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posted: 11/26/2013 10:09 AM

Lifetime director of United Way has volunteered for 60 years

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  • Jack Shales of Elgin, 83, has been volunteering for the United Way of Elgin for 60 years.

       Jack Shales of Elgin, 83, has been volunteering for the United Way of Elgin for 60 years.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Area School District U-46 students wrote thank you notes for a donation for a school trip from Jack and Marlene Shales of Elgin. Jack Shales, 83, is now lifetime director of United Way of Elgin, for which he has volunteered for 60 years.

       Elgin Area School District U-46 students wrote thank you notes for a donation for a school trip from Jack and Marlene Shales of Elgin. Jack Shales, 83, is now lifetime director of United Way of Elgin, for which he has volunteered for 60 years.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Jack Shales of Elgin says people are brought into this world to help others.

"You always have time to help other people," he said.

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The 83-year-old Shales should know -- he's getting ready to celebrate his 60th year as a volunteer for the United Way of Elgin, which he's served as an employee campaign manager, then as a board member and now as a lifetime director.

The organization named its highest award after him. He was also among community members who got the city of Elgin's "Extra Mile Hero" awards in October.

His wife Marlene is also a volunteer for United Way, and a former Elgin councilwoman.

Shales was put in charge of soliciting donations when he got a job in 1954 in the front office of Illinois Hydraulic Construction Company in Elgin, now IHC Construction Companies.

He did that for nearly three decades until he started the construction company Seagren/Shales in 1983. Later it became Shales McNutt Construction.

"I started with my employees and got them to contribute. Being in construction, I'd hit the other contractors and get them to make contributions."

Asking people to donate to United Way is all about pointing out that the umbrella organization takes care of 25 to 30 others, he said.

"It made it more convenient for everyone to give that way."

The initial sting of rejection became easy to deal with over time, he said.

"Everybody, when they see me coming, they put their hands in their pockets. They're afraid I'm going to pick their pockets," he joked.

Shales is the honorary chairman of the 2013-14 United Way of Elgin campaign and pledged to raise $60,000. "I'm out pounding the pavement again," he said.

He also serves on the boards of the Salvation Army and the Gail Borden Public Library Foundation.

"At 83 years old, I am busier now than I ever was," he said.

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