“Individually, we can accomplish good things, but together, we can move mountains.” The Community Recognition Awards recognizes individuals or groups who significantly contributed to the Woodridge community. This year, community members submitted nominations and included photos, videos, and narratives in their own words.
A brief message from Mayor Gina Cunningham: “As we reflect on a year filled with every emotion, unimaginable hardships, and great loss, may we continue to show our kindness and share our neighborly care for each other. And, may we celebrate our strong connections and our community! Happy and Best New Year’s Wishes to you and your family.”
The Mayor's Spirit Award
The Mayor’s Spirit Award is all about the compassion, dedication, and courage shown by those supporting the Woodridge community. This year, the Mayor’s Spirit Award goes to all Woodridge volunteers. The wonderful, kind, generous, and inspiring volunteers helped – and continue to assist – in the tornado recovery efforts.
Woodridge Neighbors Helping Neighbors is its own organization, and they will work together to help our community and all the families impacted by the tornado. Their dedication will help us on the long road of recovery from the tornado. The wonderful, kind, generous, and inspiring volunteers helped – and continue to assist – in the tornado recovery efforts. Each of the volunteers from Woodridge’s religious organizations, scouts, service groups, businesses, non-profit organizations, and our neighbors showed positive community spirit to help our neighbors. To all Woodridge volunteers: thank you for your contributions, and congratulations for earning the Mayor’s Spirit Award.
Julie Rhodes - nominated by Don Ritter
As the Assistant Superintendent of Recreation and Safety Coordinator, Julie Rhodes has worn many hats over the years for the Woodridge Park District. Julie has acted as the special events coordinator for many events during her long and exemplary career, such as Woodridge’s annual community Jubilee festival, the annual Oktoberfest event, and the annual Haunted Forest Walk. She has supervised our Golden Years Senior program and currently manages the operation of the Fred C. Hohnke Community Center.
Despite her busy schedule, Julie always finds time to volunteer at different programs and special events and has been known to dress up as Santa Claus, one of Santa’s elves, and even the Easter Bunny. In addition, Julie drives the Park District bus for many of our family and senior trips. During the past year, when many Park District programs were shut down due to the pandemic, Julie was the first one to step up and assist the maintenance department by jumping on a mower and cutting grass every day for two months.
She never is someone who would sit around with nothing to do for very long. Julie is a member of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association and Suburban Park and Recreation Association and is also a founding member of the Women In Leisure Services and was involved with programming and member engagement for that group. Outside of work, Julie is well-known throughout the community due to her constant willingness to volunteer her time. She was a member of the Woodridge Jaycees and would be seen participating at Chamber of Commerce events. Julie is a volunteer at the annual Woodridge Rotary Club Mini-Triathlon fundraising event. Julie has helped out as a youth soccer coach and found time to volunteer as an usher at a local theatre. She has participated in charity events such as breast cancer walks and the Live Like Mike Foundation Golf event. In 2016, Julie received the Woodridge Mayor’s Community Spirit Award for her volunteer efforts.
Julie is a big advocate of recycling anything and everything that can help make the world a better place. She consistently donates blood within her community and has even donated her hair on eight different occasions to Locks of Love to help disadvantaged children who have suffered hair loss due to medical conditions and cancer treatments. Julie’s 31-year career with the Woodridge Park District will be coming to a close in 2022. Still, her endless energy has set a great example for all to follow, and her impact on both the Woodridge Park District and the Woodridge community will live on for many years to come.
Woodridge School District 68
Woodridge School District 68 came together in several different ways to support the relief efforts in response to the tornado that struck our community on June 20.
• The American Red Cross used Thomas Jefferson Junior High as a temporary emergency shelter.
• Our Buildings & Grounds crew worked for days with the Village of Woodridge clearing debris.
• Goodrich Elementary School staff organized a relief drive, collecting most needed items for West Suburban Community Pantry.
• Meadowview Elementary School staff (along with other Woodridge 68 staff) partnered with West Suburban Community Pantry for a Pop-Up Pantry, which supplied 75 kits to impacted families in the Country Club Condominium complex. The kits included one box of food, one box of paper products and a case of water.
• Willow Creek Elementary School teachers volunteered with food pantry and distribution needs.
• A William F. Murphy Elementary School former principal and retired teacher started a GoFundMe drive to provide financial support to families impacted.
• International Contractors, Inc. (ICI), our construction partner, showed their support for Woodridge 68 and the surrounding community by donating over 750 pounds of shelf-stable foods and cleaning supplies to West Suburban Community Pantry.
• Students at Jefferson Junior High recently organized a food and mitten drive. Students donated 163 pounds of food and three bags of hats, mittens and gloves for those still recovering from the tornado.
West Suburban Community Pantry - nominated by the Kiwanis Club of Woodridge
The Kiwanis Club of Woodridge would like to recognize the great work of the West Suburban Community Pantry (WSCP). The WSCP helped many Woodridge residents in need, and also serves all of DuPage County. The innovative Virtual Food Pantry, which allows clients to place a grocery order a couple of days before picking it up, provided a convenient opportunity for people to have food security.
After the EF-3 tornado, the WSCP collected more than 50,000 pounds of food in just one week to help those impacted by the tornado. In addition, the WSCP managed the increased demand for their services due to the pandemic, which means they saw a large increase compared to the typical 500 families per month. The Kiwanis Club of Woodridge is proud to have our members volunteer at the West Suburban Community Pantry. From our personal experience, the Kiwanis Club of Woodridge believes the WSCP is deserving of community recognition.
Father Norbert Raszeja, CR and St. Scholastic Staff - nominated by Mary Jane Munley
While the June 20, 2021, tornado hit Woodridge and indeed the home of Father Raszeja, CR, he and the staff were at the center of helping Woodridge. Donations of non-perishable food, clothing, gift cards, etc. were brought to St. Scholastica and were organized by the staff so that Woodridge residents affected by the tornado could obtain emergency and necessary supplies. Everyone was greeted with a smile and given what was available. This went on for at least two weeks after the tornado hit. Note: St. Scholastica has kindly hosted six out of the 11 Woodridge Give events to help those impacted by the tornado.
Jerry and Tiffany Eaton, Owners - Liberty Tax Service - nominated by Anne Banks
Pictured (L-R): Anne Banks-JANO, Jerry Munley-Woodridge Knights of Columbus #5918, Jerry Eaton-Liberty Tax Service, Tiffany Eaton-Liberty Tax Service, Mike Wagner-Woodridge Knights of Columbus #5918, John Piotrowski-Woodridge Knights of Columbus #5918
Liberty Tax Service owners Jerry and Tiffany are no strangers to the Woodridge Community. They acquired the business in 2013 and doubled its number of clients within the first year of business. The business has become a community staple that connects over 1,500 clients with quality tax service. Their continued success has not deterred them from the commitment to philanthropic efforts. Within their eight years serving the Village of Woodridge and its residents, they continue to host Turkey Drives, Back-to-School events, partnering with organizations such as the Woodridge Knights of Columbus #5918 Coats-For-Kids Drive, and annual community-wide tax schools and seminars.
They also assist patrons of the West Suburban Community Pantry with free tax prep services and are active and dedicated members of Janes Avenue Neighborhood Outreach (JANO). They have donated over $25,000 to local community organizations. This family-run business has and will continue to be a pillar of the Woodridge community, helping our residents gain the tax solutions they need and the experience they deserve. Jerry, Tiffany, and Liberty Tax Service truly exemplify acts of kindness, doing good in the neighborhood, and going above and beyond in the community they love!
Patti Coleman - nominated by Mike Adams
Patti is a selfless, passionate, and avid volunteer who supports charitable organizations that make a difference in the Woodridge Community and beyond. Her involvement includes Woodridge Rotary Mini Triathlon, West Suburban Community Food Pantry – Food Give-a-ways, Covid Vaccine ‘buddies’, Woodridge Vaccination Clinic, Janes Avenue Neighborhood Outreach (JANO) helping prepare tax filing gratis, Ronald McDonald House Charities at Edward-Elmhurst Hospital to assist the families of sick & hospitalized children, Morton Arboretum as a trail walker helping visitors with questions and directions, DuPage County Pads (pre-covid) helping serve meals to the homeless on a monthly basis and Chicago Bears “Bears Care” charities.
Tornado Volunteers - nominated by the Woodridge Police Department
Many volunteers distributed critical information and helped clear debris. Similar to the Mayor’s Spirit Award, we would like to recognize volunteers, especially those that helped immediately after the tornado.
The Woodridge Police Department appreciates the volunteers who assisted in the tornado's aftermath. Many volunteers stepped up to distribute critical information to those impacted by the tornado that contained American Red Cross and other agency information. In addition, volunteers helped to clear the roadways and dispose of debris at multi-family housing units. Those people that volunteered in the tornado aftermath are perfect examples of Woodridge Neighbors Helping Neighbors.