Community gathers to honor Evanston volunteers

Ciara McCarthy, Assistant City Editor

Students, activists and Evanston officials gathered Wednesday night at Northwestern to honor the city’s volunteers.

About 80 people came to the McCormick Tribune Center to celebrate community service at the ninth annual Evanston Volunteer Recognition Reception. The event is hosted by the city, the Evanston Community Foundation, Evanston Township High School and NU.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she ran for re-election because the city has such an active culture of volunteering.

“I know you think I must have been crazy (to run for re-election) because the state of Illinois is going broke,” she said.

Tisdahl praised the Evanston community for logging more than 60,000 volunteer hours since the beginning of 2013, well on track to reach the city’s goal of 150,000 hours by the end of the year.

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) and Ald. Mark Tendam (6th) presented former Mayor Jay Lytle with special recognition for his lifetime of community service as a city official and resident.

“Evanston’s rocking right now, and I think we’re really on a roll, and I’m glad to be a small part of it,” Lytle said.

Women’s health activist Laura Tucker delivered the evening’s keynote address, describing her lengthy career in both community organization and public policy. Tucker, an Evanston resident, serves on the national board of directors for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Tucker described how working as a field organizer on political campaigns allowed her to meet people different from her.

“Service really opens your eyes to the struggles of others,” Tucker said.

After Tucker spoke, 14 volunteers were recognized for their service to the Evanston community. Mary Collins, community service coordinator for Evanston Township High School, said the selection committee narrowed down a list of names submitted from city agencies and organizations. The awards recognized ETHS students, NU students and members of the Evanston community for what the selection committee called “outstanding” service.

ETHS seniors Rools Jean and Jernone Smith were among those honored Wednesday. Both are members of the ETHS Community Service Club, which facilitates volunteer opportunities for high school students. Jean and Smith are involved with many different Evanston organizations, particularly ETHS’s Habitat for Humanity Club.

Jean estimated that he has completed over 300 hours of community service as a high school student.

“It’s great to have opportunities for students to be involved in community service,” Smith said. “It’s been an important part of my high school experience.”