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September 24, 2007

Illinois Department on Aging hosts 23rd Annual Older Workers Luncheon and Awards Ceremony during National Employ the Older Worker Week
Outstanding workers & employers recognized at luncheon in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – In conjunction with National Employ the Older Worker Week, Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) Director Charles D. Johnson will host the 23rd Annual Older Workers Luncheon and Awards Ceremony to honor the state’s outstanding older workers and their employers.  Individuals from around the state will be recognized and honored by IDoA for their continued dedication and passion for serving the state of Illinois.  The noon luncheon will take place on Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. 

“Illinois is very grateful to have such an abundance of wonderful older adults who continue to work to make our state and this country a better place for future generations.  These individuals not only have wisdom and experience, but they put their heart into what they do.  They truly serve as an inspiration to all age groups,” IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson said.

Since 1984, IDoA has held this event in conjunction with National Employ the Older Worker Week, which runs from September 23-29, 2007.  The theme of this year’s celebration is, "Today's Trainee.....Tomorrow's Employee."

Awards will be presented to older workers who are employed in both public and private sector jobs. This also includes workers that are funded through Title V and the Older Americans Act, which assists low-income seniors who are looking and able to re-enter the workforce. Awards will also be presented to businesses and companies that regularly employ workers age 55 and older.
The 2007 awardees are:

Employees of the Year

Earline Eller, 73, of Freeport puts her clients first at Community Care Systems, Inc., in Rockford.  Over the past year, Eller has only missed four days of work, always willing to fill in when extra assistance is needed.  Several clients have commented on her infectious and positive attitude despite facing personal obstacles.  She is a source of inspiration to younger employees known for being courteous, conscientious and an overall asset to families in need.

Yvonne Gregurich, 71, of Rochester has worked at the Area Agency on Aging for Lincolnland located in Springfield as an Information and Assistance Specialist since 1985.  In her capacity, she has become knowledgeable about services, resources and referral sites.  In addition, she stays up-to-date on prescription assistance, Medicare as well as other complex programs making her an invaluable resource to older adults that want to remain independent and to caregivers that provide services to older adults.  A breast cancer survivor, Yvonne demonstrates kindness, patience, and understanding for the individuals she serves.

Katie Koenig, 84, of Quincy has worked for Adams County Homemakers Health Services (ACHHS) since 2002.  Her colleagues said she never misses work and is always on time, filling in on extra shifts when needed.  Katie’s quality of work is excellent and clients are fond of her.  When the ACHHS office was closed last winter and services were cancelled due to weather, she walked to her clients through deep snow, ice and below-zero temperatures to provide them service.  In addition to her dedication, her attitude and energy is outstanding.  Katie is described as a role model to everyone and a leader for home aides.

Joo Ok Lee, 68, of Chicago has worked for Hanul Family Alliance (formerly Korean American Senior Center) since 1998 when he and his family moved to Chicago from Seoul, South Korea.  After working in a corporate setting for 24 years in Korea, he moved to Chicago working as a program coordinator in the Home Care Department of Hanul Family Alliance for the past eight years.  In his role, he goes above and beyond the expected when supervising his homecare aides.  He is encouraging and consoling, and his passion and excitement motivates others.  According to Executive Director Paul Yun, Lee’s “professionalism and commitment has helped our agency successfully carry out our mission to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate services to frail Korean elderly.”

George Lilja, 78, of Woodstock, is a transportation aide at Family Alliance.  During his time at Family Alliance, he has also served as a driver and vehicle maintenance staff.  Most recently, he works as a transportation aide providing guidance and door-to-door service to older adults helping them on and off the bus.  According to Carol Louise of Family Alliance, George “loves working with the seniors and they love him…he is outgoing, cheerful and helpful.”  His services to clients have gone beyond transportation; on his days off, he is knows to do repair work for them at his own expense.  “He specializes in making everyone around him comfortable and happy,” Louise said.  “His special brand of charm is considered an asset to the transportation department and Family Alliance.”
Mary Nolan, 68, of Rockford, works for Community Care Systems, Inc., always thriving to do her best, whatever the task.  Even if her car has broken down, Mary has found a way to get to work.  Most recently, she has taken on new clients in the far northern part of the county.  Her clients comment on her “chipper” attitude as well as how she keeps them up-to-date on current events.  Her dedication and punctuality are a source of great relief to her clients and their families.  While Mary’s work schedule and family obligations leave her limited free time, she remains devoted to her church and often volunteers to help clean it.

Title V Employees of the Year

Sartaj Alam, 63, of Chicago, works at ZAM’s Hope Community in Chicago where he is described as hard-working and cheerful.  According to Executive Director Zia Rauf, he takes his duties very seriously attending city of Chicago-sponsored meetings related to his after-school program, preparing quarterly reports and always punctual.  They also depend on him to prepare quality reports due to his great attention to detail.  He is committed to participating in all ZAM’s events that support low-income families.  Sartaj chaperones youth field trips, participates in housing workshops and assists with the annual benefit dinner.

Frances Ash, 57, of Wood River, has been working through the Agency on Aging Program with Madison County for the past year.  Her work ethic is exemplary – always on time and willing to stay late if needed.  She is polite to customers and other employees. She is a breast cancer survivor and also a caregiver to her step-father.  After many years of working as a respiratory therapist, she changed careers due to health concerns.  Frances is full of energy, always looking to see what else needs to be done and is described by her colleagues as a pleasure to work with. 

Sandy Cors, 68, of Jacksonville, is known at the Jacksonville Job Center for her attendance, attitude, punctuality and dependability. She is always willing and able to accept different job duties when assigned. Sandy welcomes each customer with her smile and makes the customers feel comfortable while visiting the center. She helps them with resume writing, cover letters, employer applications and general information.  According to Patti Sellers, “Sandy sets a good work ethic for the other workers in the Job Center as well as being a good mentor for the summer workers who are employed in our office by the WIA Summer Youth Employment Program.”

Sharon Johnson, 63, of Quincy, excels in all work categories at Meals Plus For Seniors in Quincy.  She is dependable, thorough, quickly learns new duties, and is described as a great asset to the program.  Cindy Glover said despite Sharon’s work schedule, she still manages to help raise three grandchildren.  She is depended on for many tasks and has even helped covered for other workers’ days off and vacation.  She has excellent phone etiquette and can be counted on for doing little “extras” for others who need help in various areas.

Henry Miles of Springfield has the ability to manage multiple tasks and works well in the fast-paced environment of the Illinois Employment and Training Center.  He presents a positive image of the center as he welcomes and directs each person to where they need to go.  Henry has excellent computer and organizational skills, is responsible for maintaining a client tracking system and preparing reports, approaches each new task with enthusiasm, and completes tasks ahead of schedule.  Henry is adaptable to any situation that arises, remaining calm under the most trying circumstances, according to Christine Schick of the Training Center.  Henry is also a well-known and accomplished musician and song-writer.  His talent and great love of music have enhanced peoples’ lives for decades.
Sandra Steffens, 57, is a multi-tasker who thrives in a hectic and sometimes stressful environment.  During slower times, she volunteers to help with tasks.  She is an excellent help to clients using the Resource Room, whether assisting them with Illinois Skills Match, writing a resume, or accessing employment websites.  Sandra keeps supplies well-stocked, troubleshoots in the office and often takes initiative in doing whatever needs to be done with minimal explanation.  Sandra lives 25 miles from work and has never missed a day.  She is exceptional working with clients who are greatly stressed because they are unemployed.

Song Di Ye, 69, of Chicago was recently hired by the Chinese American Service League in Chicago due to her successful completion of training in the Title V program.  She is a diligent and honest worker who keeps a solid hold on her assignments, from beginning to end.  She always completes her work without delay and at times has sacrificed her own break time to finish her work first.  Song Di Ye has shown a genuine love for the children around her and has established a positive and caring relationship with the families served by the League.  She is described by Bob Zhou, the Title V Coordinator, as having a “golden heart.”  Song Di Ye is also an active volunteer in the Chinese community.

Chun Yu Zin, 63, of Chicago is a punctual and productive employee of Hanul Family Alliance.  Although a receptionist, she eagerly lends a hand when she finds a task or duty that needs them.  Her time management, organizational and communication skills make her a great employee.  She also has a positive and genuine concern for her clients and coworkers.  Chun Yu Zin makes the workplace a very pleasant place to be.  “Everybody likes her here,” said BongJoo Lee.  “We are very lucky to have her.”

Employers of the Year

St. John’s Home and Community Care is located in Collinsville and has one mission: to put faith into action.  St. John’s reaches out to serve one another as friends and neighbors of a united faith community and to make a positive difference in the lives of people challenged by aging or disabilities.  On a daily basis, employees and volunteers make a difference with their outreach, assistance, transportation, homecare and adult day service.  St. John’s attitude to clients is the same for employees who are treated with kindness, respect and understanding.

Omega Healthcare LLC is located in Chicago and is an exemplary employer that offers ample benefits including insurance, vacation, sick and flexible time, family leaves of absence, and IRA payroll participation to its employees.  More than half of Omega’s workforce is 55 years of age and older.  Omega encourages their employees to upgrade their skills by attending workshops and training, participate in job sharing and work as a team.  Employee Amparo Basa said, “Omega is a family-oriented organization, caring and understanding and provides a pleasant workplace.” 


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