The 2020 Service Above Self Honorees
The 2020 Service Above Self Honorees were presented at the June 4th Zoom Meeting.  Dennis Horton presided over the presentations and read the accomplishments of the six individual honorees and the Mary-Stuart Carruthers Community Impact Award.  The plaques were presented to the Honorees earlier in the day and Dennis used these pictures in his PowerPoint presentation.  Here are the 2020 Service Above Self honorees.
The Emmanuel Episcopal Church Community Soup Kitchen
     The Emmanuel Episcopal Church Community Soup Kitchen was established in downtown Rockford nearly 40 years ago and continues to serve a genuine community need. The Soup Kitchen is open every Saturday to serve a nutritious Noon meal to those in need. There are 18 different volunteer teams scheduled throughout the year for this important outreach ministry. The Jubilee Center, Rockford’s only daytime drop-in center for adults with chronic mental illness and an outreach program of Shelter Care Ministries, serves as the host site for the lunch.
     The goal of the Soup Kitchen since its inception in the early 80’s is to provide a healthy meal on Saturday for those in the downtown Rockford area who might be without food over the weekend. Emmanuel Episcopal Church also envisioned many other churches and organizations being involved in the outreach program. Because the program serves about 150 guests each Saturday, it clearly meets a community need.
     During 2019, over 5,600 people were fed and a total of 7,500 meals were served. There is clearly a need for this program in downtown Rockford. The Soup Kitchen has been given a new challenge in 2020 due to the coronavirus. With social distancing and other precautions in place, the Soup Kitchen has modified its usual serving and dining experience. Because the volunteers wanted to continue to feed the hungry with the need even more evident, they made several creative adjustments. Since mid-March, the Soup Kitchen volunteers have been preparing and distributing box lunches at the front door of the Jubilee Center to the hungry guests.
     The Soup Kitchen is open every Saturday throughout the year and requires approximately 15-20 volunteers each Saturday. This means that about 900 volunteers have helped each year to fulfill this community need.
     This effort is lead by Emmanuel parishioners John Birnbaum and Tammy Lewis and a team of volunteers from 16 different Churches, Ministries, and volunteer organizations.
     Each team uses it’s own resources to pay for food and supplies, cooks a hot meal, serves and cleans up on it’s scheduled Saturday.
     Future plans?
     The Soup Kitchen has been operating for close to forty years under the supervision and guidance of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. It is designed as an outreach to serve the basic needs of people in downtown Rockford who may be without a wholesome meal on Saturday. The only possible change might be to add other churches or organizations to participate in this outreach program. The current churches and organizations are committed to this program because they recognize and understand the need.
     Tammy Lewis and John Birnbaum and the Soup Kitchen are truly deserving of a Service Above Self Award.  Congratulations to both of you and your organization.
Jim Nelson
     Next we recognize our 1st individual honoree… one of our own…Rotarian Jim Nelson –
     Jim was nominated for his devoted involvement in a number of organizations.
     Including Rotary there is the Rockford Park District; Veterans Administration and A Ministry of Restoration
     As you know… as a Rotarian Jim is a Paul Harris Fellow +8 and continues to donate monthly.  Jim is also a Rotary Benefactor.  He has served through Rotary Youth Exchange as a host, counselor, for over 30 years, including hosting over 3 dozen students.  Jim also works each year for the District RYLA program. He has traveled (at his own expense) to both Nigeria and Pakistan to immunize children against Polio.  Jim has built toilets at schools in the Costa Rican rain forest and been on medical missions in both El Salvatore and Peru.  He raised $15,000 for a Global Grant for a project in Peru by speaking at 8 Rotary clubs about the need.  Jim was the driving force behind the establishment of the new satellite club at Wesley Willows and is part of that and other efforts has brought in 6 – 8 new members to Rotary.
     That’s just Rotary Jim is a regular volunteer at Nicholas Conservatory as a docent for the butterfly exhibit as well as the Lorikeets (birds). 
Jim serves as a national and state representative for Veterans issues.  He volunteers every Monday at the VA Clinic in Rockford and serves meals monthly to our homeless veterans. He often visits veterans in hospitals and in nursing homes.
     Volunteering with A Ministry of Restoration:  For 8 years, Jim secured thousands of toys to be distributed at Christmas to needy children.  For 3 years he has served as a director for the Backpack Giveaway in Rockford.  In addition to working the event, Jim also provided funds for the supplies distributed to over 1500 underprivileged children in our city.
     Jim lives by the motto of Service Above Self.  He is one of Rockford’s most prolific blood donors, giving over 23 gallons to date and he continues to donate every other month. He has participated in ten “Polar Plunges” for the benefit of Special Olympics by raising over $5,000 for the charity by plunging into frigid waters in either Rockford or Lake Michigan.  Prior to relocating to Rockford, Jim also taught a class through Junior Achievement to teenagers called “Project Business” for three years.  He was honored as “Citizen of the Year in Dixon” when living in that community. 
     We congratulate Jim on being a 2020 Service Above Self Honoree.
David Jones
     Our 2nd individual honoree is David Jones.  He is Co-Chair of the Rockford Area CROP Walk; a Board member of Rockford Urban Ministries; a member of Rockford Bread for the World Committee; support facilitator for Healing Pathways; an active member of 2nd 1st Church as a choir member and chair of the stewardship campaign.
     David is a retired clergyperson having served numerous Presbyterian churches in Chicago, DeKalb, and Des Plaines. He and his spouse moved to Rockford in 2005 and he quickly became active in many local non-profit organizations.
     He is Co-Chair of Rockford’s annual CROP Walk, but, as stated in the nomination the other Co-Chair will tell anyone that the David does ALL of the work. He convenes the meetings, coordinates the various committees, helps prepare and distribute the printed material to over 40 churches and to various schools, contacts numerous middle and high schools inviting students to participate in the contest to design the CROP Walk shirt, helps solicit sponsors for the event, and many other details involved in creating this walk. David has been responsible for helping to raise over $400,000 since 2006 through the Walk, and a portion of these proceeds are returned to Rockford to support the Greater Rock River Valley Pantry Coalition.
     In addition to his work on the CROP Walk, the he serves as a men’s cancer support facilitator at Healing Pathways, a cancer support organization created by the his late spouse. The pastoral skills learned, honed, and practiced as a Presbyterian minister by the David serve to comfort and spiritually heal those suffering from or recovering from cancer. HIs devotion to this organization has been instrumental in helping numerous cancer sufferers.
     In addition to the Crop Walk and Healing Path ways David serves as an active member of the Board at Rockford Urban Ministries, sings in the sanctuary choir at 2nd 1st Church, and also leads the stewardship campaign every year at the same church. Plus he also finds time to rehearse and sing with the Rock Valley Master Chorale.
     Described as a is a humble, self-effacing person, who gives credit to everyone else for the success of the local CROP Walk. Nominee is appreciative of everyone’s efforts behind this cause and let’s them know that they are responsible for its success.  David gives freely of time, talents, and treasures to those who are hungry, those who are suffering from illness, and those who need the support of a helping hand.
     David is a great example of Service Above Self and we are honored to have you as one of our 2020 honorees.
Linda Niemiec
     Our next honoree is also a Rotarian – The author of the nomination said -
     It’s apparent that this nominee’s volunteer commitments span the social services, education and social issues that targets children and families of all ages.  On a daily basis this person has a passion for giving individuals a helping hand.  This nominee made weekly visits to a 90-year old woman, bringing her a McDonald’s Happy Meal.  They would sit together at a window bird-watching.  Linda befriended a friend’s elderly cleaning lady by providing  on an annual basis Christmas presents for her and her granddaughter.  Linda is always finding ways to do kind acts for friends.  She started a home delivery meals drive for a friend during the time of mourning her husband’s death.  Linda acted as a patient advocate for a friend when she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer by driving her to the Mayo Clinic for further diagnostic treatment.  And she was on hand to help a friend with his early morning harvest from his huge garden prior to his weekly delivery of produce to his church’s food pantry. 
     The nomination goes on to say - In short, friends describe this nominee as honest, compassionate and first on the spot in time of need.  Service Above Self is in her DNA.
     The list of her volunteer activities is long –
     MAPS of Illinois Project Underwear - Board member - 7 years - provides underwear, socks, and t-shirts to area children who would otherwise go without.
     Promised Land Employment Services - Board member - 4 years
     Lifescape Community Services - Advisor Board - currently serving
     League of Women Voters - Member
     Rockford Rotary since 1997 - became a Paul Harris Fellow in 2016                     
     After leaving a beloved job, this nominee has never “retired” but rather moved on and forged even more connection to serve others.  Most recently this service includes:
     Mayor’s Hunger Luncheon Committee - Member of Sponsorship Committee - 2 years
     Family to Family Project - adopted a family in the Grove Public Housing area, assisting it in accessing food, furniture, and job placement - to name just a few of the services that have made a profound difference in the life of this family. 
     Laurent House Fundraising Committee - currently serving and helping to raise funds to support the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum Home and Visitor’s Center.
     Rockford Reads - volunteer - 2 years - reads weekly with three second-graders at Gregory School.
     Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom - active member for 2 years and is involved in voter registration for the 2020 election.
     It is Rockford Rotary's pleasure to present a 2020 Service Above Self Award to Linda Niemiec.
Chuck and Stella Schroeder
    Next we have Chuck and Stella Schroeder.
    Chuck and Stella approach their many volunteer roles with a quiet spirit of “service above self.” The couple brings a distinct compassion to their volunteerism, and it is worth noting that much of what they do as volunteers, they do together. Chuck and Stella have been bolstering the work and mission of Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity (RAHFH) for the last six years through their philanthropic and volunteer work. Whether they are leading the charge to assemble brown bag lunches for over 100 construction volunteers on the Habitat build site, helping raise funds at ReStore, where they both volunteer two full days each week, or advocating for Habitat’s mission, Chuck and Stella bring an unfailing spirit of kindness, fellowship, and humility.
     Chuck and Stella are described as the type of hard-working volunteers and advocates who would do any task in service to their vision for a better, more equitable community for people to live in and raise their families.
     Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity is in good company among organizations that benefit enormously from the generous involvement of the Schroeders. Chuck and Stella have brought the same conviction, leadership, longevity, and spirit of servitude to Rockford Promise’s scholarship program, United Way’s iRead program, and the RPS205 uniform co-op program, which Stella co-founded. They have both now been instrumental leaders of the uniform co-op for years, and they have expanded it from one school to three (Beyer, Ellis, and Lewis Lemon) to make sure that as many RPS205 families as possible have dignified access to low-cost uniforms.
     Both Chuck and Stella have also been very involved in their church community at Saint Mark Lutheran Church, where they both served for a number of years as President at different times. This history speaks to the leadership they bring to all of their humanitarian service endeavors.
     Where they see a need, they get involved, and where there’s not an existing structure to address a need, they create one. The Schroeders are a guiding light in the Rockford community. They demonstrate daily that through compassionate and ongoing, committed community service, individuals have the power to make community change.
     Chuck and Stella are examples of Service Above Self and we honored to have them as part of the 2020 class.
Pastor Ruby Martin
     Our final honoree this evening is Pastor Ruby Martin.
     Rev. Martin recognized that The city of Rockford finds many of its citizens at or below the poverty level.  Eighty-three percent (83%) of our residents qualify for free or reduced lunches. And that “Back to School’ is an expensive and often traumatic tine for these families and children. 
     For the past 11 years Pastor Martin’s A Ministry of Restoration has provided a summer party to distribute Back to School supplies for Rockford’s children for ages preschool to college.  Over 1,500 students benefited in 2019. 
     In the beginning in 2010 about 200 students were included. Today that number has increased.  The number of students to be served is predicted to be 2,000+ as the event grows.
     The summer picnic brings children and their families together for a free lunch, games, entertainment and informational booths as they gather school supplies in prepackaged backpacks.  The kids find pens, pencils, crayons, binder, folders, paper and other required school supplies in handy donated backpacks that the children are allowed to keep.  And the kids are eligible for drawings held throughout the for area cards....and other items. 
     The event is held on the 2nd Saturday in August.  is becoming even more popular with those served. The planning for the next year’s event begins immediately after the close of this annual event.  Yearly Pastor Martin must coordinate donations of backpacks, supplies, food for the event, vendors, entertainment and volunteers to work the event. 
     To support the event’s cost, fundraisers are held to underwrite costs.
     The event is publicized thru posters in areas of the city where the need is greatest and can be seen in churches, grocery stores, Laundromats, YMCA and area schools. 
     Pastor Martin feels that today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders and none should be ashamed or embarrassed that they don’t have the tools to succeed. Ruby understands the importance of pride and empowerment. 
     The Pastor loves and respects everyone.  A small parish and modest home are all she has that and the love of humanity.  She never seeks recognition but those around her certainly see what Service Above Self means. 
     And Ruby serves as Master of Ceremonies at the event!
     These are our Service Above Self honorees for 2020. Emmanuel Soup Kitchen, Rotarian Jim Nelson, Retired Pastor David Jones, Rotarian Linda Niemiec, Chuck and Stella Schroeder, and Pastor Ruby Martin.  Have nice evening and Stay Safe.