Dave and Marge Brown named 2023 Batavia Citizens of the Year
A couple whose deep love of Batavia and a commitment to its betterment have been named the 2023 Batavia Citizens of the Year. The Batavia Chamber of Commerce will honor Dave and Marge Brown Thursday, April 25, at the chamber's "Inspire 2023: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us!" annual awards event.
Additionally, Batavia RSVP is the "Spirit of Batavia" award winner for 2023, with a Community Impact Award being given to the Fox Valley Patriotic Organization and the Batavia Flag Day Committee.
A committee of previous recipients of the Citizen of the Year award selects the Batavia Citizen of the Year from nominations received from the community.
This group also chooses the Spirit of Batavia group honoree and can choose to give a Community Impact Award.
Margaret Perreault, president and CEO of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, commented that once again the committee chose worthy award winners.
"I am thrilled to acknowledge Dave and Marge Brown as the 2023 Batavia Citizens of the Year," Perreault said. "Their enduring dedication to Batavia, demonstrated through years of selfless volunteering is truly inspiring. Together, they have left an indelible mark on Batavia, and I am delighted that they will be honored as Citizens of the Year.
"Dave's transformative contributions to downtown development and Marge's dedicated work in education, community connections, and philanthropy are exemplary," she continued. "Their love for Batavia is not only evident in their actions but also in the positive impact they have had on the lives of those they serve and serve with. Marge and Dave have not only shaped our community, but also touched the hearts of everyone fortunate enough to know them."
When it comes to volunteering, Dave and Marge Brown are a power couple. Individually, they've worked on an extensive list of projects that benefit Batavia and Batavians. More recently, they've served the community together, including both joining the Batavia Rotary Club and actively participating in the fundraising and building of the Flag Day Monument in downtown Batavia.
"The two of them have a longstanding history of wanting to serve Batavia and be involved in everything that's of importance to the community," said Batavia Mayor Jeffery Schielke. "They are also strongly committed to the idea of the family and making Batavia a worthwhile place to live and raise a family."
Marge and Dave have a blended family that is made up of children from each of their previous marriages as well as Katie, who is the daughter they had together. Dave's children are Layla, who has three children, a boy and two girls; Danielle, who has one son, and Brad who has one daughter. Marge's daughter, Melissa, is married to Phil Gerber and the pair are parents to a daughter and a son.
After having met in the old downtown Batavia Jewel store through an introduction by a mutual acquaintance while each were shopping, Marge and Dave married in 1987.
When talking with them, you'll find that each deems the other's accomplishments as more noteworthy.
Dave, who is a sixth-generation Batavian, worked in construction until his retirement three years ago. Following in the footsteps of his father, Robert (Bob) Brown who served as an alderman and mayor for Batavia, Dave served 22 years as a Batavia alderman before serving one term on the Kane County Board.
Marge grew up in St. Charles but moved to Batavia after taking a position as a second-grade teacher at Alice Gustafson Grade School in Batavia. During her teaching career, she taught first to fourth grades and at New Horizons Preschool at the Batavia Park District.
During his tenure as an alderman, downtown Batavia saw a transformation. While he was working with a concrete company, Dave had the opportunity to work on a streetscape in Plainfield. He, along with fellow alderman Michael O'Brien, brought the idea back to Batavia to renovate North River Street into the "woonerf" (which is Dutch for "living street") that exists today, making it into a community gathering space to host the Batavia Farmers' Market, events and more.
Other major downtown projects that Dave was heavily involved with were the Batavia Riverwalk beautification project and bike trails through downtown Batavia as well as the Batavia Boardwalk Shops alongside Bob Hansen and Tony Malay. According to Laura Newman, Batavia city administrator, Dave was "tireless in his commitment to the Boardwalk Shops project."
"The project benefited greatly from his construction expertise and from the sweat of his brow," Newman wrote in a nomination letter. "I think Dave knew what a catalyst this project would be for small businesses, and he could foresee that it would draw people to Batavia from miles around, and he was right."
As Dave explains, he likes to build things while Marge likes to talk and connect people. Marge currently serves a co-chair for the Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence with Ginny Gaspar. Not only is she active in the granting of funds to teachers in the Batavia School District 101 to support curricular initiatives, but she also worked to develop Bulldog Alumni Nation and Friends to connect BPS alumni and community members throughout the region and beyond.
Marge has also been a long-standing volunteer for the Fox Valley Food for Health nonprofit, which promotes a nutrition focused community by educating teens and serving those struggling with a health crisis. Marge helped with cooking classes and delivered healthy food to families who have a member undergoing treatment for cancer or another illness. Many times, she served as a "counselor" to family members as she visited them weekly with their meals, making her a real "delivery angel."
Other groups that have benefited from Marge's expertise and compassion include the Batavia Woman's Club and the Batavia Philanthropic Educators Organization (P.E.O.), both of which she is a longtime member and contributor. She currently is chair of the P.E.O.'s scholarship and local projects committees.
In more recent years, the pair have looked for volunteer opportunities together to share their love of Batavia. They both joined the Batavia Rotary Club and serve on the Environmental committee together. They also combined their respective expertise to help fundraise and build the Flag Day Monument.
In her nomination letter, Batavia City Administrator Laura Newman commented that while the monument was being constructed, Dave was out there daily, making certain that "every single element of that beautiful tribute to the symbol of our nation was done with excellence.
"I am sure Dave is a big part of why construction was completed in time for the gala and unveiling - both momentous occasions that will be remembered for years to come," she added.
"Dave and Marge are pillars of our community and exemplify the qualities that the Citizen of the Year Award represents - kindness, leadership, and a genuine desire to improve the lives of those around them," wrote Tom Kim, superintendent, and Holly Deitchman, communications manager, on behalf of Batavia Unit District 101. "Their tireless efforts have made Batavia a more vibrant, caring, and connected place to live."
Perhaps a letter from Dan Hoefler on behalf of the Batavia Historical Society sums it best, "Alone each deserve praise but together they are a community treasure."
As to Marge and Dave's reaction to being named 2023 Batavia Citizens of the Year, they said that they love Batavia, calling it a community that "we're extremely proud of."
"I don't feel that I do any more than most people in this community," commented Marge. "I look around me and there are so many people that do so much, and I feel like I'm just one of them. I don't think I stand out, but I do see so many good things going on that I'd like to be involved with, if only I had more time."
Dave commented that he wants "to make a difference" and give back to the community. "I just like being involved in the camaraderie that you build with other people that you're volunteering with."
One last thought from the two of them is that they encourage everyone, especially young people, to actively volunteer within the community. "When you volunteer, you surround yourself with good people," concluded Dave.
Spirit of Batavia
The Batavia Chamber of Commerce is also pleased to announce that Batavia RSVP is this year's recipient of the Spirit of Batavia award. This is the eighth year the award has been given to an organization that has made significant contributions to the Batavia community. Organized in 1988, Batavia RSVP is recognized as an Illinoi 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the goal of providing services to Batavia seniors, 65 and older, to allow them to live independently in their own homes as long as possible.
This includes coordinating volunteers to drive seniors to doctor and other medically necessary appointments. According to board president Ron Link, Batavia RSVP currently has about 30 drivers who provide more than 600 rides per year.
Other services include their Medical Assistance Program (MAP) that pays the costs for prescription drugs, eye examinations and basic dental services to income-qualified seniors. They also provide smoke detectors, CO monitors and lockboxes (emergency access to homes) to any Batavia senior needing these services and will change the batteries in them if they need help. Since 1988, Batavia RSVP volunteers have provided more than 33,000 hours of community service to Batavia's senior citizens, explained Mr. Link. "During this time, Batavia RSVP has also provided more than $1.3 million to cover the cost of prescriptions, dental services and eye care," he wrote in an email.
Mayor Schielke commented that when talking about spirit in Batavia, Batavia RSVP is commendable as a valuable resource for the community to have.
"The senior citizen population is one of the real growth areas of Batavia," commented the mayor. "This group (Batavia RSVP) has been a strong source of help for these residents, and they've been extremely useful to new senior citizens in Batavia."
As to Batavia RSVP, they commented that they are "thankful to all of our donors, especially our generous Batavia residents, the Batavia United Way, Batavia Township; the City of Batavia and Fire Department as well as so many other civic and community organizations for their support throughout the 35 years of Batavia RSVP," wrote Ron Link. "By receiving this award, we hope that more Batavians will become aware of Batavia RSVP, which will allow us to recruit additional Batavia seniors who can utilize our services, and to also recruit more volunteers."
Information about Batavia RSVP is available on their website, bataviarsvp.org, or contact them by calling (630) 406-9993 or email RSVPbatavia@gmail.com. The office is staffed between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on weekdays.
The Batavia Community Impact Award is not routinely given. The committee who determines the Citizen of the Year and Spirit of Batavia awards are also empowered to present Community Impact Awards if they deem it appropriate. This award goes to projects or initiatives that have a grand significance and impact on our community. Selected to win a Community Impact Award are the Fox Valley Patriotic Organization and Batavia Flag Committee under the direction of Austin Dempsey and Linda Schielke. Through their formidable efforts, the Flag Day Monument in downtown Batavia was built and dedicated in 2023.
Linda Schielke, spokesperson for the two groups, shared some information about the scope of the project, saying that "many obstacles took our two-year $600,000 project and turned it into an eight-year $2.2 million project.
"Only the most caring and patriotic people could have stayed with this work over such a long period," wrote Linda. "Such people are on the Fox Valley Patriotic Committee. Many others joined this year to pull off two fabulous events (June 14 and Oct. 1) to celebrate Dr. Bernard Cigrand, Flag Day, and the dedication of this beautiful monument.
"Herculean effort doesn't begin to cover all the highs and lows of staying with such an important project, one that will give back so much to Batavians of the past, present, and future," she added.
Mayor Schielke called the effort of the two committees "a striking example of a success story in Batavia, one of citizenship - citizens coming together."
"Nobody's getting paid to do it," said the mayor. "Everybody's just doing it for the right reasons, for the right cause; to leave future generations a deep understanding of a remarkable occurrence that happened within our town. It is another monumental moment of Batavia coming together and doing something that has a major national impact."
Linda Schielke added that it is the hopes of the two organizations that the "Flag Day Monument provides a passionate point of pride for all members of our community, now and always."
Batavia's Citizens of the Year, the Spirit of Batavia honoree, Batavia Community Impact Award and Ole Awards honorees are to be presented at the annual awards event for the Batavia Chamber of Commerce.
"Inspire 2024: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us!" will take place on Thursday, April 25, at Revelry 675, 675 S. River St. in Batavia.
For ticket information, register online at bataviachamber.org/events or contact the chamber at (630) 879-7134.