In the City of Good Neighbors, Lois Anderson was named the best.
Anderson won the "Best Neighbor" award Saturday at 15th annual Hearts of Gold dinner in Arlington Heights.
Her dedication to helping others, looking in on homebound neighbors, scheduling monthly visits to nursing home residents and her involvement in a local homeless shelter earned her the award.
"It could have been my son who needed shelter, or my grandson," Anderson said. "These people have little family support."
Anderson was one of the first to be recognized at the dinner held at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Arlington Heights, and sponsored by the village's Special Events Commission.
More than 200 guests filled the ballroom, including Arlington Heights Mayor Thomas Hayes and members of the board of trustees, State Rep. David Harris, and Arlington Heights Village Manager Bill Dixon and many staff members.
In all, 13 residents were showcased as unsung heroes in the community. Their stories ran the gamut, from organizing a grass-roots effort to treat village trees infected by the emerald ash borer; to adding landscaping and gardens to a public elementary school; to starting an Operation Christmas program for needy children.
The evening ended with an emotional tribute to Paula Ulreich, the winner of the Pam Stocking Award, given to a resident whose spirit impacts the entire village in a unique and special way.
Ulreich passed away just three days before the dinner. Her award was given posthumously to her daughter and sister, as the more than 200 guests learned of the longtime Wheeling Township Clerk and her volunteer efforts with the Special Events Commission.
"This is truly a community of wonderfully generous people who go above and beyond to enhance our quality of life," Hayes said.
Other winners of the 2014 Hearts of Gold awards included:
Mentor: Jim Sanecki, who organizes up to 100 soccer referees each week and helps college students learn the trades in renovation projects for seniors.
Educator: Donna O'Hearn, a special-education teacher with Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 who works to empower students with special needs.
Young at Heart: Joe Ruane, known by his neighbors as the "Mayor of North Ridge Street," since everyone knows him and turns to him, particularly new homeowners.
Heroic: Patrick and Donna Fanning, who work year-round on Operation Christmas in order to provide clothing and toys to needy children during the holidays.
Young Champion: Caitlin Nagle, a Hersey High School senior who is one of the leaders of the school's Super Buddies, which pairs students with special needs with their peers for game sessions, field trips and other programs.
Volunteer: Debbie Smart, an assistant manager of Tuscan Market & Wine Shop, whose volunteer efforts include St. John United Church of Christ, as well as the Buddy Foundation, Shelter, Inc., and Faith Community Homes.
Community Spirit: Sam Moser and Laurie Taylor, who organized their respective neighborhoods in an effort to treat ash trees.
Business Leader: Dr. Joe Favia, a local dentist whose practice sponsors numerous events in Arlington Heights.
Kenneth M. Bonder Beautification: Tracy Marchetti, who took on the role of beautifying Westgate School by securing grants to add new bushes and trees, as well as a butterfly garden.