Fox River Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution carries the 'Torch of Patriotism'
2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the Fox River Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Since 2019, the chapter's 80 members logged 19,055 hours of volunteer activity that supported a wide range of issues facing the community's most vulnerable citizens, our country and the planet.
The women's volunteer service organization is dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history and securing America's future through better education for children. The National Society was organized in 1890 and has carried the torch of patriotism for 130 years with love of country at its core.
DAR members' ancestors fought for freedom during the Revolutionary War and today, Daughters make a difference in their communities and help to preserve America's heritage.
"Our members are involved in many impactful and meaningful volunteer projects," according to Laurie Sutherland of Sugar Grove, the Regent of the Fox River Valley Chapter. "We enjoy sharing our skills, contributing to worthwhile projects and helping others -- all while making new friends in DAR, developing our talents and making a difference in the community."
"This is our opportunity to give back to those who sacrificed so much for us and to honor and celebrate our American heritage," said First Vice Regent Gayla Fell of Hampshire, who chairs the Service to America Committee.
Organized in 2015, the chapter is proud to be the national four-peat grand prize winners of the prestigious DAR Spread the American Spirit Contest, as well as receiving over 130 national and state DAR awards and certificates of achievement at the individual, committee and chapter levels for a wide-range of voluntary service projects.
Efforts by Past Regent Karen Mason of Crystal Lake and Organizing Regent Catherine Carlton of Woodstock were instrumental in the chapter winning the American Spirit Award four times.
"As a new chapter five years ago," said Mason, "we were excited about supporting DAR's award-winning American Spirit magazine. This publication lets us share our love of American History, historic preservation and genealogy with the world."
"Among our service projects are those addressing the needs of the homeless, veterans, active duty military personnel, domestic abuse victims, environmental challenges and hunger." This includes community service at libraries, churches, schools and veterans' groups in the Algonquin/Huntley area, and in McHenry County.
"Members of the Fox River Valley Chapter," Sutherland said, "make a difference in their communities. Our chapter is recognized as a force for good."
Sutherland said that several members are "mask marvels" and have sewn 150 masks for healthcare, essential workers, friends and families during the COVID-19 pandemic -- part of DAR's "Service to America from Home."
"While we're each doing our part to slow the spread of the virus by staying at home, the DAR members in our chapter wanted to do more to give back to those working hard to keep our community healthy and safe," said Sutherland. "Our members help to take care of our community."
The Fox River Valley Chapter holds a long record of meaningful service projects. This includes the chapter's annual "American Spirit" $1,000 scholarship, which recognizes outstanding service to the community for one deserving high school or college student residing in McHenry County or Kane County. DAR Scholarship Chair Urana Wold of Huntley said, "These amazing students volunteer in their communities and selflessly give of their time in addition to their academic studies -- not because they have to, but because they want to."
Wold recently announced that the 2020 American Spirit Scholarship recipient is Kaili Wegener of McHenry, Northwestern University, Class of 2024. "The chapter's scholarship provides a wonderful way to honor and recognize our local students for their outstanding community service," Wold said.
The chapter's 2019 DAR Day of Service Project in October was comprehensive, and efforts were yearlong. Members made plarn (plastic yarn), then crocheted it into twenty-four 3- x 8-feet water-resistant sleeping mats. The mats were distributed to homeless veterans at the Stand Down for Veterans in Rockford, an event serving an eight-county region.
Leftover plarn was stuffed into polyurethane sleeves and covered with homemade pillowcases, which produced 140 weatherproof pillows.
Co-chair for DAR Service for Veterans Barbara Pagano of Huntley said, "This project supported our local veterans in need. It had the additional ecological benefit of upcycling plastic bags and keeping them out of landfills."
Fleece cold weather items were made by students from Alden-Hebron School District through the chapter's DAR Community Classroom Committee, chaired by Huntley's Kristen McCusker. These student-handmade hats, scarves, mittens and neck warmers were distributed by the chapter during the Stand Down.
The chapter also collected and packaged donated toiletries for distribution at the Stand Down, with support from co-chair for DAR Service for Veterans, Christina Conway of Gilberts. Conway's colleagues and patrons from Starbucks donated hundreds of additional toiletry items to the chapter's project.
Remaining items were distributed at TLS Veterans of McHenry County by National Defense chair Karen Hutchings of Huntley and at the USO of Illinois at the Great Lakes Naval Center by Norma Kirby of Lake in the Hills.
Kirby is chair for DAR Project Patriot. She mails comfort packages and greeting cards on behalf of the chapter to Saudi Arabia in support of Army "Foxtrot Company," Air Defense Artillery Regiment which focuses on female soldiers -- one soldier lives locally. Kirby said, "These women deserve to know they are valued and certainly not forgotten, as they endure often daily, grueling efforts to protect this country and our freedom."
Fox River Valley Chapter is committed to recycling through the efforts of the Conservation committee, chaired by Katherine Render of Huntley.
She reminds us that, "Every day is Earth Day and if we are unwilling to make changes, sadly changes will be made for us." To ensure environmental health, donated items support several conservation programs, such as mascara wands for Wands for Wildlife, used markers for Crayola ColorCycle Program, cancelled postage stamps for the Lincoln Land Association of Bird Banders. In lieu of a meeting of service for Earth Day's 50th anniversary, members took personal steps towards from home and enacted EarthDay.org's "Actions for the Planet During the COVID-19 Pandemic."
Joyce Cohen of Algonquin, member of the Conservation committee, instituted a recycling program for chapter meetings. "Environmental stewardship is a family thing -- the health of our planet matters to our grandchildren," Cohen said.
The chapter was awarded the Illinois DAR's Conservation Traveling Tray in 2019.
The chapter's generosity is felt by many organizations through not only the gifts of time and talent, but also with financial donations. Most recently Fox River Valley Chapter fundraising efforts supported the Huntley Area Public Library, Turning Point of McHenry County, Honor Flights for Veterans Network Commission of Northern Illinois, The Stand Down for Veterans, Operation Paperback, the Huntley High School Marching Band and Honor Society.
The Fox River Valley Chapter is committed to supporting historic preservation. Recent philanthropic gifts include the Rare Treasure Campaign for the restoration of The Frances Willard House and Phase III "Next Act" of the restoration of DAR Constitution Hall, which is a National Historic Landmark in Washington, D.C. When the chapter won the 2016 DAR American Spirit Award, the chapter was invited to select a feature article and cover for the November/December 2017 issue of American Spirit magazine.
"The restoration of the Illinois Executive Mansion was selected, and the article was titled 'A New Vision for the People's House,'" said then-Regent Karen Mason. The chapter would later present a donation to Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner in support of the campaign to restore the Illinois Executive Mansion. "Great historic preservation projects are often born from commitment to the past with an eye to the future," Mason said. "Fox River Valley Chapter was honored to showcase Illinois' preservation activities for the Executive Mansion."
In December, Fox River Valley Chapter joined Signal Hill Chapter who sponsored National Wreaths Across America Day at Evergreen Cemetery in Barrington. The chapter helped fund the purchase of live balsam wreaths and assisted in the placement of the more than 340 wreaths on the headstones of military veterans.
"The 2019 theme for Wreaths Across America was Everyone Plays a Part and we were pleased to have Fox River Valley join Signal Hill in honoring the veterans interred at Evergreen Cemetery," said Deb Edlund, Honorary Regent from Signal Hill Chapter who coordinated Wreaths Across America at Evergreen Cemetery.
Members enjoy working on holiday craft projects for local veterans with the residents at Alden of Huntley, a residential rehabilitation center. Handmade valentines were sent to TLS Veterans of McHenry County and holiday wreaths were donated to the veterans transitioning from homelessness and living at New Horizons Living Facility in Hebron.
Each year, the chapter collects coupons for overseas military families. In 2019, 52 pounds of coupons were sent to military bases in England, Germany, Guam, Italy, Japan and Spain.
The success of the Coupon Program is due to the donations of coupons from chapter members, and with the Kohls AIA Program that's coordinated by chapter members Nancy Hadgisava of Hawthorne Woods, Kristen McCusker of Huntley, and Verna Vojtech of Pingree Grove.
"Active military service members need the peace of mind of knowing that their families are being taken care of. It's an honor to be able to help lighten the burden of those families stationed overseas and let them know we appreciate their sacrifice," McCusker said.
In the spirit of community outreach, several displays commemorating special events related to American history and American heritage were designed and exhibited at the Huntley Municipal Center, as well as during the Huntley Fall Fest and A Very Merry Huntley Holiday event.
Observances include the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Constitution Week in September, and the National Vietnam War Veterans Day in March.
Members enjoy marching in the Huntley Memorial Day Parade and the Hampshire Coon Country Days Parade, as well as supporting the Algonquin Founders' Days, the National Gathering of American Indian Veterans at Cantigny Park, and the Wall That Heals last summer in Dundee.
"What a great year to celebrate women voting and being voted for," said Organizing Chapter Regent Catherine Carlton of Woodstock is the IL DAR State Organizing Secretary and the DAR National Vice Chairman for Commemorative Events: 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Carlton created branding for the DAR Women's Suffrage 100th Anniversary and produced commemorative events items (thousands of buttons, postcards and posters) for DAR members across the country. She designed a celebratory display at the 128th Continental Congress, DAR's national convention held annually in Washington, D.C.
"Suffrage," said Carlton, "has given women the right to vote and the right to be elected. The DAR is proud to have a 100-year celebration for women's rights, voting and the many Suffragist leaders who made it happen. Many were DAR members, including Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Frances Willard and Julia Ward Howe."
Fox River Valley Chapter's fifth annual Student Awards Program was cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DAR Good Citizens Class of 2019 were Emily Glass, Huntley High School; Sierra Adams, Hampshire High School; and Anthony Eagle, Jacobs High School in Algonquin. The Christopher Columbus Essay winner was Grant Bytnar, Chesterton Academy in Lisle.
"It's a pleasure to acknowledge students' hard work," said Marilyn LeFager of Cary who serves as the chapter's Historian and American History Chair. LeFager recently announced the first-place winners of the DAR American History Essay Contest: from St. Thomas More School in Elgin are Kendall Pemberton, sixth grade, and JuliaElize Oabel, seventh grade; and Brady Seaburg, eighth grade from Quest Academy in Palatine.
"I enjoy helping others explore aspects of their family history through genealogy," said Registrar Joan Longmire.
She is joined by Parliamentarian Patricia Holcomb and DAR DNA Network Chair Kristen McCusker as volunteers during the chapter's free monthly genealogy workshops that are often held at the Huntley Area Public Library.
The public and prospective DAR members are invited to stop by and get assistance with family history research and membership applications during the workshops. Members also participate in the McHenry County Genealogical Society's Summer Conference at McHenry County College.
"Members of the Fox River Valley Chapter are proud to be today's DAR and are carrying the torch of patriotism within and beyond the community," Regent Laurie Sutherland said. "Ours is a young chapter, but grateful for the opportunity to provide meaningful service."
The chapter, which reached its five-year milestone in 2020, reflects on the hard work and accomplishments of its 80 members, "including the donation of thousands of dollars to preservation, education and patriotic endeavors and the contribution of 40,400 total hours of volunteer service in our community since the chapter organized in 2015," Sutherland said.
The DAR has admitted over 1,000,000 members in 3,000 chapters in 50 states, the District of Columbia and in chapters overseas. DAR's mission is vitally relevant in today's world and spans three centuries of service to America. Today's DAR remains a vital and multifaceted force of good in cities and towns across the country.
Each year, the National Society awards $150,000 in scholarships and financial aid to students, supports schools serving under resourced students with annual donations over one million dollars, provides the DAR Manual for Citizenship to immigrants studying for naturalization, preserves local landmarks and historic structures, archives over 5,000 early American manuscripts in the DAR Americana collection, conserves more than 30,000 objects of material culture in the DAR Museum and its headquarters houses the DAR Library -- one of the largest genealogical research centers in the world.
To learn more about DAR, visit www.DAR.org.
To learn more about DAR membership and Fox River Valley Chapter, visit https://www.facebook.com/FoxRiverValleyDAR/.
For information on joining the DAR and assistance with the application process, contact Registrar Joan Longmire at email@example.com or (847) 961-6381. Other questions may be directed to Regent Laurie Sutherland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Illinois DAR at www.ildar.org.