Judson celebrates volunteers at Community Prayer Breakfast

Nearly 200 community members, civic leaders, and church leaders attended Judson University's 35th annual Community Prayer Breakfast on May 12.

Attendees heard Ceitci Demirkova's story of coming to the United States from Bulgaria with very little and relying on God's goodness.

Demirkova told of growing up in Communist Bulgaria, fearful of speaking against the regime. She told of being fearful of what one white-haired man at her school bus stop was always muttering. She later learned that this man was sharing the good news of the Gospel and teaching about God's love to all who would listen.

According to Demirkova, the man was sent to a concentration camp for his teachings, and when he was released, he inspired her to obtain a Bible and become a Christian. From then on, she used all of her high school writing assignments as an opportunity to evangelize to her peers and teachers alike, and with some remarkable results.

"Never be afraid to suffer for Jesus. Jesus is worth everything," Demirkova said.

Motivational speaker Ceitci Demirkova shares her story during Judson University's 35th annual Community Prayer Breakfast. Courtesy of Judson University

For the first time in the 20 years of the D. Ray Wilson Award, Judson honored two individuals with the D. Ray Wilson Volunteer Service Award at the event.

While all of the nominees for the award have given generously of their time and talent to the Fox Valley, two individuals' long-term and varied service warranted special recognition. In honor of that, Judson's selection committee recommended that Robert Langlois and Pat Szpekowski both be selected as award honorees.

Robert "Bob" Langlois retired from Motorola, where he was director of international relations and served as a key liaison between Motorola's field offices, corporate headquarters, global business communities, and diplomatic corps in Chicago. Today, he is president of ECO Advanced Technologies, which designs and markets integrated Controlled Environment Agricultural Systems.

He also has contributed significantly to the community by serving for 13 years as chair of the Elgin Zoning Commission, as a board member for Food for Greater Elgin, and as a member of the Elgin Cooperative Ministry, where he has served as chair and vice-chair.

He also is the treasurer for Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and is part of the church's service team, where he manages the church's Soup Kettle. He also serves on the police department's social team to help relocate those needing shelter.

He served on the library community board's census board and is often the "boots on the grounds" for many food drives and lunch programs to benefit others.

Pat Szpekowski founded her business, PR Strategies and Communications, in 1987. As president of PR Strategies, she became an award-winning writer for the Observer, the Catholic Diocese of Rockford's weekly newspaper, Air Chicago Magazine, as well as several other city magazines. She has served as president of the Chicago Suburban Public Relations Society Chapter and is the immediate past president of the Northern Illinois News Association.

Throughout her career, she has generously served many nonprofits within the Fox Valley. She founded the networking group Women in Business, was the first female chairman of the board for what is now the Northern Kane County Chamber of Commerce, served as community leadership board chair of Ascension Saint Joseph - Elgin for 10 years, and was a member of the Elgin Community College Foundation for 18 years.

She also has served on the planning and zoning commission of the village of Algonquin for the past 25 years.

Chad Benavidez, a Judson alumnus and police officer who has volunteered in Elgin at Judson during the 2022-23 academic year, was nominated for the award. Chad has been teaching a police academy designed specifically for the RISE program for students with intellectual disabilities.

He also helped organize the annual Special Olympics basketball game at Judson between the students and the Elgin Police Department.

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