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In the time I’ve spent covering Will and Grundy counties, it’s become increasingly clear to me that this community is a humble one. That humble attitude is part of the reason why we at The Herald-News think the Everyday Heroes program is so important. The program is an initiative of Shaw Media that honors those who selflessly donate their time and talents to help those in need or to improve their community. This year, we worked hard to ensure the call for nominations pervaded the community – and received an outpouring of applicants. The sheer volume of individuals who have inspired others enough that they took the time to sing their praises in an Everyday Hero nomination was astonishing. These 16 people are men and women we all know. They’re doctors who

VIEWS Lindsay Gloor go above and beyond, volunteers who leave their marks on everyone they touch, previously unsung – but always appreciated – community leaders and those shaping the future leaders of tomorrow. Because these individuals don’t ever seek recognition for the invaluable work they do, we feel it’s our job to do just that. As my coworker informed this year’s winners they had been selected to be honored at our Everyday Hero ceremony and in our special section, she repeatedly told the newsroom how shocked each winner was and how they said they didn’t deserve the acknowledgment. I edited their stories and can

attest – they certainly do. In addition to reading their stories, I invite you to turn to page 22, where Kristen Koppers, who in 2015 was selected as one of our first Everyday Heroes, explains what the honor means to her. Koppers kindly agreed to be our keynote speaker this year. I’d also like to give a special thanks to J.D. Ross for helping Herald-News staff in selecting its winners and to those who took the time to nominate their neighbors. Humility is certainly a valuable trait, but I think we all need to hear about the good in this world every once in awhile.

• Lindsay Gloor is the associate editor of The Herald-News. She can be reached at lgloor@shawmedia. com or 815-280-4090. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayGloor.

THE HEROES INSIDE Quinn Adamowski ....................... 4 Dr. Theodore Bellos .................... 6 Elena Cabral ................................. 7 Richard Chavez ............................ 8 Terri Crotty ................................... 9 Joette Doyle ............................... 10 Elmer Geissler ............................. 11 Alicia Guerrero ............................12 Henry “Hank” James ..................13 Pat Kaveney ................................14 Eric Kimble ..................................15 Clifford Lauderdale ....................16 Geri Morse ...................................17 Kaitlyn Robertson ..................... 18 Sue Staehely ...............................19 Janet Weakley ...........................20

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Celebrating the 2018 Everyday Heroes


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QUINN ADAMOWSKI to bring the community in,” Quinn said. Quinn has extended his When Catherine Adaservice and currently holds the co-chair position of the mowski met her husband in Prison Coalition Committee, college, she laughed as she walked into his room and the a subcommittee of the museum board. only decoration was a Joliet The past two years, Quinn sesquicentennial yard sign in has devoted time and energy his window. “This related to my lack of to preserve and showcase the experience living in one area prison. Quinn said the journey has been a back and forth in contrast to my husband struggle, but in January, they who grew up in one place,” were allowed site access and Catherine said. “I didn’t he and other volunteers have know the concept of civic worked diligently to make pride until I met Quinn. He’s this idea into a reality. extremely interested in the “He has gone out to the history of Joliet and a deep prison every weekend for respect for heritage.” the last four months. In the Quinn holds the title of associate principal at Lincoln summer he would go out multiple times per week or School where he works with multiple times a day because at-risk youth in grades six he loves it. To Quinn, this is through 12. With his backso exciting and everything is ground in education, he deprogress to him in order to cided to run for Joliet Public restore a historical building, Schools District 86 Board of add longevity to the history Inspectors and has been on and bring vibrancy to the the board for four years. east side of Joliet,” Catherine “I love working with the said. board members and superinThe Joliet Historical tendent to move the district Preservation Commission in a forward path,” Quinn welcomed Quinn as one of said. its directors. This group His seat on the Commuremains responsible for the nity Service Council of Will process in which historical County combines his dedlandmarks are identified and ication to children and the also reviews and approves welfare of its residents. This improvements on such hisnetworking group of service torical landmarks. agencies allows Quinn to Quinn grew up in the connect with agencies he uses Cathedral Area of Joliet and on a daily basis at his job at now lives in the same area Lincoln School. with his family. He is the “For example, we have president of the Cathedral had students in the past who Area Preservation Associabecome homeless and now tion, which was established it’s just a phone call to one in 1981. of the agencies. We tell them He also works with Project of the student’s situation Acclaim to promote Joliet and we get it taken care of,” and Will County. Quinn said. “We have so many good Quinn has a passion for history and his hometown, so things here in Joliet. We celebrate diversity and individuit was a natural progression for him to join the Joliet Area ality that makes Joliet a great place to live,” Quinn said. Historical Museum Board, a Catherine said her husposition he has held for two band goes to meetings not for years. recognition, but as a labor of “As a lifelong resident love. of Joliet, I feel like there is “He is humble to a fault. If a lot to celebrate here. The museum is a hub for that – we he could make things happen with an invisibility cloak on, have many events coming he would,” Catherine said. up and we are doing more

By ALLISON SELK

Shaw Media correspondent

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


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DR. THEODORE BELLOS By ALLISON SELK Shaw Media correspondent Dr. Theodore Bellos has given his Sundays to the Joliet Area Community Hospice since its inception in 1981, when he agreed to help, but was only qualified to lick stamps. Of course, as a physician, he was more qualified, and has taken his role seriously, even juggling his patients and home life to make sure he spends four hours each Sunday at hospice. He helps the nurses, takes out garbage and food trays, passes out supplies and often sits with patients during their last moments. Fellow volunteer Brenda Brewer said he has his system down and hits the floor running as soon as he arrives. She said the focus has never been on Bellos, always on his patients in his practice or the ones at hospice. “One time, he was late for his 4 p.m. shift, and I asked him where he was. He told me he had a patient in pain, and it couldn’t wait until Monday, so he opened up his office for them,” Brewer said. A large part of his volunteer time has been devoted to sitting with those who may not have a relative near or no relatives at all at the last hours of life. He said, sometimes, a patient will just look up at him, and he will ask if they would like him to say the Lord’s Prayer, and he has yet to be turned down. “Some will say ‘thank you, I needed that.’ Well, I needed that too,” Bellos said. He said he can know a patient in hospice for a couple of weeks, but it feels like a life-long friendship. There is one rule when it comes to death – he never says he lost someone when they

die because they are on a journey somewhere else. Bellos said he does not do the work for the accolades; it’s for the quality time he can spend with people in their last moments. He holds hands as people pass and usually attends the wakes. He even had a patient who was at home and made Bellos his secret recipe famous stew and only a week later, the man died. “It was sweet. He made it from the heart,” Bellos said. Joliet Area Community Hospice volunteer manager Denise Payton said Bellos has made a longterm commitment, and that should be honored. “Some people get fired up and do things for awhile and leave. No matter what complications go on in his life, he is here for his shift,” Payton said. “He believes in the patient’s right to be treated with and die with dignity.” Bellos also volunteered his time in the past with the Boy Scouts as the assistant Scout master for Troop 175, where his son became an Eagle Scout. “I loved it, I hope I made a difference. I hoped to reach one kid and make a difference in their lives. We had kids who were for some reason out of control, and they have now turned out to be great young men,” Bellos said. He also has helped out at a local hospice camp, which was designed for children who have lost a parent or both parents. “In all of my years, I have never met anyone like this, he is caring, compassionate and has empathy. He’s just always doing for everybody,” Brewer said. “He has a big smile, a bubbly personality and always has a compliment you can tell comes from his heart.”

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


ELENA CABRAL Following a brain aneurysm in 2013, Elena Cabral reevaluated the meaning of her life and used her talents for community service. “I was a project manager in downtown Chicago. I loved what I did, but it wasn’t satisfying – not fulfilling. I quit, and we moved to Coal City, where I could spend more time with my son. I tried to be a stay-at-home mom, but I was not doing enough,” Cabral said. She set a goal to go back to construction management, but, one day, she did not feel right and went for vertigo tests. Doctors found a brain aneurysm, and she had surgery. This once visual thinker could no longer see in pictures, could not think of names of everyday things and, when she could not remember her son’s name, she knew it was time to “man up.” She learned to walk and talk again. “Life isn’t the same once they go in and open your brain. My life is really different – it’s a lot better. The brain aneurysm was a blessing. If it wouldn’t have happened, I would not be doing what I am doing,” Cabral said. In 2014, Cabral asked her husband to take her to a Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity ribbon-cutting ceremony. She slurred her speech so she wanted him there to help tell the organization she thought its work was amazing. “I signed up myself and my husband as volunteers. He is an electrician. I thought I would sign him up and ride his coattails, since I couldn’t bend or work but I could talk,” Cabral said. Her gift of gab and persistent nature allowed Cabral to solicit donations

or discounts from suppliers for materials. She noticed her speech cleared up, and her brain connected more. She said she could see pictures in her head again, so her visual learning abilities were restored. “They think I do a lot for them; they do a lot for me,” Cabral said. “I wasn’t thinking about the aneurysm anymore. I started to see life differently. Life was so fulfilling, even though some of this work was what I did as a project manager.” Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity volunteer and board chair Julie Wilkinson said, “She has no preconceived notion how the process has to go. She is resourceful and finds the tools and people to accomplish a task or goal. It’s refreshing.” “This gave my life meaning – not to say it didn’t have meaning before. When I left Chicago, I was bitter toward people, but Grundy County is unique. So many people give without wanting anything in return,” Cabral said. Cabral also works with the University of Illinois Extension as the bilingual coordinator for 4-H. She goes into schools and Morris YMCA summer camps to speak about the programs. She steers the Culture Kids group, open to all boys and girls from 8 to 18 years old. “She has been guiding us, especially our oldest daughter, trying to teach about all of the opportunities to learn in art, drawing and painting,” Jose Gonzalez said. “She helps them with projects for the Grundy County Fair, the kids love her.” “Grundy does more for me than I do for them; it makes me so happy. I could have died in Sept. 2013 and now I have a second chance to make a difference in people’s lives,” Cabral said.

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RICHARD CHAVEZ

said. The largest donation he has given was $100,000 to Richard Chavez rethe Kiwanis Scholarship members the teachers who Fund in 2018. The Kiwanis helped him and his family, board renamed the Key Club Scholarship the Richespecially a sister and two ard L. Chavez Kiwanis Key brothers who were born Club Scholarship. in Mexico and only spoke “I’m amazed by his genSpanish. erosity; it’s not like he’s a In high school at Joliet rich man. He was a teacher Township High School, for 40 years. This was a he had teachers foster huge gift and something his desire to go into the really important to him,” education field, as well as Kiwanis member Karla coaches who encouraged Guseman said. He gave his an interest in running. entire adult life working “Don Kinlein, P.E. with kids.” teacher at Joliet Central Chavez said he gives High School, also encouryearly to the Illinois Promaged me to excel in all of ise Fund at University of my endeavors,” Chavez said. “He started me in my Illinois at Urbana–Champaign as well as to its La interest in running. One of my most memorable ex- Casa Fund; merit scholarships at the University periences was assisting a of St. Francis; $37,000 blind student at Plainfield Central High School to ful- toward a fund established fill his desire to run on the at Plainfield Central High School for a graduate track. We accomplished this by placing his hand on going to University of Illinois at Urbana-Chammy shoulder, and we ran paign and presently, the together several times.” Richard L. Chavez Family Chavez graduated Scholarship to students high school and attended transferring from JJC to Joliet Junior College. He University of Illinois at graduated in 1962 and Urbana-Champaign. was awarded the Kiwanis When he was not in $1,000 scholarship. Fellow school or on the track, Everyday Hero nominee Chavez volunteered Elmer Geissler was on the at Presence St. Joseph Kiwanis board who chose Medical Center, where he Chavez. “This was the beginning transported patients. He also volunteered at the of my goal to become a Will-Grundy Medical Clinteacher,” Chavez said. ic in the pharmaceutical He graduated from the department. University of Illinois with Guseman said Chavez a degree in education with holds a quiet but mighty a major in social studies type of personality. She and a minor in Spanish. said he may not talk much, He attended Middlebury but when he does, people College for post-graduate work and studied in Spain. need to listen. “He’s a servant to the Chavez taught Spanish community. He wants to for four years at Linmake sure all kids are coln-Way High School, 35 successful and teaches years in Plainfield and, Hispanic students that after retirement, worked being bilingual is an asset. part-time in Lockport. He teaches the kids to be “Some time during my proud, and that no matter teaching career, I decided where they come from, to support students by they have what it takes to offering opportunities for be successful,” Guseman future schooling through said. scholarships,” Chavez

By ALLISON SELK

Shaw Media correspondent

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


TERRI CROTTY Wrangler, one of Terri Crotty’s most difficult rescue cases, has now turned into a spoiled, sassy dog who loves his spot on the family couch. “We came to Wags2Wishes with no specific dog in mind, but when we laid eyes on Wrangler, it was a done deal. We saw his rescue story online, and he pulled at my heart,” Jodi Bruno of Elwood said. Crotty took in Wrangler after a late-night plea from a fellow dog rescuer, who said Crotty was the only one who would take the dog. The photos were horrific, Crotty recalled, as it looked as if his face was broken open to the bone between his eyes. “He was a pit bull, and it took a good couple months of wound care, good veterinarian care and patience. We didn’t have his back story, but we took a chance, and it turned out to be a great adoption story,” Crotty said. In 2013, Crotty had been involved in other rescues, but she had the desire to do more for her four-legged friends. She began to foster dogs in her home and recruited others. It proved difficult to house the dogs on a foster-based system because the need was too great. At the end of 2014, she knew if she wanted to continue her rescue efforts, she would need a facility. She attended an adoption event at Pet Supply in Plainfield, and one weekend, the owner asked if she had considered her own facility. He showed the open space in the building, which also housed a veterinarian, day care and groomer. Within 10 days, Crotty signed the lease and Wags2Wishes had a home. Crotty and her team have taken in about 500

animals each year. The animals, mostly dogs, receive medical attention as needed, baths and become available for adoption. Crotty has been known to the take the worst of the worst cases in order to give the animal a second, sometimes third chance at life, all at great expense, paid for by donations only. “Where one dog may not need medical assistance, the next one may need 10 times the cost of the other dog. The dogs I get usually come in with medical injuries, sometimes worse than we thought, so it’s a balancing act,” Crotty said. As a child, Crotty rescued animals before the term rescue was a thing, she said. She would find strays and bring them home, including snakes. “I have a passion for animals. If an animal is hurt, it can’t tell you ‘Hey, I’ve had a crappy life.’ I want to take them in, show them love and kindness and give them the medical attention they need. I want to lead them to happy lives with the right owners,” Crotty said. In her spare time, she has helped with St. Joseph Academy and Bras for a Cause cancer benefit. She also allows groups to come into the shelter to earn badges for Scouts or volunteer hours. “She does anything for anyone. If there is a fundraiser, she grabs us friends to go help out groups,” Sharon Ausec said. “There is not a person at midnight she wouldn’t get out of bed and help.” Despite health issues last year, she keeps up the rescue, raises her two grandkids and serves her community. “I want this world and community to be a better place for the youth growing up; the more I give, the more I hope to inspire someone else,” Crotty said.

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JOETTE DOYLE By ALLISON SELK Shaw Media correspondent Once Plainfield resident Joette Doyle decided it was the perfect time in her life to give back, she jumped in with both feet and has never looked back. Doyle can be found with the Plainfield Junior Women’s Club, at senior centers, leading committees for women’s issues, Our Caring Closet in Wilmington, or her newest love, a micro pantry full of food for the underserved. “I am a single mom of four. When I had my now 15-year-old twins, both were born ill. One was hospitalized the majority of the first year, and people brought us meals every day and decorated our house at Christmas. I’m finally in a good place and wanted to give back,” Doyle said. Her micro pantry has blossomed into more than just a location for food but for community outreach. During the weekend of Aug. 4, Doyle, along with others from the women’s club, including Donna Vojensky, helped a woman who fled a bad marriage furnish and move into a new apartment. “It was amazing. A lady from the micro pantry contacted Joette, and, in a matter of days, she pulled together a house full of furniture, cleaning supplies and more. We cooked dinner for the woman so she had a meal, we picked up stuff from people’s homes, and 10 of us moved her in,” Vojensky said. Vojensky said Doyle has become a huge asset to the community because she does not judge. If someone has a need, she will provide and not look in judgment. “She will tell you that, too,” Vojensky said.

Doyle said the micro pantry remains always full, and, when she met a young mother, it touched her heart because the mother did not want to take and not give back, so each time she came for diapers or formula, she added what she could. Doyle said she works as a speech pathologist and has a heart for the elderly and children. At senior centers, the women’s club will decorate residents’ doors for holidays, make cake pops for Valentine’s Day and make “warm wishes” packages in the winter. “We put together bags of items for each person for winter such as slippers, books, puzzles and socks. Many don’t receive visitors, and the centers are low on funds for fun things,” Doyle said. At each monthly meeting of the Plainfield Junior Women’s Club, Doyle takes clothing donations for Our Caring Closet. “After each meeting, I have my van full of clothes organized by what season we are in. We want to help the elderly women who run the center, and it’s going to get done whether we help or not. We younger women want to help them,” Doyle said. She leads Operation Flashlight, which states we are all flashlights in our community. The group spreads cheer and love to residents and staff in local senior homes and nursing homes. She also devised a way to make non-skid socks, which many elderly use, to be more form-fitted and stylish. She takes regular socks and adds puffy paint or caulk to the bottoms to make them non-skid. “I just keep it all in perspective. I want to shed a little bit of happiness, sometimes that is just a smile,” Doyle said.

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


ELMER GEISSLER In 1960, Elmer Geissler walked in his father’s footsteps as he joined the Joliet Kiwanis Club, where he resides as the longest serving member. He spent six years as a Kiwanian with his father, who joined in 1932, before he passed in 1966. One of his proudest moments was in 1970 when he served as the club president when the Joliet Kiwanis Club celebrated 50 years of service. Geissler remembered at that time there still were two original charter members. Still active in the Joliet Kiwanis Club, he looked back on fond memories over the past years of service. “For 20 years, we did the Salvation Army bell-ringing at Christmas. It was fun rounding up the crew to ring bells. We really believed in what we were doing,” Geissler said. Another of his all-time favorite events was the Kiwanis Variety Show. Geissler said this fundraiser would generate thousands of dollars for the organization and was a great place to network and watch local talent on the stage. “We would make props weeks before the show and when it all came together, it was great fun,” Geissler said. Fellow Kiwanian Karla Guseman said, “I can remember Elmer when he was involved in the Kiwanis Variety Show annual fundraiser. I remember going to it as a child. Elmer was good friends with my grandfather.” In his lifetime, he also served on the Joliet Public Schools District 86 board of education, which was natural as his father once held the same position and his mother was active in the Parent Teacher Asso-

ciation. This 1947 Joliet Central High School graduate remembered when his father and others took the old gym at the Central Presbyterian Church and renovated it into a youth center with ice cream, pop and dancing. “My dad was big on volunteering in Joliet,” Geissler said. Geissler has spent 72 years of his life at Central Presbyterian Church, now in New Lenox, and has served as an elder, clerk of session, treasurer and now treasurer emeritus. He has more than 3,600 volunteer hours under his belt at Silver Cross Hospital, where he has held positions such as golf cart valet, and performed office duties in the public relations and marketing department. After high school, he attended Hanover College in Indiana and, at 89 years of age, Geissler said he was proud to say he has only missed three homecomings in almost 70 years. “I have always remained loyal to them. Some of us still get together and I received the Alumni Achievement Award for volunteering in my community,” Geissler said. Geissler said he was proud of his Joliet roots and only left the city for four years when he attended college. He had a great youth and never longed to be from someplace else. His view of community service was displayed by his parents and now he wants to carry that legacy on to the younger generation. “My body is wearing out before my mind, but there are so many volunteer opportunities out there, even for people my age,” Geissler said. “Elmer serves as a role model for a life of giving as he was involved in multiple organizations,” Guseman said.

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ALICIA GUERRERO By ALLISON SELK Shaw Media correspondent Alicia Guerrero has taken pain from the loss of her daughter and transformed it into advocacy for women who suffer from domestic violence. “It (domestic violence) needs to be spoken about more. My neighbor could go through it, but I wouldn’t know. People are being abused and hurt, and I feel like it’s something that should be easy to stop,” Guerrero said. On Feb. 13, 2014, Guerrero and her 15-year-old daughter, Briana, both were shot by an adult man Briana had met online two years prior. Alicia had taken a restraining order out against him. Briana lost her life, and Alicia has spent the past years as a volunteer with Guardian Angel Community Services to tell her story in hopes one life will be saved. During court proceedings, Guerrero was given information on support groups and events in the Joliet area, which pertained to those who had a connection with domestic violence. “I listened to a speaker who lost her pregnant daughter. Being there helped me physically and emotionally. It gave me the energy to do more. I felt so broken. This was going to be for Briana, too – I wanted to try to do anything to keep her name out there,” Guerrero said. Ines Kutlesa, chief executive officer of Guardian Angel Community Services, said the organization hosts and participates in awareness events in the community throughout October, which has been nationally recognized as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” Kutlesa said one event was the sale and distribution of purple light bulbs, which is the recognized color for domestic violence awareness. Guerrero said she wanted the purple light to shine

all over Romeoville, so she bought more than 300 and went door to door in her neighborhood with care packages that included the light bulb, magnets, notebooks and fliers from Guardian Angel. “I felt nervous and did not know how people would react. I would feel good if one person put the bulb in their home, and I could save one person’s life. I would drive the neighborhood at night and see the purple light bulbs out – thank you everyone,” Guerrero said. On her mission, she encountered a police officer and stranger who asked about her mission and handed her $100 donations for the cause. This year, Guerrero worked with Investigation Discovery Network to tell the whole story of her daughter and her daughter’s killer. She said she did it for three reasons, to get her name out, help other people’s daughters and to let people know what happened. In October, Guerrero will be the keynote speaker at the Take Back the Night event in Joliet. She said she wants to tell other parents to, “Never give up on your child. Nobody is ever going to love your child more than you. I wish kids would understand when we tell them things. It’s not to hurt, but help them. Parents, listen to your kids more and stop to take a moment to listen and be there.” Kutlesa said some healing may come from Guerrero sharing her story, but “it takes an insurmountable and tremendous amount of heroic emotional and physical strength, courage and resilience to share it with the world and to relive such a tragedy every time it is spoken about. Alicia did and continues to do just that, serving also as an inspiration to countless others who have lost their loved ones at the hands of domestic violence.”

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


HENRY ‘HANK’ JAMES When the phone rings at the James house, Hank’s wife Barbara says, “You might as well get it Hank, it’s not for me.” Hank has taken on the role of local handyman, errand runner, bread-tester, event planner and food drive coordinator for the Carillon Lakes Community. This older-than-55 community has an aging population, and James has come to the call of his elderly neighbors in such a way that some have said they may have had to look into assisted living if Hank were not there to help. Neighbor Janette Dunn said James decorates her house as well as others’ with Christmas lights, and he brings her tree in along with the ornaments so she can decorate. When her propane ran out on the grill, she had to roll it down the street to get it into her car because of the weight. Now, James refills the tank. He purchased fencing for her bushes to keep the rabbits out and gets on a ladder once a year to change the batteries in her smoke alarms. “We (neighbors) would possibly have to give up doing things around the house we need to do because we have our own homes. We have one neighbor with a husband with Parkinson’s, and his wife would call Hank to come help her when her husband would fall. We might have to look for assisted living if he weren’t here,” Dunn said. Former neighbor Noreen Coyan said James fills needs where he sees them and also takes it upon himself to do things without being asked. She said his usual greeting to her goes, “Hi Noreen, what can I do for you?” “I’m known as the bread lady. I am a widow and most of my recipes make two or four loaves so I give it away. I called him and told him to come choose his loaf, and he

asked if I had any batteries. He said he would leave the bread for a minute so he could freshen up the batteries in my smoke alarms,” Coyan said. James said the reason he helps is simple – something he can do to help his elderly neighbors. He changes the batteries in the smoke alarms in 15 homes around him each year because he does not want them up on ladders. James, 69, feels that his neighbors in their late-80s do not need to take that risk. He and his wife live in a townhome of six, endearingly called the “six pack.” He organizes parties with his six pack and other neighbors in order to keep everyone friendly and up-to-date on each other’s lives. Each fall, James organizes a food drive to deliver to local food pantries. He lets all the neighbors know, picks up food and leaves a cooler by the garage for donations in inclement weather. “Last year, we collected 97 boxes of food. It was rewarding to hear the number of people say ‘thank you for letting me participate.’ God always said to help the poor. People have to eat and people need to help people,” James said. James also branched out of his neighborhood and has volunteered in the surgical center of Presence St. Joseph Medical Center. He stays active as an usher and greeter at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Joliet and assists with the food drives, rummage sales, altar guild and Operation Christmas Child. He and his wife, Barbara, serve food at Daybreak Shelter. “It boils down to this, when my father was alive, he always helped people, and he instilled that in my brother, sister and I. After I retired, I looked and decided on some of the things I could do. Especially now the way the world is, we need people to get together and help each other,” James said.

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PAT KAVENEY

the first military cemetery she visited was in Luxembourg, near the site of the Battle of the Bulge. Pat Kaveney had been “That place had a lasting involved in the Joliet Lion’s impression on me,” Kaveney Club, but after her retirement from The Herald-News, said. She now puts wreaths on she found herself with “an military graves at Abraham awful lot of time on my Lincoln National Cemetery hands.” in Elwood, which she has “At her age, she should dubbed one of the most beaurelax and enjoy retirement, tiful military cemeteries in but she is go, go, go,” neighbor Matt Stukel said. “She is the country. “I do this so I can rememselfless and will do anything ber and it puts my soul to for anybody. She worries rest,” Kaveney said. more about everyone else Kaveney still remains before herself.” active in the Joliet Lion’s She attended an event at her church which showcased Club and has a personal connection with the club’s volunteer opportunities and chose to make St. Vincent de main focus, eyesight. When she was 13 years old, she Paul another venture. For lived in Albuquerque and eight years, she has volunteered in all aspects, from the one of the nuns at the school she attended noticed that stores to the board, where Kaveney could not see the she aides in the decision on blackboard. rent assistance for those in “She told my mom I was need. so near-sighted that she Currently, she works at the store in downtown Joliet, was surprised I could see her from across the room,” where she sorts and folds clothing and cleans and sorts Kaveney said. She said she knows many jewelry. children do not receive much “I like this organization attention at home or school because they actually look and could struggle. She said people in the face and talk to them, recognize them and she struggled and she had attentive teachers and partheir needs,” Kaveney said. ents, so the eye screenings Louis Trujillo of the St. with the Joliet Lion’s Club Vincent de Paul Chicago have become an important Street store said, “Pat came mission for Kaveney. to us four years ago and We have a new pediatric she is really good. She is in machine similar to a camera. charge of jewelry on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, It’s great when we work with toddlers – they are all hams and is a very social person. and like to look into the camShe always directs people to era,” Kaveney said. the right places to go.” She said she volunteers Trujillo said volunteers have become an integral part in Joliet because the city has been supportive of her and of the St. Vincent de Paul her family as she worked organization because the in Joliet and raised three organization needs the help children. and it saves money. “I feel like I need to Kaveney also works with support the community that MorningStar Mission. She said she and her husband use supported me. People need to their Saturday date nights to see that you can volunteer. You don’t have to support in pick up bread from Panera big ways, if you have an hour and take it to the Daybreak or two a week, get involved Shelter so the guests have with a nonprofit,” Kaveney bread Sunday morning. As a self-proclaimed mili- said. “It’s important for tary brat, Kaveney has lived people to know that you can give a darn.” all over the world. She said

By ALLISON SELK

Shaw Media correspondent

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


ERIC KIMBLE

EVERYDAY HEROES | The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

“He teaches them versus just trying to win. He goes through the fundamentals of the sport for Eric Kimble grew up on the south side of Chica- the first years and then works on the skills as go, where some children did not have positive adult they get older,” Sean said. Interial said this past role models to teach them year, Kimble paid for his about sports, careers and entire basketball team to life. Twenty years later, Kimble said God put it on play in the YMCA summer basketball league, him to do something in which runs $50 a kid or his own community. $550 for the entire team. The year 2014 was a “He likes giving back big one for Kimble, now and wants to watch the of Plainfield, as he began kids develop their skills,” to volunteer at the C.W. Avery YMCA and started Interial said. When Kimble realized a nonprofit called the Focus, Extraordinary, Ex- the high costs of youth sports, he wanted to find a cellent and Goals Group. way for children to afford The group’s mission is to to play, so in 2014, he provide comfort and help for the elderly and mento- founded the FEEG Group. ring programs for youths He began sports camps for while focusing on goals, a children to attend free of charge, and the first year, spiritual life, higher education and healthy living. he had 30 participants. Kimble knows sports He said God put it on will do much more for his heart to work with kids while he still lived on a child than teach them how to dribble a ball. Life the south side as he was lessons and mentorship involved with Big Brothgo hand-in-hand with ers Big Sisters, acted as sports. a lunch monitor and was “They (sports) teach active in his church youth choir and youth ministry. how to dream, fulfill goals and get kids off of C.W. Avery YMCA video games. Kids don’t youth and adult sports get outside anymore; they manager Chris Interial need to get outside and said Kimble began to make friends and play coach basketball with the grade school kids and sports,” Kimble said. “I want to capture their made his way to high imagination, give them school as he followed his son through the ranks. He direction and focus on said the YMCA programs something positive so thrive on volunteers as 90 they can do something percent of the teams were extraordinary to conquer their dreams.” volunteer-coached. Community service “Our programs would remains important to not run without volKimble, as he recognizes unteers,” Interial said. everyone at some point “Eric is an intense guy needs help. and very passionate. He “The community needs is a player’s coach, the to help each other to be kids love having him. He safe and successful. If you doesn’t sugar coat anydon’t do your part, the thing and gives the kids community will fall short. constructive criticism. I’m glad I figured it out, Kids request to have him so I do what I can whether as a coach.” it’s taking a kid to school, Sean Williams has buying a kid shoes or two sons, Ian and Seth coaching basketball,” Williams, who only want Kimble said. to play for Kimble.

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By ALLISON SELK

Shaw Media correspondent

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

| EVERYDAY HEROES

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CLIFFORD LAUDERDALE

leads the family into the shelter and fold and present the flag and certificate Clifford Lauderdale felt to the family. They apprehis life was spared in order ciate what we do for their veteran,” Lauderdale said. to spend the rest of it in In 2007, Lauderdale service to veterans in need. joined the Joliet Area “I spent two tours in Vietnam either chasing or Community Hospice to give a final veteran being chased by the bad ceremony to veterans. guys. I came out without Veterans are presented a physical scratch. I was pins during an honor singled out to do what I ceremony. am doing. It’s been on my “Years ago, I had a pinmind for years, ‘Why was ning at the hospice house, I spared?’ I was spared to and the family did not get tell my story, help other any response from the vetveterans; I believe that eran all morning. I knew was why I survived all of the veteran was a Marine, those battles.” so I walked over to his bed Lauderdale was in the and said, ‘Is it true that first major battle of the Vietnam War between the once a Marine, always a Marine?’ You should have United States and North seen the smile on his face,” Vietnamese forces – the Lauderdale said. Battle of Ia Drang. This Denise Payton, Joliet three-day fight took the Area Community Hospice lives of hundreds of U.S. volunteer manager, said forces and more than a veterans have a special thousand of the North bond, so it’s important Vietnamese Army. The that veterans do the actual movie, “We Were Solpinning ceremony. diers,” based on the book, “They feel comfortable “We Were Soldiers Once with someone who knows … and Young” by Lt. Gen. what they went through Harold G. Moore (Ret.) as a veteran. They are and Joseph L. Galloway, honored, recognized and depicted this battle. Lauderdale has made it thanked as a veteran by a veteran,” Payton said. his mission to help veterLauderdale lives in the ans and be, as he said, “the Shorewood Glen communiperson who connects the ty and created a veterans dots,” to connect veterans group and a color guard. with either ways to volThe group participates unteer or receive needed in local events and visits help. veterans in the hospital or On Mondays, Lauattends funerals. He has derdale can be found at volunteered at Presence Abraham Lincoln NationSt. Joseph Medical Center al Cemetery, as a part of as a transporter and its memorial squad. For greeter. nine years, rain or shine, At 83 years old, Laudersnow or blistering heat, Lauderdale joins his fellow dale does not have plans to slow down. veteran volunteers to “He is always on the honor the veterans and move to generate interest families during funeral in something. Whether we services. On Aug. 13, the are at the clubhouse, bowlMonday squad, ages 70 to ing alley, hospice, restau94, performed 13 military rant or grocery store, if he funerals at the cemetery, sees a Vietnam cap, he will dressed in full uniform in engage the veteran, talk 90-degree heat. and ask if he is interested “I want to give honor in volunteering,” friend back to the veterans. I am Ed Sroczynski said. one of the greeters who

By ALLISON SELK

Shaw Media correspondent

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


GERI MORSE After she finished her master’s in education, Geri Morse had her mind set on a career at the high school or college level, but God had other plans for Morse. “It was like God saying, ‘Hello come and work here,’ ” Morse said. “This is certainly not a job, it’s a second home from the people I meet to the children I work with, they are all gifts to me,” she said. “I don’t look at it as a paycheck, but what God called me to do.” For the last 20 years, Morse has worked in religious education at her home church, St. Immaculate Mary in Plainfield. In the past 11 years, she has held the title of director of religious education for kindergarten through sixth grade. Morse takes the mandated curriculum for the religious education program and puts her own spin on the text. She knows the children come to class after being at school all day so she tailored the plans to not only include text but activities to keep interest. The youth Morse works with also prepare for the sacraments, such as communion, reconciliation and possibly baptism, if not yet baptized. On top of duties for the children’s learning, Morse coordinates all of the volunteer teachers within the program. “She cares for each of us volunteers deeply. She has a lot of people who have worked with her for years and I came in as a new person and I felt right at home. She takes the time to get to know each and every one of us,” said Kate Mottl, volunteer religious education teacher. Mottl went on and described Morse as “like a ray of sunshine.” “People are naturally

attracted to her because she is a beautiful person who always has a smile on her face,” Mottl said. “There are hundreds of children and, I swear, she knows all of them by name and the family history.” Debbie Jaffray has volunteered as a religious education teacher for 15 years and said Morse has endless patience with the children and they never seem to rattle her. She handles the parents and adult volunteers with class and dignity, never gets frustrated and always has a smile on her face. “People like to work with her and come back,” Jaffray said. “I started to teach when my own kids were in the program and they have moved on, but I still volunteer because I like to work with Geri. She is an overall role model.” Not only does Morse work at the church, but she also takes it upon herself to assist those in need within her programs. Over the years, she said, they have had quite a few families who have suffered from job loss or serious illness and she wanted to help. “If I see a family in such pain, I want to do anything I can. I know gift cards can be so little, but I want to help them,” Morse said. Morse said she has two rewarding events that happened with her job. One was the sacramental preparation process and seeing families come together with the child to witness and celebrate the sacrament. The second one was the tour of the major relics of St. Maria Goretti. “That day was unlike any other day. From 6 a.m. to midnight, people came in to pray. It was outstanding,” Morse said. She said she likes to be generous because it’s her nature and the nature of the job. She gets to come to work and help people at the same time. She said she was lucky to do what she does and help people.

EVERYDAY HEROES | The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

By ALLISON SELK Shaw Media correspondent

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Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

| EVERYDAY HEROES

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KAITLYN ROBERTSON By ALLISON SELK Shaw Media correspondent At age 17, Plainfield North High School student Kaitlyn Robertson has taken on the role of community service leader. “She is who I wish I was when I was a teen, I wish I was when I was a young woman and I wish I was now,” said Kaitlyn’s mother, Kristen Robertson. Kristen attributes Kaitlyn’s independence to her growing up in a single-parent home. “We sat down in a tearful conversation, and she pointed out how hard I worked. Kaitlyn saw me blossom and grow and has grown with me,” Kristen said. One of Kaitlyn’s favorite endeavors has been the Beyouty Project at PNHS. This one-day retreat hosted by the upperclassmen was designed to mentor all female students within the school. Kaitlyn said she worked all year for the April retreat and will plan to be a mentor next year. “I think it’s important that every girl finds a way to fall in love with herself, be confident in herself and know that she is beautiful in her own way. In today’s society, it’s hard to see that,” Kaitlyn said. “Kaitlyn is interesting because she is not the loudest person in the room, but people are drawn to her,” said Kristen Kolmodin, PNHS social studies teacher and Beyouty Project sponsor. “Last year (when she was a junior), the senior girls just loved her and said she was a positive influence on the group.” During school hours, she acts as a physical education leader with the special education students. She, as well as other students, attend classes in order to assist the teachers. Kaitlyn said the group creates games and activities adapted for students

with physical and social limitations and have fun. “I like seeing the kids everyday, seeing their smiles makes me smile. I have formed friendships, and this is my favorite part of the day,” Kaitlyn said. Along with the work inside school with the special education students, Kaitlyn belongs to a group called Tiger Buddies, which takes field trips with a goal to increase interaction with special education students. She also tutors students in math at her grade level or below. “I like seeing the moment when it finally clicks with someone. When they are struggling and I can explain in a way that makes sense, it feels good to help,” Kaitlyn said. Since the eighth grade, Kaitlyn has belonged to the Plainfield Juniorettes, where she held roles as treasurer, vice president and now president. The girls group meets monthly for community service projects such as Feed My Starving Children, adopt families for Christmas and other varieties of service projects. The summer of 2018, Kaitlyn was selected as part of the Student Ambassador Program at Presence St. Joseph Hospital, where she helped transport patients to and from surgery and was allowed to shadow a surgery in progress. She has aspirations to go into the medical field in the future and said this experience affirmed her desire. On top of all her community service, Kaitlyn works at Hazel Marie’s Ice Cream and walks dogs. Kristen said community service was Kaitlyn’s way of having fun. “People in the community need help and someone needs to be the one to do it, show potential and fill those needs,” Kaitlyn said.

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


SUE STAEHELY As Mark Staehely slowly lost his battle with cancer, he asked his mother, Sue Staehely, to keep up all of the work he had done to support children who faced cancer struggles. “Before he died, he said he wanted me to continue the toy drive as long as I could, and raise money for nueroblastoma research. You had to know Mark; I had to keep my promises,” Sue said. When he passed at the age of 18 in 2006, Sue was left with a void, one son gone, the other at college, and her life, which was previously consumed with doctor appointments and hospitals stays, was no longer. “I was alone. I told myself, I have two roads I can take, stay in the house in bed and feel sorry for myself and be mean, selfish and hateful, or I can take another road and do for other people and not wallow in self pity,” Sue said. “Mark would have never forgiven me for self pity.” She hit the ground running and started the Make Your Mark Foundation, which she claimed was her salvation. Through various private donations and fundraising events, the foundation has raised $1.4 million since its inception in 2006. The foundation helps families with expenses during cancer treatments. Sue said she never wants a family to struggle. The funds also help Comer Children’s Hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. During his six-year illness, Mark began many projects to help his friends he met along his cancer journey. The Mark Staehely Christmas Toy Drive took off one year after his diagnosis in 2000. He asked the schools he attended in Troy

School District 30C to help raise money and donate toys for children in the hospital. Sue said the last year they did the drive, in 2016, more than 70,000 toys were collected. “The toy drive was the favorite thing he did. He was so sick we didn’t know if he would be around the second year so he wanted to do better than the first. Every year, he made it, he wanted to do better,” Sue said. Mark also spearheaded the Mark Staehely Treasure Chest at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. Mark loved to draw, and, while in treatment, the only items the nurse could find were a piece of paper and a broken crayon. The nurse later made a chest, painted it and allowed Mark to put his name and a quote on it. The chest allows children in treatment to grab a toy or coloring book to pass the time. Mark received radiation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which was an adult hospital. Sue said Mark was fine in the adult waiting room, but wanted to make a fun place for the other children. A pediatric playroom was built with a tree painted on the wall, which says “Leave Your Mark Wall.” When children finish radiation, they add their handprint as they leave. Sue maintains other events such as the Strike Out Cancer Day baseball and softball game with Lockport and Minooka high schools, supports a researcher at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the annual golf outing, which takes place Oct. 7 this year. “She (Sue) is showing us that Mark did more for the underserved in his sickness than a lot of us do in our good health. Mark was one of my greatest teachers on how to be other-centered,” said Larry Wiers, former superintendent at Troy CCSD 30C.

EVERYDAY HEROES | The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

By ALLISON SELK Shaw Media correspondent

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Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

| EVERYDAY HEROES

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JANET WEAKLEY By ALLISON SELK Shaw Media correspondent While Janet Weakley was in college, her professor offered a variety of topics for a research paper. She questioned one, which was hospice; in turn, her professor assigned her that topic, which sparked her interest in hospice care. For the past 10 years, she has been involved in hospice, and for the past three, she can be found at VITAS Hospice and Palliative Care facility in Orland Park. She sits with those who have been placed in hospice; she plays cards, talks to them and listens to their stories. She said she has sat with young children and those at 100 years. “I’m able to learn their history, about their life and what they have done,” Weakley said. When she is not at work at the Will County Sheriff’s Office, she can be in a variety of places, depending on the day and time of year. She also has helped through her work with the Shop with a Sheriff program, where she takes assigned children to shop for the family or themselves. “I love seeing the kids and their funny personalities. One boy got all of the things he needed such as clothes and asked if he had money leftover if he could get something he wanted. It touched my heart, he was such a sweetheart,” Weakley said. Most of Weakley’s work comes from her volunteer gig with the Outreach Committee at Channahon United Methodist Church. The group creates fundraisers for mission trips, and provides local mission opportunities to members. “She sees a need, and she is there. She will get up on a Sunday morning and ask for help, and the church responds to her. If she didn’t bring the needs to us, we probably wouldn’t get

involved as much,” Barbara Powell said. “I don’t know where she meets all of the people, but she finds them and helps them all.” Through her church, she has organized a group of volunteers to serve a monthly meal at the Daybreak Shelter in Joliet. There, they cook and serve, and, at times, have even gone in last minute due to a cancellation and prepped meals on the fly. “I like to cook and bake, and some of the clients say the group from our church should go on a cooking show. Daybreak Shelter has a food pantry and, sometimes, we have had to put something together last minute. The people are so appreciative,” Weakley said. She mans what she calls “donation central,” where she asks for specific needs for groups. She sorts them out on her dining room table and delivers as needed. They take items to MorningStar Mission, Daybreak Shelter, nursing homes and Manteno Veterans’ Home. “The veterans love the Little Debbie treat snack cakes. We found out that they can go to the office and get snacks once a day, so we ask people to bring those snacks. In the summer, we make root beer floats,” Weakley said. The church started Bake Day when Channahon resident Derek Hogg suffered from ALS. The members would prep up to 15 freezer meals to take to Hogg and his family. After Hogg passed away, the church adopted another family for their Bake Day efforts. Weakley also leads a group, which makes meals for those in the church who do not feel well or are healing from surgery, helps with the Jump on the Bus program and assists with any need that arises. “I just like helping people if I can. If I can bring a smile to someone and make their life easier, that is more than rewarding,” Weakley said.

Eric Ginnard – eginnard@shawmedia.com


Doing good in our community every day. I’m pleased to support our local Everyday Hero, my daughter, Kaitlyn Robertson

START HERE

By working together, we can make our world better. Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees.

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Plainfield kristenrobertson@allstate.com

STRONG COMMUNITIES

© 2018 Allstate Insurance Co.

Thank You

Kaitlyn Robertson for making a difference in your Community!

We salute you, Eric Kimble!

• Tiger Buddies program volunteer • P.E. leader for her peers with special needs

GREATER JOLIET AREA YMCA

• Student Ambassador Program at St. Joe’s Hospital

(815) SAY-YMCA • www.jolietymca.org

• Donates time and resources to local food bank and shelters • BeYouty Project Mentor

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Congratulations to our Everyday Heroes

Dr. Theodore Bellos Mr. Clifford Lauderdale

Two of our outstanding volunteers serving the patients and families of Joliet Area Community Hospice in eight Illinois counties.

Real People Real Care Your Family SM-CL1570457

Joliet Area Community Hospice Serving the Community since 1982 250 Water Stone Circle • Joliet, IL 60431 815.740.4104 www.joliethospice.org

EVERYDAY HEROES | The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

Kristen Robertson 815-345-4495

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The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

| EVERYDAY HEROES

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16 recipients truly are Everyday Heroes This past Friday, Shaw Media honored 16 individuals at its fourth annual Everyday Heroes breakfast. These 16 people were not only honored by their friends and family but will join the 48 previous honorees as Herald-News Everyday Heroes. These heroes are not in it for a day or even a weekend; they selflessly give their time and energy every day for others. Shaw Media carefully reviewed all the individuals who were nominated and chose this year’s 16 recipients. I applaud Shaw Media and their sponsors, CenterPoint Properties, ExxonMobil, Silver Cross Hospital and D’Arcy Motors for honoring these individuals for their random acts of kindness, their commitment to their community and their selfless acts. Four years ago, I did not think I

VIEWS Kristen Koppers would sit among 15 others listening to all their efforts in how they made a difference within their communities. This year, it was my privilege to speak at the breakfast, while meeting the honorees. From reading the profiles of all the exemplary people, each one is deserving in his or her own way. I was truly inspired by these individuals after listening to their stories from helping those in need, to giving medical treatment and encouraging our youth. As you read these stories, you will understand why they were chosen as this year’s honorees. As a high school teacher in Joliet, I

have the opportunity to meet many community members and teach my students the importance of service within our community. I see students, parents and community members helping out those in need without accolades. While reading the profiles, you will see how each of these individuals has contributed to his or her community in unique ways. From sponsoring events and activities to participating in them, I have seen the willingness of people to donate their time and energy in helping others. Shaw Media brought two counties together, where these individuals live and/or work to share among you. As Dr. Seuss once said, “To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” These individuals are all one person but to the people they help every-

day, they are the world.

• Kristen Koppers earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Western Michigan University then went back for her Masters in English and Masters in Administration. She currently teaches English at Joliet West High School and is an adjunct professor at Joliet Junior College. She is the junior class committee sponsor, where she advocates community service in her club, she is a member of Shorewood Hugs, a team captain and member for the Joliet Relay for Life, a life member of the women’s auxiliary for the VFW and spent 30 years volunteering in all capacities. Kristen is married to Kristopher and they have one child, Jakob. Kristen was honored as one of the 16 individuals at the first Everyday Hero breakfast in 2015.

Congratulations

to the 2018 Honorees: Quinn Adamowski

Terri Crotty

Henry James

Geri Morse

Dr. Theodore Bellos

Joette Doyle

Patricia Kaveney

Kaitlyn Robertson

Elena Cabral

Elmer Geissler

Eric Kimble

Sue Staehely

Richard Chavez

Alicia Guerrero

Clifford Lauderdale

Janet Weakley

It is an honor to recognize people in our communities who selflessly give their time and talents for others. Will and Grundy counties are a better place to live and work because of their efforts.


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EVERYDAY HEROES | The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

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The Herald-News / TheHerald-News.com • Sunday, September 9, 2018

| EVERYDAY HEROES

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