Award winners shine at Park Ridge’s Night of Stars dinner
Rosemont, 1/19/13--Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dave Donovan, (left) chats with Gilby Lifton during the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce's Annual Community Star Dinner & Dance. | Vincent D. Johnson~for Sun-Times Media grid= cover
Updated: February 25, 2013 6:03AM
PARK RIDGE — Out of all the volunteering he’s done in life, playing Santa Claus in Park Ridge remains among Dave Donovan’s most enjoyable roles.
“You love to see the expressions on the little people’s faces and I knew a lot of them because I was involved in the Jaycees,” Donovan explained. “I could call them by name as I got off the fire truck. They were always amazed that Santa knew them.”
Donovan, a 41-year resident of Park Ridge, was one of 11 people recognized Saturday during the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce’s “Night of Stars” dinner and dance in Rosemont. Ten citizens earned the title of 2012 Community Star, while Donovan was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of volunteer service with Boy Scout Troop 50, the Friends of the Park Ridge Public Library, the Noon Kiwanis Club of Park Ridge, Meals on Wheels, the Park Ridge Citizens Patrol (which he co-founded), and the annual Farmer’s Market, among other endeavors.
Donovan was raised to be a volunteer, watching his parents host spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts as school fundraisers.
“I think those who lead by example are the most inspirational people to follow,” he shared.
So, too, are this year’s Community Star Award recipients, each chosen for going beyond the requirements of their career or setting aside extra time for an important purpose.
“They are always the unsung heroes,” said Gail Haller, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, of the yearly Community Star nominees. “This is just one way for them to be acknowledged.”
Community Stars are nominated by citizens and winners are chosen by past presidents of the Chamber. They include the following:
John Bennett was recognized for his involvement with Park Ridge’s Community Emergency Response Team and his role as team leader of the volunteer program.
“It’s an opportunity for me to contribute to the community and support our first responders using some of the talents I have developed over the course of my career,” Bennett said.
He also serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, is a member of Park Ridge’s Morning Kiwanis Club and greets guests at weekly Sunday Suppers offered at St. Paul of the Cross Church for those in need.
Since 2008 Barry Masek has dedicated his knowledge and time to Clearbrook, a non-profit organization providing services, programs and supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Masek has served on Clearbrook’s volunteer Board of Directors, bringing his financial background to the position, and, with members of his family, has participated in Clearbrook events in support of the organization.
Masek was recognized as “a voice for the organization’s mission to be a leader in creative innovative services, support and opportunities for people with disabilities.”
“It’s an opportunity to give back,” he said of his work.
John Vanden Brink
Helping developing countries secure much-needed X-ray equipment has been John Vanden Brink’s mission with the Park Ridge Rotary for over a decade. Vanden Brink has helped raise funding for the machinery and even visited a hospital in Zimbabwe to determine the feasibility of installing such equipment.
“It meets a need,” Vanden Brink said of his involvement with Rotary. “The World Health Organization claims that two-thirds of the world doesn’t have access to basic X-ray services. That’s an incredible need.”
As deputy chief of the Park Ridge Fire Department Jeff Sorensen was nominated for a Community Star award for being a “giver, citizenship role model and visionary.”
“He is a force for good and is well-respected and well-liked in this community,” his nomination stated.
Sorensen is also a member of the Morning Kiwanis Club of Park Ridge, serving as president for the last two years.
Dennis Van Mieghem
Using his accounting and tax knowledge, Dennis Van Mieghem stepped up to successfully secure a real estate tax exemption for Iannelli Studios Heritage Center, the former home and studio of artist Alfonso Iannelli which was purchased by Park Ridge’s Kalo Foundation in 2011. The effort earned the city a Governor’s Home Town Award.
“I believe in the history of Park Ridge and what (Kalo) is trying to do: to make people appreciate what went on here for the last 100 years,” Van Mieghem said.
Van Mieghem is the third member of the Kalo Foundation to receive a Community Star Award.
Mel Thillens was recognized for his efforts supporting a referendum that will allow the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District to purchase the former Park Ridge Youth Campus property, as well as his service on the Taste of Park Ridge Committee.
“It’s a great event,” Thillens said of why he’s remained a part of the annual Taste. “It’s great for the whole city to come together to showcase the businesses in town and it’s great fun.”
He added: “Some people say volunteering is a thankless job, but it’s not. People say thanks all the time and I really appreciate it.”
A long-time resident of Park Ridge, Barbara Skadow has spent the last three decades actively volunteering at the Center of Concern. Much of her work is dedicated to addressing ongoing computer needs, telephone support and special projects.
In 1994 Skadow received the Dee Heinrich Award, the highest award given by the Center of Concern.
Skadow also volunteers at St. Paul of the Cross Church, assisting with Sunday Night Suppers and projects for the Apostolate of Women.
A trustee on the Maine Township Town Board since 2001, Laura Morask is known for her community forums educating citizens about gangs and gang prevention. She also served as an assistant Cook County State’s Attorney and prosecutor for over 20 years and currently operates a private legal practice in Park Ridge.
Morask serves on Maine Township’s National Night Out Against Crime Committee and helps organize food drives for the township’s food pantry.
The white lights that illuminate trees in Park Ridge’s Uptown and South Park business districts during the Christmas holiday have been made possible through the leadership of Park Ridge Indian Scouts — and Scott Richter. Richter is federation chief of the Indian Scouts and this year assembled a team of volunteers representing several city organizations to plan and string lights.
“It’s brought a large segment of the community together to pitch in and help out as city finances are low,” Richter said. “I’m very pleased with the community participation.”
Co-owner of the Pickwick Theatre, Dave Loomos isn’t just running new films for the masses; he’s getting the masses running. Loomos organizes the annual Park Ridge Charity Classic and the annual Harry O’Brien Community Fun Run, both fundraisers supporting various organizations.
“I’ve always been involved in sports,” Loomos said, explaining that he did a lot of running in college. “This way I am able to give back to the community doing what I love.”