For the second year in a row, the Village of New Lenox was presented the Governor's Home Town Award at a ceremony Thursday at the Governor's Mansion in Springfield. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) administer the program that found ShareFest 2011 something to shout about.
Last year the village won for Preparing Citizens for Emergencies and Disaster, a program created and facilitated through the Safe Communities America Coalition and Citizen Corps Council.
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While ShareFest has just now completed its seventh year, ShareFest 2011 was the year it expanded partnership with more than 70 different organizations and gathered hundreds of volunteers. The annual program is locally dubbed 11 Days of Giving from Sept. 1-Sept. 11. But ShareFest committee members know it takes about eight months of planning and organizing to fine-tune the event that joins New Lenox Township, food pantries, churches, ESDA, businesses large and small around town, schools, youth groups and more.
After the award was announced, there was plenty of accolades and recognition being shared among committee members and the village. Dan Martin, New Lenox's public safety division chief, expressed his appreciation for all committee members and the efforts of the community, but he reserved heartfelt accolades for his friend, Gary Cheney, who is the humble driver of the program.
"I can't say enough good things about the guy. We had to drag him down there. He's so humble. If it weren't for his vision years ago, his leadership," the program would not have been so successful."
The force that moves Cheney is founded in compassion. "You have a message to deliver: Love for a Neighbor. It's pretty much a part of me," he said.
Martin took on the painstaking task of detailing the activities of ShareFest 2011, making sure the volunteer programs were coordinated effectively and the paperwork was complete. He kept record of donations, partners and volunteers.
"The bottom-line (on the Governor's Home Town Award) is that it's a testament to the volunteers and the people in the community. …The spirit of volunteerism is alive in ShareFest. It has something for everybody to do," said Martin.
Mayor Tim Baldermann and Village Administrator Kurt Carroll were at the ceremony as well. His comment: "I'm just thrilled to be a part of it. It really epitomizes what new Lenox is. Our people step up to the plate. A lot of communities can boast that they have good people, but this town really is special. We are at our at best when things are at their worst. …I'm really proud to be mayor."
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