Individuals/Organizations Honored with Community Service Awards

The Rockford Park District held the 2016 Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA)/ Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) Community Service Awards today at the Webbs Norman Center, 401 S. Main Street, Rockford.

Community Service Awards are presented every year to dedicated individuals, agencies, partners, and companies who have unselfishly assisted the Rockford Park District in helping to fulfill its mission of helping people enjoy life.  The Park District celebrated 16 remarkable individuals, agencies, partners, donors, and companies for their generous support of parks and recreation in our community.

Executive Director Tim Dimke says, “We are very thankful for every individual, organization, agency, company, and partner that was in attendance today. It is only through the partnership with many others that the Park District can give our taxpayers the highest return on their investment.  Everyone in attendance is not only an inspiration to our staff, but by giving of their time, talent, and energy they have significantly contributed to the success of the Rockford Park District by helping us to achieve our mission to “help people enjoy life.”

2016 Community Service Award Recipients:

Mary Conley

Mary Conley has a love for everything at Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens (NCG). She became a charter member in November 2011, and has been a volunteer since she retired in 2015. Mary volunteers in almost every area and aspect of NCG. She works in the butterfly and lorikeet house during exhibits, helps prepare supplies for events, and works with the horticulture team. She even takes volunteer work home, helping to pack up 140,000 lights after the All Aglow Exhibit. In 2015, Mary dedicated well over 100 hours to Nicholas Conservatory and always with a smile and full of energy.

Susan Hacking

In 2016, the Rockford Park District launched a new internal communications initiative to help team members feel better connected to each other and better informed about projects, programs, and places. This initiative is thanks to a new internal mantra “One Team, One Goal,” bringing a deeper focus to working together as a team to achieve the mission, vision, and values. RPD consulted with several organizations that had internal communication departments. Susan Hacking handles internal communications for UTC Aerospace Systems, and shared important tips, along with employee newsletter examples, email ideas, and employee engagement opportunities.

Daniel Jarrett

Daniel Jarrett has been a valued partner at Standfield Beach. He has been a wonderful advocate for Levings Park, and has worked tirelessly to improve the park and draw new people to the area. In 2016, he took it upon himself to coordinate an event for an RPS 205 engineering class at Standfield Beach. The First Annual Cardboard Canoe Race was held at Levings on a beautiful May afternoon. Daniel was willing to coordinate and host this event with RPS 205, which just shows how committed he is to Levings Park, Standfield Beach, the Rockford area, and doing what he can to help people enjoy life.

Jim Kaplanes

For many years, Jim Kaplanes has been a coach, advocate, leader, and promoter of the game of golf to middle school age kids in the Rockford area. Jim has been a “go to” guy when it comes to helping kids learn and enjoy this great game. In addition to coaching the Eisenhower Middle School team, Jim has volunteered his time with the Aldeen Junior Partners Program, helped lead the whole middle school golf program in Rockford, assisted junior golf tournaments as a rules official, taught the rules of golf and etiquette to junior players, and has always been available to help out in any way he can. The middle school years are a critical time for getting kids excited about golf, and many, many kids who play golf in Rockford do so because of the enthusiasm and love of the game that Jim Kaplanes has shown.

Mary Kaull

In 2016, the Rockford Park District launched a new internal communications initiative to help team members feel better connected to each other and better informed about projects, programs, and places. This initiative is thanks to a new internal mantra “One Team, One Goal,” bringing a deeper focus to working together as a team to achieve our mission, vision, and values.  Mary Kaull handles internal communications for RPS 205, and shared important tips, along with employee newsletter examples, email ideas, and employee engagement opportunities.

Dave and Trina Krueger

This husband/wife team has volunteered as coach every summer that Buddy Baseball has been running. Since 2009, they have coached a team of special needs players along with their buddies. When they are in charge of a team, the players and buddies will get the attention they deserve, and Dave and Trina make the game fun.

Jan Merchant

Jan representing the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), has been volunteering once a week in the Human Resources (HR) department for more than nine years. She is a filer extraordinaire, and the heart and soul of the HR personnel files. She knows them inside and out, and has even proposed and completed projects for us that have streamlined our filing system to improve efficiencies. She is always willing to take on additional tasks as well, and does so with a smile.

Brian Reck

In 2016, the Rockford Park District launched a new internal communications initiative to help team members feel better connected to each other and better informed about projects, programs, and places. This initiative is thanks to a new internal mantra “One Team, One Goal,” bringing a deeper focus to working together as a team to achieve our mission, vision, and values. RPD consulted with several organizations that had internal communication departments. Brian Reck handles internal communications for SwedishAmerican, and shared important tips, along with employee newsletter examples, email ideas, and employee engagement opportunities.

Xavier Whitford

Tommy Corral Memorial Foundation was established in December of 2014 for Xavier Whitford’s son, who lost his battle with depression to suicide. The foundation was created to increase education and resources for those

struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. Xavier holds various fundraising events throughout the year to help fund opportunities for community members to get certified in Mental Health First Aid, and Teen

Group Hope support groups, the first of their kind in our community, at Harlem Middle School and Riverside Community Church. Xavier also trains school staff on the nature of depression and the warning signs of suicide. She recently traveled to Washington, DC to meet with members of Congress to plead with them to mandate student training in schools for suicide prevention and awareness. By Xaiver hosting the annual walk on the Rock River Recreation Path, she brings yearly awareness of mental illness issues to our citizens.

Wester Wuori

In 2016, the Rockford Park District launched a new internal communications initiative to help team members feel better connected to each other and better informed about projects, programs, and places. This initiative is thanks to a new internal mantra “One Team, One Goal,” bringing a deeper focus to working together as a team to achieve our mission, vision, and values. RPD consulted with several organizations that had internal communication departments. At the time, Wester Wuori worked for the now Mercyhealth, and shared important tips, along with employee newsletter examples, email ideas, and employee engagement opportunities.

100 Strong

100 Strong is a community organization that partnered with Washington Park Community Center (WPCC) to offer a 3-on-3 basketball program in the park on Tuesday nights during the summer. Every week, 100 Strong

would have 10-15 volunteers come out and help create an encouraging environment for the youth and teens involved. During the two hours, the teens and young adults involved got to play basketball, eat hot dogs, and

hear a challenging talk by a volunteer. Because of this partnership, teens at WPCC and the surrounding neighborhood not only got to have great staff in their lives, but also had 100 Strong volunteers teaching them alternatives in resolving conflicts, being respectful, and how to be positive members in the community.

KFACT

KFACT is a non-profit that serves teenage girls in the Rockford area through mentorship, college prep, and groups at schools. KFACT partnered with staff at Washington Park Community Center (WPCC) to offer new experiences for teens in both groups. Throughout this past year, teens that are in KFACT and WPCC’s leadership group, took a college trip to Chicago to visit the U of I College of Medicine for two workshops and attend a national college fair at McCormick Place.  This partnership has allowed for more teens in the Rockford area to be exposed to new experiences.

Northeast Christian Church

On August 7, 2016, Northeast Christian Church brought 350 volunteers to Black Hawk Park in support of our community, and specifically, the Rockford Park District. This fantastic team installed playground chips at all three playgrounds, painted both shelters, painted all (over 100) picnic tables, lifted the tree canopy, and completed a few other projects throughout the park. In addition, the group vastly improved landscaping in Marinelli Park, and touched up paint. The group also had a team making bird houses alongside the many kids that were in attendance. This work saved the Rockford Park District more than $8,100 in staffing hours alone, and approximately $20,000 overall. Black Hawk Park has been greatly impacted by their volunteerism, and this impact will be obvious for many years.

Rockford Work Camps

Over the summer of 2016, Rockford Work Camps facilitated more than 15 different work days with the Rockford Park District. Their work to bring youth groups to the area to serve in the form of work days has saved the Rockford Park District thousands of dollars in labor costs. This relationship is the beginning of a great partnership that will help us for many years in the future.

Wabongo Leadership Council

Wabongo Leadership Council is dedicated to building leaders within Rockford’s black community. For the past two years they’ve held “The Youth Employment Series,” a job skills workshop where young people can learn interview and networking skills, work on resumés, and apply for various summer positions at the Rockford Park District. The attendees are then interviewed by Rockford Park District staff for those positions. As a direct result of the workshops, more than 35 teenagers have gained summer employment with the Park District.

YMCA Togetherhood

In 2016, YMCA and its “Togetherhood” program came together with the Rockford Park District to make an impact on Martin Park. The YMCA brought 50 volunteers out to serve and make a difference. The volunteers fought through sweltering heat, and got the shelter painted, along with mulching both the playground and parking lot beds. Their work topped 300 hours of service, which saved the District around $2,700 in labor alone, and played a major role in keeping this park in excellent condition.

Vision

For the Rockford Park District to be the best urban park and recreation system in North America, as measured by national standards and the citizens we serve.

Mission

To 'help people enjoy life' by providing a quality park and recreation system.

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