United Way honors volunteers

Rodney McQueen is not interested in paying back the people who have helped him throughout the years.

He would rather pay it forward.

From lending his gardening expertise at the Sycamore History Museum and the Pay-It-Forward House to helping seniors manage their budgets through DeKalb County Elder Care Services, McQueen has spent the past nine years donating his time to people and places in need.

His hours of community service earned him the Kishwaukee United Way’s Spirit of Caring Award – an honor recognizing human-service agency staff members and community volunteers for their dedication and service.

“When my wife, Diane, and I retired in 2004, we realized life had been very good to us and we had a lot of people help us along the way,” McQueen said. “We decided we wanted to spend time giving something back.”

McQueen was one of four award winners honored during Kishwaukee United Way’s annual meeting. Nicole Safford, a staff member at Opportunity House, also was recognized with the Spirit of Caring Award and the 3M corporation and Kishwaukee College’s Kate Noreiko were honored with the Leo Olson Award.

The Leo Olson Award was established in 1989 to honor board member Leo Olson for his commitment to United Way and his spirit of volunteerism. 

Noreiko, director of human resources at Kishwaukee College, said she was humbled to receive the award, especially after considering all the past recipients she has seen during her seven years on the Kishwaukee United Way board. 

“United Way does a great job for this community,” Noreiko said. “The outreach, the work on the behalf of the agencies they serve; it’s just a great organization.”

Kishwaukee United Way allocates hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to more than 20 social service agencies including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Voluntary Action Center and Community Coordinated Child Care.

Dawn Littlefield, executive director of Kishwaukee United Way, said this year’s focus was supporting education, income and health.

More than $70,000 went to child-care centers to support early education, free tax preparation programs were promoted to help low-income families and residents saved more than $60,000 through a prescription discount program.

Littlefield said she expected the organization would have anywhere between $250,000 to $290,000 to allocate in 2013 by the time the board meets to discuss funding on April 19.

“United Way is all about partnerships with the community and that’s what we focused on this year,” she said. “We hope to have as much to give as we did last year.”

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