The Northwest Suburban Bar Association's annual holiday party took place Dec. 8 at Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Arlington Heights. More than 100 attorneys and judges were present to celebrate the holiday, as well as to honor several people who have given their time and service to benefit the association. Traditionally, it chooses a worthy charity to promote, and this year was no exception.
Janet Maxwell-Wickett, holiday party co-chair, welcomed everyone to the event, and thanked attendees for taking time out of their busy schedules to be part of the evening's festivities.
Miriam Cooper introduced the awards committee that included herself, Donald Cosley and Lee DeWald. She encouraged members to send in suggestions for next year's award recipients.
Donald Cosley, former president, introduced the recipient of the Excellence in the Judiciary award. Hon. Ketki Steffen was presented this award for her outstanding dedication as a judge that heard traffic, parentage and misdemeanor matters. She has been recognized for her outstanding work in domestic violence and has received a variety of awards, including the Partners in Peace Award and the Building Bridges Award. She was cited as being fair, a good listener, respectful and having an understanding temperament on the bench.
"I grew up with Judge Steffen at the courthouse, and know that she sees the big picture and is most deserving of this award," said Cosley.
Judge Steffen thanked the Northwest Suburban Bar Association for this honored award, and explained how much it meant to her that in the 25 years of membership in this organization, she has always felt welcomed, and never like an outsider.
"I came to this country when I was 16 because my mother wanted all of us to be able to be whoever we wanted to be. I am proud and humbled to be given this award. I know what it means to have been given the opportunity to sit on the bench, and I strive to help those that have no voice," Steffen said.
Sisters Tanya and Katharine Ortloff, who work together in the Civil Process Division of the Cook County Sheriff's Office, were honored with the Friend of the Bar award. Each has been separately and independently recognized for her hard work, professionalism and commitment to public service. Katharine has been a LEADS operator, LEADS delegate and administrative assistant for 21 years, and Tanya has been a LEADS operator and administrative assistant for 25 years. Lee Dewald presented this award.
"Friends of Bar help lawyers, judges, our clients, and our constituents, and it is important for us to recognize them. These women have provided exemplary service and we thank them," DeWald said.
Both women graciously thanked the association for this honor.
The Scales of Justice award was presented to George Bellas, a former past president, for his willingness to assist others in their practices.
"I love the bar association. While things have changed from the old days when we would meet in the basement of a bowling alley, this organization does a great service to the Bar in general, especially in the area of helping each other," Bellas said.
Avenues to Independence, the recipient of the annual Holiday Assistance drive, was represented by Janet Craft, director at Avenues. She discussed her organization and explained all of the opportunities that are available for their clients.
"We all know folks that were part of special classes in school. We are here to help where those special classes leave off. Our work center is a life line for our clients, and we aim to teach them life skills," Craft said. "We appreciate the kind-hearted members of the community, and appreciate being the recipient of your Holiday Assistance Drive."
Located in Park Ridge, this organization is dedicated to putting aside old ideas about what is possible. They work in tandem with the community to support and encourage people with disabilities to lead the lives they choose. Avenues not only has homes located throughout Park Ridge and Des Plaines, they run a thrift shop where their clients learn skills that help them find jobs in a retail setting. The Thrift Shoppe also houses The AveVenture program, which allows several "entrepreneurial" clients to develop their own businesses, thus earning a paycheck.
Thanks to the generosity of our members, Avenues raised $3,248 that night.