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  2004 Press Releases  

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CONTACT: Januari Smith
Phone: 1-217-558-1544, TTY: 1-800-252-8966

September 22, 2004

Department on Aging Celebrates National Employ the Older Worker Week

Illinois' Outstanding Older Workers to Be Honored

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) Director Charles D. Johnson will host an annual awards luncheon to honor the state’s outstanding older workers and their employers. The luncheon will be held Friday, September 24, at noon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield.

"Individuals being honored today are inspiring and motivate all of us who work on behalf of seniors to do our best. We are fortunate that so many older adults are still working and teaching others that work really does mean something more than a paycheck," Director Johnson said.

Since 1984, IDoA has held this event in conjunction with National Employ the Older Worker Week, which runs from September 19-25, 2004. This year’s theme is "Experience is Priceless...Hire an Older Worker."

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

The 2004 winners are:

Employees of the Year:

Jim Bailey, 66, of Godfrey, was nominated by LINC, Inc., where he works nearly 23 hours a week. Mr. Bailey’s nominator said, "Jim is an exceptional employee and is always here on time, despite the fact that he travels 90 minutes each way using public transportation – then he walks eight to 10 blocks to get to his destination. Jim’s commitment to LINC goes above and beyond what is expected. He gives 120 percent in dependability and attitude alike…Jim is an A-1 team player!" Mr. Bailey is president of the Madison County Association of the Blind and is involved in the Blind Bowlers organization. He also dedicates his time to church and alumni activities.

Alberta Diseron, 75, of Augusta, was nominated by Addus HealthCare, where she’s been employed since 2000. She currently works in the Quincy office as a field worker where she keeps track of clients’ doctor’s appointments, transports clients to their appointments when needed and makes sure that they get their prescriptions. Mrs. Diseron’s service area is rural so some of the clients' appointments are 42 miles away. Her nominator stated that Mrs. Diseron even purchased a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to make sure her clients are well taken care of, no matter what the weather. "Alberta believes in team work," the nominator said. "She believes that any job worth doing should be done well, on time, with a cheerful heart."

Jean Stewart, 64, of Petersburg, was nominated by Senior Services of Central Illinois, where she has worked as a case manager for 14 years. Her nominator said, "Jean has so many special qualities it will be difficult to mention them all. She gives 110 percent for her clients and listens when no one else will, and if there are no family members to help out, Jean will step up and do whatever it takes to stabilize her client’s life. She is not only an exceptional employee, she’s an exceptional person as well." Mrs. Stewart volunteers in her church and community on a regular basis, serves on the Menard County Housing Authority Board and on another committee that assists local people with educational funding to pursue a career in the medical field.

Mary Francis, 73, of Collinsville, was nominated by the Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois, where she has been employed for the past 25 years. After raising a family and becoming a widow for the second time, she returned to the workforce at age 48. The nominator described Mrs. Francis as a "whirlwind go-getter" with "boundless energy" and that if something needs to be done, "move out of the way because it is usually done before the instructions can be delivered." Her most uttered question is, "Do you have anything I can help you with?" The nominator stated that Mrs. Francis volunteers for the Senior Olympics and is very supportive of her Collinsville community. She has 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. "Mary is celebrating her silver anniversary year with the agency," the nominator said. "But she is more precious than gold to us."

Richard Pearson, 80, of Galesburg, was nominated by the Galesburg Public Library, where he has worked part-time since 1996. According to the nomination, Mr. Pearson is a wonderful library ambassador, talking about the services the library offers whenever the opportunity arises. He attends library programs and has solicited speaking engagements for the library director. Mr. Pearson is the president of the Hope Cemetery Board and a member of the Knox County Genealogy Society, the Galesburg Historical Society, the Lion’s Club and the Civil War Round Table. His nomination said, "Dick enjoys helping others and being with people. He has a wonderful sense of humor and always has a kind word or thought. Dick epitomizes the ideal worker and generously gives of his time to help others. We are very grateful for Dick’s services."

Title V Employees of the Year:

Bonnie Wheeler, 71, of East Alton, was nominated by AARP’s Senior Community Service Employment Program in Wood River, where she works as the office coordinator. According to the nomination, Mrs. Wheeler joined the agency after her husband died suddenly of a heart attack and even though she had no formal training, she soon became a valuable employee. Her nominator stated, "She has one of the strongest work ethics I have witnessed in over 30 years of management experience. She exemplifies a positive attitude that is contagious to all she works with. Her ability to not only lead my 12-office staff, but to also keep my main office and three satellite offices working as a fine-tuned machine is extraordinary. She leads by example and sets the team work expectations for the entire office." And, according to the nomination, her leadership efforts were directly responsible for the placement of nearly 300 seniors finding unsubsidized jobs in the past three years and over 400 in the past five years. Mrs. Wheeler’s efforts made it possible for the AARP Foundation SCSEP Office to excel and finish first in the nation in placements for two of the last three years. Her nominator stated, "Her leadership resulted in this office breaking all AARP Foundation SCSEP national records with a 203 percent placement rate. Without her leadership and teamwork abilities, this would not have been possible. Mrs. Wheeler has been everything an employer could dream and wish for."

Gloria Davis, 69, of Edinburg, was nominated by the Senior Citizens of Christian County, where she works as the outreach coordinator. Her nominator noted that, even though she has medical problems that limit her activity at times, she is a TRIAD volunteer, runs the weekly Bingo and puts on the variety show and annual bazaar for the center. The nominator said, "Gloria is highly motivated and works very hard on behalf of our center. She is dedicated to providing all seniors in this county with opportunities to escape isolation, for greater independence, a better quality of life and enhanced mobility and social interaction. We are very fortunate to have her join us through this program."

Mr. Mo, Ji Yan, 66, of Chicago, was nominated by the Chinese American Service League, where he works as a senior council assistant. Mr. Mo immigrated to the United States in 1994 from China, where he had worked as a chemical engineer. His nominator noted that he found it very difficult to begin his new life in the United States due to his limited English-speaking skills but he persevered by attending classes and practicing English on his job assignments and is now adapting nicely. Mr. Mo coordinates activities for the seniors such as the Sing-a-Long group and Tai Chi exercise. His nominator said, "Mr. Mo loves his community service job. He is such a positive and enthusiastic person that he is always willing to accept new tasks and challenges. He has a perfect attendance record and always comes to work with punctuality." Mr. Mo said, "Helping seniors to solve their problems is the happiest thing for me."

Darrell Peacher, 82, of Quincy, was nominated by the Illinois Employment and Training Center, where he works as the morning greeter and receptionist. His nominator said, "Darrell is a joy to work with. He has demonstrated a high quality of excellence in his job performance in spite of a physical limitation that has made mobility difficult for him. His level of commitment and service to his employer serves as an inspiration to all who work with him. He puts aside his own discomfort and looks for ways to help his fellow employees." Mr. Peacher has volunteered for many agencies for over 50 years. He drives a shuttle bus for patients and their families at Blessing Hospital twice a month, performs clerical duties for the Center for Independent Living, volunteers as a Big Brother and works with the handicapped for the Catholic Veterans Post. He has a 56-year perfect attendance in the Rotary Club, is a 50-year member of the Knights of Columbus and is a member of the Elks Club.

Dorothy L. Bennett, 81, of Winnebago, was nominated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, where she works part time. In addition to performing a variety of clerical duties while at the same time handling a high volume switchboard, Mrs. Bennett seeks additional work to do. Her nominator said, "Dorothy has that special quality of caring and smiling no matter what. She maintains a cordial tone even during the heaviest periods of phone calls. Dorothy’s personal attitude of warmth and caring makes her a pleasure to work with." Mrs. Bennett is involved in Bible study groups, her housing community and volunteers at the local food pantry. She also helps community groups by stuffing envelopes for mailings and stated, "It’s better to get out and be active than just sit at home."

Margaret Burke, 74, of Galesburg, was nominated by the Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging, where she works as a program aide in both the Galesburg and Kewanee offices. Her nominator said, "What a super person to work with! Margaret is very dependable and her attitude is to work until something good happens for the client. She has the ability to not only find enrollee prospects for the program but has also been able to find a variety of host agencies. The low income, older workers depend on her expertise to get them back in the work force." It was also noted that the employment placement rate for 2004 exceeded 300 percent, which had never been achieved in past years and could not have been done without Mrs. Burke’s assistance. Mrs. Burke is an avid golfer, a mentor at First Presbyterian Church for 7th and 8th grade students and for Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) and is also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Program and Professional Secretaries International.

Employers of the Year:

Public Employer

West Central Development Council, is located in Carlinville and was nominated by Project LIFE Area Agency on Aging. More than 25 percent of the Council’s workforce is comprised of people age 55 and older, and that number is expected to exceed 30 percent within the next three years. They offer all employees 14 paid holidays, 100 percent paid insurance premiums, up to four weeks paid vacation based on years of service, 12 paid sick days a year, 3 percent contribution into a retirement fund with the option of contributing extra monies at a tax-free rate, and tuition reimbursement for those who wish to pursue a higher education or keep their job skills current. The Council has hosted local job fairs, provided funding for trainings and lunches, and is fostering new and innovative approaches to increase public awareness, such as setting up informational booths at county fairs and school functions.

Host Agency – SCSEP/Title V

Trenton Nutrition Center (TNC), was nominated by Western Clinton County Senior Services. According to the nominator, the center’s director, Lida Berberich, has gone out of her way to offer employment to people 55 years of age and older. In fact, the entire workforce is over age 55. TNC serves nearly 70 hot congregate and home-delivered meals to seniors in six neighboring towns, and, at times, frozen meals are provided over the weekends and on holidays to those who need them. The nominator stated that Lida Berberich’s genuine caring attitude, her high quality meals and warm, friendly service has been the main motivation in relatives and friends of customers making donations to the Western Clinton County Senior Services and that she is the glue that holds the Trenton Nutrition Center together.



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