be a part of their organization.

Outstanding Youth Volunteer

Alexander Palacios, nominated by Kankakee High School – Kankakee School District #111

Leadership, self-motivation, and commitment are just a few words that describe Alexander Palacios. With his outgoing personality, doing his best in what he does, Alexander is a positive role model for his peers. He takes on a leadership role in group work, sees the benefit of delegating responsibilities and organizing the group for the completion of a goal.

Alexander challenges himself by enrolling in advanced classes and Honors courses with a current GPA of 4.48, but he shows a true passion in helping his community with over 750 hours of community service. During the summers he helps with the food pantry and building and basic maintenance for community structures in Pembroke. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, he helps with home and yard repairs; worked with City of Kankakee Public Works department to construct a playground; and helps out with Kankakee High School’s conferences and events. Alexander’s volunteering also includes the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, St. Patrick’s Half Paddy Festival, and St. Teresa’s Festival and Harvest Sunday.

Alexander actively belongs to LEEAP and Kankakee Heart of Hope Youth Ministry; he currently is the Captain of the Kankakee High School Swim Team, President of Zonta Z-Club and Vice-President of KHS Interact Club. He was awarded the prestigious athletic Chief Kay Award for Swimming, an award based on leadership and character.

In addition to his volunteering and academic achievements, Alexander shows song interpersonal, collaborative and innovative skills, and is currently involved with the Illinois State Board of Education Student Advisory Council. As a member of this council he helps perform in-depth research focusing on “students being able to evaluate tie teachers as part of the Illinois teacher evaluation process.” In addition, he is involved with the KHS Advisory Council to promote a positive school environment and enhance learning.

This intelligent, gifted and giving young man and his commitment to his community is an example of Winston Churchill’s words: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Thank you Alexander for all you do.