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  2008 Press Releases  

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September 17, 2008

Department on Aging hosts Awards Ceremony in Conjunction with National Employ the Older Worker Week
Outstanding workers and employers recognized at a luncheon in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) Director Charles D. Johnson recognized older workers and their employers during the 24th Annual Older Workers Awards Luncheon held at Springfield’s Northfield Inn, Suites & Conference Center. The Department hosts this event each year in conjunction with National Employ the Older Worker Week to honor older workers who continue to play a very important role in the Illinois workforce and across the nation.

"I am pleased to honor our older workers," said Director Johnson. "This annual luncheon marks the 43rd anniversary of the Older Americans Act and the 35th anniversary of the inception of the Illinois Department on Aging. As we celebrate these anniversaries, it is also a good time to celebrate the progress that has been made through these mandates. The acceptance of the older worker is certainly a good example of that progress. Today, we benefit from these skilled workers, who are healthier, living longer and remain on the job longer than previous generations."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that more than 6 million people over the age of 65 remain in the work force. During the past decade, the employment of workers 65 and over increased more than 100 percent and that number will increase with more Baby Boomers deciding to remain in the workforce.

Awards were presented to older workers who are employed in both public and private sector jobs which include workers funded through Title V of the Older Americans Act, which assists low-income seniors looking to re-enter the workforce. Awards were also presented to businesses and companies that regularly employ workers age 55 and older.

The list of 2008 awardees follows:

  • 2008 Employees of the Year (7):
    • Karen Beksel, Community Care Systems, Inc., Rockford
      Karen Beksel, 67, has been with Community Care Systems since 1993. According to her nomination, Karen is one of the most reliable employees, always making it to work on time regardless of weather or circumstances. Karen is described as very upbeat and protective of her clients. Many clients have stated they would not be able to live at home without her assistance. Karen works for Community Care Systems and also serves private clients. She completed her G.E.D. in 2000. When not working, Karen is often caring for her grandchildren. She also enjoys riding motorcycles and is a vocal advocate for motorcycle safety. In addition, she is a member of The Greater Rockford Doll and Bear Club and teaches others about the hobby of restoring dolls and bears.

    • Kathy Feagin, Community Care Systems, Inc., Rockford
      Kathy Feagin, 71, of Rockford, has been with Community Care Systems for 15 years. She is a devoted caregiver and monitors her clients to make sure they are comfortable. According to her nomination, Kathy spells out in detail for the service coordinator what tasks are typically done for which clients and when, so that continuity is not disrupted. Her nomination says, "Kathy has an amazingly positive attitude" and has said she “feels bad when she’s not working.” Many clients and their families have called to say what a joy Kathy is; one daughter reported that her mother told her, "You don’t do it like Kathy does." Despite her own health issues, Kathy also provides respite to her daughter and son-in-law who are facing caregiving challenges.

    • Bernice Gossett, Lawrence County Senior Citizens, Bridgeport
      Bernice Gossett, 73, has worked for the Lawrence County Senior Citizens since 1989. According to her nominators, "“Throughout those years, she has become an icon for our agency. We have many people who come in that won’t let anyone else help him or her, but ask for Bernice." Bernice lives across the street from the office and is there to open the doors every day. She has held many positions with the agency and is currently serving as Office Manager. Despite the recent loss of her mother and caregiving for her husband, Bernice is always pleasant and helpful to everyone she comes in contact with. Her admirers say, "This is not just a job to her; she puts everything she has into helping seniors in Lawrence County."

    • Linda Hall, Beth Anne Supportive Living Facility, Chicago
      Linda Hall, 61, is known for her exuberant attitude, dependability, punctuality and quality of activities at the Beth Anne Supportive Living Facility. She provides a variety of weekly activities such as holiday and birthday celebrations, field trips, shopping, restaurant outings, movies, card tournaments, intergeneration sessions and volunteer opportunities for residents. She is determined to keep residents engaged, informed, happy and busy. She is currently raising her deceased daughter’s teenage daughter and helping another daughter raise her two children. She is a dedicated Choir Director at her church and Superintendent of the Sunday School. Although she wears many hats, Linda is still energetic and jovial when serving the Beth Anne residents. Residents love Linda and show their reverence by supporting her efforts in ways such as planting flowers, helping with activities and spreading the word about upcoming events.

    • Elma Hobby, Henderson County Health Department, Stronghurst
      Elma Hobby, 79, is an Outreach Worker to the senior population in Henderson County, but her compassion for others is not confined to a job title. She makes one-on-one contact with seniors to encourage them to utilize services and benefits. "She not only does this, she changes lives," according to her nomination. From chores such as getting seniors’ mail or filling out complicated forms, Elma loves to help seniors. She always makes sure everyone knows her home number in case an emergency pops up or they need to hear a friendly voice. Elma keeps up on many changes, including complicated programs like Medicare, in order to serve seniors. She has a friendly demeanor and sees the best in everyone. Never complaining, she listens with an open heart to anyone with concerns. She travels a great deal to cover anyone who needs assistance in rural areas. Off the job, Elma and her husband volunteer at the food pantry loading boxes to take to shut-ins.

    • Betty Martz, St. Clair County, Belleville
      Betty Martz, 77, has been employed by St. Clair County for 36 years. She has risen through the ranks from an entry clerk to the Insurance/Personnel/Payroll manager for the county, which has over 1,000 employees. Her attendance and punctuality are unparalleled. It is not unusual for her to come to work early, work through lunch or stay overtime to help any employee needing assistance. She has even accommodated them in their homes if they are too ill to come to the office. In her role, she is very determined to make sure all county employees obtain rightful benefits. Many employees drop by her office just to be uplifted when having a bad day or to seek Betty’s advice. Changes that have occurred during her lengthy employment, such as regulations or technology, have always been embraced by Betty. When not at work, Betty often volunteers for the Senior Meal Program and other programs at the local senior center.

    • Georgia Wombie, Community Care Systems, Inc., Villa Grove
      Georgia Wombie, 74, is described as being "a pleasure to work with from day one." Georgia serves elderly clients, many of whom request her as their homemaker. She is dependable and treats others as she would like to be treated. She is always willing to go the extra mile to keep her regular clients happy and often volunteers to fill in for others who need assistance. Every client is equally important to Georgia. When not working as a homemaker, Georgia is active in her church choir and is president of mission work. She raised three children alone after her husband died 26 years ago. Georgia is a licensed practical nurse and is active in hospice work. She is an award-winning tap dancer.

  • 2008 Title V Employees of the Year (6):
    • Ruth Ann Allison, Southeastern Illinois Agency on Aging, Mt. Carmel
      Ruth Ann Allison, 66, is described as a "picture perfect example of what a Title V participant should be." Ruth Ann’s past experience was as a truck driver but she wanted to learn the ins and outs of an office environment. A rape crisis center served as her host agency and she received extensive training in answering the hot line. After that, Ruth Ann began working on the computer. She is now proficient in several programs. She now trains with volunteers and helps to coordinate schedules. Ruth Ann is always on time, pleasant and caring and goes with the flow in an office that can be hectic. She handles each situation with grace and compassion.

    • Florida Briggs, Bethel New Life, Inc., Chicago
      Florida Briggs, 79, has worked as a homecare aide for the past five years. Because of her love of caring for people, Florida willingly accepts those sometimes "hard to serve clients." She has a special way of winning over clients and caregivers alike. Florida’s supervisors and peers applaud her. She is dependable, trustworthy, and dedicated to her clients. She has received accolades of praise since being with Bethel. Many have said, "Our mom would not have been able to remain in her home if it had not been for Ms. Briggs. Sometimes when we arrive home past her regular scheduled hours she is still there caring for our mom." Her willingness to serve is demonstrated in her respect for supervisors, clients and all others.

    • Betty Cooksey, Bethel New Life Inc., Chicago
      Betty Cooksey, 67, has worked for Bethel New Life as a homecare aide since 1986. According to her nomination, Betty “exemplifies a character befitting that of an outstanding homecare aide.” She has been the recipient of four outstanding service as well as the Director’s "Award of Excellence." No distance is too far, no client or caregiver is too difficult for Betty. She has the tendency to win them over and become part of their extended family. On many occasions, Betty has provided services for two generations of seniors by request. Following policies and procedures, adhering to plan of care, attendance and punctuality, respect and dedication are described as her trademarks.

    • Manuel Guitierrez, Southeastern Illinois Agency on Aging, Mt. Carmel
      Manuel Guitierrez, 62, has only been with Southeastern Illinois Agency on Aging a short time but has proven to be an outstanding participant. When brought on to the program, Manuel was working toward a G.E.D. at a local college. Once he received his diploma, he completed a food sanitation course. He is now certified and his host agency assignment is kitchen aide. He works daily with the head cook preparing meals for the senior center. Manuel is there without fail and works with other kitchen help with ease. He is willing to do whatever is asked and handles change with a superb attitude. His supervisor states that his "presence has even brought peace to a kitchen that once pretty frantic."

    • Doo Nee Loo, Nelson Hagnaur Hall and Senior Citizens Center, Granite City
      Doon Nee Loo, 68, arrived in the United States in 2006 with very few resources or social connections. Through fortunate circumstances she came to live in Edwardsville and found friendship and fellowship at the United Methodist Church in Glen Carbon. Through AARP, she first worked at the library in Edwardsville. Currently, Doon Nee takes two buses each way to work and is training to become a licensed Food Service Manager and working at the Granite City Township Hall. She shares her experience and talents with the staff and always comforts the seniors and brightens everyone’s day. Doo Nee is very hardworking, popular and energetic and volunteers to work in addition to her regular hours or for special events.

    • Norbert Maier, Southeastern Illinois Agency on Aging, Mt. Carmel
      Norbert Maier, 88, is described as a “model participant” as a Title V enrollee. He is at work every day without fail, despite having a mild heart attack. After being hospitalized over a weekend, he returned to work on Monday. Norbert spreads joy wherever he goes. His main duty is to deliver meals to homebound individuals in the county, and he has perfected the route. He is upbeat and friendly and gets along well will everyone, including the congregation at the senior center. Despite a severe hearing problem, he makes efforts to interact with people. He has a great sense of humor, his smile is contagious and he is respected by for his wonderful personality and work ethic. Norbert is a decorated World War II veteran. He is a poet, avid coon hunter and raises homing pigeons when not busy serving his fellow citizens in White County.

  • 2008 Employers of the Year (2):
    • Project NOW, Inc. Community Action Agency, Rock Island
      Project NOW, Inc. Community Action Agency places tremendous value on older employees. Out of a staff of 145 employees, 53, or 36 percent, are over the age of 55. Of that 36 percent, 15 percent are over the age of 65, and 10 percent are over the age of 70. Furthermore, many are members of minority groups. Many of the older employees have been with the agency for more than 20 years. According to Project NOW’s nomination, the value of its employees “does not rest solely in their longevity, rather it stems from their exemplification of the agency’s core values. These are real people, deeply devoted to their communities, serving others with integrity while providing hope and dignity to those who need it most.”

    • West Central Development Council, Inc., Carlinville
      West Central Development Council (WCDC) is an advisory and service organization serving local governments in Calhoun, Christian, Jersey, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Morgan, Scott and Shelby counties. WCDC offers economic and community development assistance at local one-stop centers. The agency’s commitment to older workers is also evident through its own staff; half of its 24 employees are age 55 and older. Employees receive paid holidays and vacation time; retirement fund, tuition reimbursement and flexible time. Staff turnover rate is minimal which reflects the agency’s commitment to train and retain current staff.

      WCDC has taken the lead in hosting job fairs and workshops for the older worker, veteran, and at-risk youth. It has been a first responder to the continual downsizing and plant closings in the eight counties that it serves. New approaches such as booths at county fairs, community days, schools and festivals have been utilized to increase public awareness.

  • 2008 Title V Host Agency Employers of the Year (2):
    • West Central Development Council Inc., Carlinville
      West Central Development Council (WCDC), an advisory and service organization serving governments in Calhoun, Christian, Jersey, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Morgan, Scott and Shelby counties, is committed to the Senior Community Services Employment program. WCDC has provided funding for training, lunches and support serves for Area Agency on Aging and Experience Works Title V enrollees. WCDC also hired two enrollees from the SCSEP program.

    • Senior Services of Central Illinois, Springfield
      The percentage of older workers employed by Senior Services of Central Illinois is 55 percent. The agency utilizes older worker programs such as AARP, Title V and Experience works and offers employees a wide range of benefits. Liberal vacation, sick time, personal days, holidays, bereavement leave and retirement benefits are offered as well as flex time, tuition reimbursement, insurance and more. The agency also prides itself ongoing training for employees. Management is more than willing to work with employees in any way possible when special needs arise due to sickness etc.

  • 2008 Title V Sub-Grantee of the Year:
    • Northwestern Illinois Area Agency on Aging
      Northwestern Illinois Area Agency on Aging (NIAAA) has been meeting the needs of older adults and their families for more than 30 years. NIAAA serves a nine county region consisting of Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago Counties. NIAAA is a non-profit agency designated by the Illinois Department on Aging in 1974 to serve as the area agency on aging for northwestern Illinois. NIAAA is part of the "aging network," which includes the federal Administration on Aging, the Illinois Department on Aging, and local public and private agencies serving older adults. NIAAA’s mission is to assist adults age 60 and older and their families. NIAAA is one of 13 Area Agencies in Illinois and 670 across the nation sharing the mission of the federal Older Americans Act.


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