Hometown Heroes in Lake County
Round Lake Area Exchange is being recognized for their Hometown Hero Program and has been accepted as a National Americanism Program for Exchange. As members of the Round Lake Area Exchange Club, we proudly share the story of how this program was started and the efforts of our current chair, Sherry Ridge, Treasurer of Round Lake Area Exchange Club. The Hometown Hero project was started in 2010 by charter member, Bruce Johnson and the 2010 President, Ila Bauer.
Exchange Club wanted to support those enlisted men and women through public nominations. We wanted them to know that they are supported and remembered back home. The goal was to have a Hometown Hero each month and the program has grown each year where we at times honor two per month.
Under the past six years of Sherry Ridge's leadership, we have seen the Hometown Hero program thrive and grow. Exchange Club solicits sponsors to cover the costs of a care package filled with items that the enlisted men and women miss from home. We have had several sponsors for 6 consecutive years. We also advertise through our website, word of mouth and fliers for people to submit names of area people in active, reserve or guard service. Then we match up the sponsors with a service man or woman. This is where the fun begins. We find out what they miss from home and make every effort to send them some of those items. You would be surprised at some of the items requested. Beef jerky, a special candy, gum and even deep dish pizza are examples of items we may see on their lists. In addition, Round Lake Area school district has students write letters to the man or woman honored and we send a special t-shirt and a jar of soil from their hometown and when we can their own yards. Each month, Sherry writes a biography of the person recognized and sends it to selected press. The Daily Herald has published our monthly Heroes without fail.
Sherry's superb expertise with accounting and finance is invaluable for optimizing the capacity of our Club to support the Round Lake Area, and in 2014, Sherry expanded the range of our community service to the status of 501C3. Jeanne Kearby, President of Round Lake Exchange noted, "Thanks to Sherry's creativity with our local Hometown Hero program, Exchange Clubs all over America may now follow her lead in recognizing deserving, deployed service-members." The Hometown Heroes' families who remain at home are invited to Exchange Club meetings to receive patriotic plaques and praise for the service of their sons, daughters and siblings. Supporting these families and inviting them to join our Club is the least we can do to honor our local military service-members.
Sherry Ridge noted her involvement and history with Round Lake Area Exchange Club. "I was introduced to Exchange by one of our Charter Members and our first Hometown Hero, Bruce Johnson. I have been a member since 2005 and have served as the Treasurer for over eight years. Even my husband, Randy Ridge, was a former Exchange member". Sherry has worked with and/or chaired almost every committee at our local Club. In addition to her current roles, she has chaired the Make A Difference Day and served on the Membership Committee.
Round Lake Area Exchange Club is honored for the recognition of our Hometown Hero program and the spotlight on our current chair, Sherry Ridge, is well deserved.