'I go where I am needed': Batavia Chamber of Commerce honors volunteer Mary Anne Callahan
If there were a mantra for what makes a community volunteer click, it would simply be this: "I go where I am needed."
That's what Mary Anne Callahan of Batavia told me when asked how she decides what organizations to help and when. And it has everything to do with why the Batavia Chamber of Commerce is honoring Callahan with its 2022 Donna Dallesasse Award, the ultimate recognition for a volunteer in Batavia and one that keeps the name of the grandest volunteer of all -- Dallesasse -- in the minds of city residents.
"If someone asks for help, I see what I can do," said Callahan, who works for her sister at Kuhn Counseling Center and has been active with various community boards and organizations. "I know a lot of people in town and it works out that I can make connections for people."
The skill for keeping people connected with helping hands steered Callahan into somewhat of a niche in that she has done significant work in helping people connect with mental health providers.
With the COVID pandemic affecting everyone, Callahan and others in the community, including the Batavia Chamber, helped put together the Batavia Counselors' Collaboration. The formation of that group led to the creation of the Kane County Area Resources Guide, a list of area resources for various needs, with an emphasis on mental health services.
"When we started the Batavia Counselors' Collaboration, it just seemed like the right thing to do because, yes, there is always a stigma behind mental health," Callahan noted. "No one wants to admit they need to talk to someone, but it is a big component in life to have someone to bounce ideas off of and clear your head over things.
"We're really proud of this guide," Callahan said of the resource tool available at mentalhealthbatavia.com. "If some agency has a waitlist, the guide can help find one without wait lists or that can handle specific needs."
The idea behind a community collaboration and a resource guide falls right into Callahan's wheelhouse. "I am not a counselor, but I work for a counseling office that has been my sister's family business for 30-some years, so I know it is important," she said. "I help by getting the word out and connecting the right people with other communities and businesses."
Callahan has found time to be on the Batavia Education Foundation for Excellence and previously volunteered for the PTO at Alice Gustafson Elementary School in Batavia. She also helps the Batavia business community grow through the nonprofit Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center.
Margaret Perreault, president and CEO of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release about the Dallesasse award that Callahan's selfless nature is easily apparent.
"Mary Anne is the type of person that sees a need and steps up to help, much like Donna Dallesasse was known to do," Perreault said. "Mary Anne displays such positive energy; it is a privilege to get to work with her. We are so pleased to honor her with this award."
The chamber will honor Callahan at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, under the tent at Oscar Swan Country Inn in Geneva.
Callahan, a resident of Batavia since 2008, never had the pleasure of meeting Dallesasse, who passed away at age 75 in 2016.
No matter where you were in Batavia or what type of event you might be attending, when you turned around, there was Donna Dallesasse.
When she asked if you could help with something as a volunteer, you knew it would be hard to say no to her.
Mary Anne Callahan could easily relate to that sort of commitment.
Construction and kids
The New York Times No. 1 best-selling children's book "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site" certainly has a Tri-Cities footprint on it. Author Sherri Rinker lives in St. Charles and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld lives in Batavia.
The two recently collaborated with construction vehicle manufacturer Caterpillar's production of a video that brings the book to life in highlighting the book's main characters -- Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer and Excavator -- as Caterpillar vehicles.
The book has delighted youngsters with a story about how hard the vehicles work to dig holes and prepare construction sites -- and how they "go to sleep" after a long day's work.
"It was a natural alignment between a manufacturer and a book," Lichtenheld said of Caterpillar reaching out to get input for the video. "I didn't have to draw anything for the video, but we just talked about how we designed the book."
Caterpillar officials were "good students," Lichtenheld said. "They were interested in capturing the grittiness the book needed, and they re-created the scenes with real equipment."
The backgrounds in the video were based on Lichtenheld's illustrations and Caterpillar "did an accurate job of bringing the book to life," he added.
When deciding on partnering with a company, Lichtenheld said he and Rinker are most concerned about the company's intention.
"Caterpillar did some great things, releasing the video on international reading day, and encouraging their dealers to take books and read them to kids at the schools," he added.
Rinker was out of town last week and could not be reached.
The Caterpillar video marked another successful moment for Lichtenheld, who said he left a career as an art director in advertising to become an illustrator for kids' books "by accident."
That accident was responding to a nephew's request for a picture of a pirate more than 20 years ago. He drew a few pictures of pirates, then added a ship and some sharks -- and suddenly had a binder full of characters and adventures to send to his nephew.
When family and friends saw this creation, they encouraged him to do it more often and try to get the pirate saga published. So he did.
After some rejection, he hooked up with an agent who landed him a contract with Simon & Schuster.
"I worked my advertising jobs and worked on the books at the same time, and did both jobs for about 10 years," said Lichtenheld, who quit the advertising gig in 2009.
He's lived in the Tri-Cities area since moving to Geneva from Minneapolis in 2000, and then downsizing to smaller home in Batavia two years ago.
"Good Night, Good Night, Construction site" is available at Harvey's Tales in Geneva and Townhouse Books in St. Charles.
Enriching St. Charles East Hall of Fame
Former St. Charles East soccer standout Clint Hull, now a longtime Kane County judge, has been busy the past several months preparing for the 30th annual Jodie Harrison Lifetime Achievement Award that inducts former athletes and coaches into the school's Hall of Fame.
It brought back quite a few memories when Hull contacted me and mentioned former inductees and those part of so many championship teams at the school -- Tim Dailey, Lori Drumtra, Sue Soderberg, Buck Drach and Dave Bart.
Barb and Walt Miller are being honored for all of the support they gave the athletic program at St. Charles High, and another touching moment is in store when basketball standout Justin Hardy, who passed away in late May, will become a member of the Hall.
It all takes place at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the St. Charles Moose Lodge at 2250 W. Lincoln Highway.
Roy's gets nice donation
It appears 8-year-old Roy Rauch of Batavia is still drawing attention to his "Roy's Take What You Need Farmstand" at 2S676 Hart Road in Batavia, where the produce he grows in his garden is made available to those in the community who can benefit from the fresh vegetables.
His mother Amanda Rauch recently posted on Facebook that someone from Batavia dropped off a lot of "amazing produce" for the stand.
Last year, Amanda told me her son Roy came up with the idea for the free produce stand after seeing her grow produce in the Batavia Community Garden to give to the community's Interfaith Food Pantry.
People have been chipping in with produce ever since, and the Rauch family has doubled its plot in the community garden. As we noted last year, anyone who would like to donate to the stand can contact Amanda Rauch through Facebook Messenger.
Grab gloves and boots
The Natural Resources Committee will be looking for helping hands from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 17 at Island Park in Geneva for its 11th Fox River Cleanup Day.
That means you'll want to wear old clothes, gloves and boots. Organizers also suggest you bring dry clothes and shoes to change into in case you get wet.
The day's cleanup efforts are part of the Friends of the Fox River initiative to remove debris from the Fox River between Wisconsin and Ottawa.
Those planning to participate can park at the water treatment plant and walk to the spillway, or ride a bike to the island's south end. Questions can be directed to Kelvin Limbrick at email@example.com.