For the third time in five years, three people were named the Roscoe Ebey Citizen of the Year, which is the Kane County Sheriff Department's highest civilian honor.
"I'm sure my dad's smiling, whether it's one or 100," Richard Ebey said of his father, for whom the award is named. Roscoe Ebey, an 83-year-old World War II veteran, was killed in spring 2007 during a home invasion in Aurora Township.
Sheriff Pat Perez on Thursday honored Christine Propheter and Lorraine Stahl, two women who started a Neighborhood Watch program for the Mill Creek subdivision near Geneva, along with Lea Minalga, a St. Charles substance abuse counselor who formed Hearts of Hope, an organization and support group for those affected by heroin.
Stahl and Propheter both volunteered to form the watch group three years ago. "It takes a village and I kind of consider Mill Creek to be a village," Stahl said. "Neighbors helping neighbors."
Added Propheter, "It's a privilege and an honor."
The pair realized what they had started last summer when the sheriff's department was pursuing a motorist who crashed off Peck Road and fled on foot through Mill Creek, a subdivision west of Randall Road.
Stahl received an email from the sheriff's department and she forwarded it along to others in Neighborhood Watch. Not only were residents warned to stay inside, the suspect was quickly caught after a tip.
"That was a biggie. That's when we said, 'This really worked. If we just communicate, we can stay safer,' " Stahl said.
Minalga, who has attended funerals of more than 100 people who have died of heroin overdoses as a way to support others, credited the sheriff's department for not being in denial of the problem, especially in Geneva and St. Charles.
Her son began using the drug when he was 16. Minalga founded Hearts of Hope to help others affected by the scourge.
"I took my pain and turned it into my passion," Minalga said. "It's not about blame or who did what but to expose it, because we cannot cure what we do not acknowledge."
In 2009, Darlene Marcusson, Sarah Giachino and Kathy Tobusch, won the award. Dawn Vogelsberg, Pat Graceffa, and Emily Laughead, were honored in 2010. The inaugural award in 2007 went to Leslie Fleming, who apprehended Roscoe Ebey's killer.