The Mount Prospect Special Events Commission honored the town's Shining Stars during its recent Celestial Celebration banquet at Victoria in the Park. Here's a closer look at some of the award winners based on speeches given at the gala:
• Toast of the Town: This year it was given to a group that works together for the community, the Mount Prospect Community Emergency Response or Preparedness Team or CERT. The group was founded in 2004 and currently is 30-plus community members strong.
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CERT members are prepared to help neighbors during disasters, storms, fires, floods, monthly training sessions and public education in emergency preparedness. This year it is anticipated they will volunteer 1,500 hours to the village, including at 4th of July events for the police department, maintaining the information boxes located around town, at the fire department open house and at the family bike ride.
It takes a team of volunteers to run the organization. Team Leaders are Eric Hoeppner, Keith Galle, Mike Nagle, Glenn Sutton and committee members Barbara VanArsdale and Mary Jane Matecki. CERT's numbers have increased over the years in large part to Jim Miller, their coordinator, who is dedicated to their training and education and who stated "that it is truly an honor and privilege to work for them."
• Hometown Award: Winner Joe Pentz owns and operates Formula Automotive and Marathon Service Station. In addition to running a first-rate repair shop, he goes out of his way for everyone who comes into the shop. He is gracious, fair and honest, keeps cars running. He's been known to tell customers, "Your brakes are still good; you don't need to change them."
Joe has also been known to leave his car at a customer's residence and drive their car in to the shop for service. One customer said that "because of his genuine personality, I consider him a friend." Joe will go out and pump gas for the elderly or handicapped customers.
To quote one of the nominators, "His shop has the combination of the warmth of a country diner, the laughter of an Irish pub and the healing of a confessional."
• Living Legend: The Farley family moved to Mount Prospect in 1973 and not long after Gerald "Skip" began a service career that spanned several decades.
In 1978-1979, Farley served on the Mount Prospect Plan Commission but left that position to fill an unexpired vacant seat on the village board, where he served until 1989, when he was elected mayor 2001, "Skip" was elected to his final term as mayor.
Farley was a member of the Northwest Municipal Conference serving as president and on many committees. He also served on the Legislative Committee of the Illinois Municipal League and was a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Many festivals and activities had their start under his auspice, including the Sister City Commission and the Special Events Commission, which is host to the Celestial Celebration and was created after a successful yearlong celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Village of Mount Prospect.
• Unsung Hero: Clare Toffenetti and Mary Welk have donated countless hours of time and energy to the Mount Prospect Emergency Food Pantry. They sort the donated products, check for expired and opened goods, organize the pantry and rotate older product so they are used in a timely fashion.
They pack bags for 10 to 12 families each week, which has been calculated to be approximately 3,000 bags per year, not counting the Holiday Food programs.
Volunteer's Volunteer Award: Those that have benefited from Paula St. Louis and Tom Shute's efforts include St. Raymond School and Parish, St. Mark, Westbrook School and the Girl and Boy Scouts.
Most recently Paula co-created a walk-a-thon for Westbrook School with a goal of $9,000. The event raised $17,000. Tom coached basketball for a group of kindergarten boys; this year will be his last with them as they're graduating from eighth grade.
Together Paula and Tom led a teen group -- Branches -- at St. Raymond from 2002 to 2006. They have stayed in touch with their group, attending graduations, weddings and a funeral.
At St. Raymond, both are lectors and Eucharistic ministers. Paula has mentored third-graders working on Scoop's -- the St. Raymond School Newspaper. To quote a nomination, "They do all this, while also raising two great kids, for whom they provide a wonderful example every day."
• Champion for Youth: John Camardella is someone who cares about the development of young people. His message is compete as hard as you can, but be respectful of your teammates, coaches, officials and opponents. He teaches by example and provides a safe and comfortable atmosphere.
A social science teacher at Prospect High School for more than 10 years, Camardella convinced administrators to allow him to teach world religions, a class that has a waiting list every year. Camardella earned a degree in religion, has two master's degrees, has coached freshman volleyball and varsity men's basketball, and started Ultimate Frisbee Club.
Camardella lost his father at the age of 18, which may be why he is such a wonderful role model and father figure to his "own" students. John visits each basketball player's home to get to know both the players and their families better and asks what he can do to make their son's experience more valuable. A former student said "John is someone who is able to actively change a young and growing mind for the better."
• Stand and Deliver Award: The award is to recognize an individual in a higher position who leads by example. This year that person is Keir Rogers, principal at River Trails Middle School.
Rogers has reshaped every aspect of the school. His motto is "respect, respect, respect." Rogers was described in the nomination as "a tall man with a calming presence." He brings a balance of professionalism, leadership and a general caring for all individuals.
One of the programs he has brought into the school is the ROC system, which stands for Recognition of Outstanding Character. He is a "leader with a heart."
As a young man who did not have a strong family background, Rogers counted on the support of strangers to guide him. Because of the support of others through elementary and high school, he received a scholarship. He said if not for the scholarship he would have stayed back home in Indiana, working in a steel mill and would have missed the opportunity to guide all those bright-eyed children for the last 15 years.
The other Shining Star award winners were:
• Good, Better, Best Neighbor Award: Ken Gordon
• Rising Star Award: Alexandra Wilson
• There Ought To Be More Like You Award: Jeff Prostko
• The Star Spangled Award: Jerry Clauser
• Best Business Award: Susan Dozier, American Chartered Bank