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2009 Governor's Engaging Aging Award

Joel Cowan

Cowan works in Health Systems Research at the University of Illinois' College of Medicine, at Rockford. Cowan and his staff administered the Association of Area Agencies' goal for Livable Communities Initiative for Rockford. They conducted interviews and prepared reports on the project. They also profiled the communities of Mt. Carroll, Dixon and Oregon that the Area Agency selected as part of the initiative.

The City of Lockport and Lockport Township

Lockport is the tenth fastest growing county in the country. Lockport Township has long supported elder independence by underwriting the operation of a daily transportation system; providing $10,000 annually for home-delivered meals, with $1,500 allocated for emergency meals; partially financing senior recreation programs through the Lockport Park District's Senior Center. Lockport built affordable senior housing and the township donated defibrillators to senior sites. They established a medical closet where seniors borrow wheelchairs and walkers, and a communication system to disseminate emergency information to older adults.

The City of Peoria

In 2008 and 2009, the Area Agency conducted interviews with community members and officials in Peoria to learn the needs of older residents. Respondents shared their assessment based on ten sets of questions on topics such as health and human services, housing, public safety, recreation and more. The number of favorable responses received across all dimensions of questions led to the nomination of Peoria. The river city received very high marks indicating that families and older residents are well served with housing, transportation, public safety, civic engagement, workforce, recreation, emergency preparedness and lifelong education.

The Maturing of Vermilion County Team

Elected officials, citizens and professionals from Vermilion County, (the cities of Danville and Hoopeston) make up the team which is coordinated by CRIS Senior Services. The team assessed the county's preparedness and identified three winnable issues to foster livable communities for all ages: economic development, health and human services, and housing. The Area Agency commends the team for responding to these challenges. For example, the city of Danville has initiated a Renaissance program to rehabilitate and restore existing housing in the West Downtown neighborhood and Hoopeston is working with the Illinois Housing Development Authority and private developers to build 25 units of new affordable single-family housing beginning next spring.

The City of Carthage 

Selected for its exemplary commitment to seniors and persons of all ages, Carthage has several accomplishments to note. The city donated land for the Area Agency to develop a 10-unit, low-income elderly housing complex; designed a TIF District to include a hospital and nursing home campus and to pave the way for a supportive living facility; wrote and received two grants for housing rehabilitation from the Illinois Housing Development Authority; improved access to the Carthage Senior Center; received a grant to develop safety routes for school children; provided water and sewer infrastructure for a new state of the art hospital facility and more. The City of Carthage is also developing walking trails that are safe and accessible for seniors.

Main Street Community Center, Edwardsville

Although this non-profit agency offers many programs for intergenerational groups, it is open to all members of the community. Established in 1974, the Center provides a warm, pleasing environment to socialize, exercise, dine, play and learn. The Center has become known for its innovative activities and helpful services. The Board of Directors of the Center fully supported the Livable Communities Initiative. With little direction and tremendous enthusiasm, they lead the community in focus groups and had multiple conversations with civic leaders. Currently they are in the process of making recommendations that Madison County will include in its Comprehensive Plan.

The City of Marion

Nominated by the Egyptian Area Agency on Aging.

Located at the crossroads of Interstate 57 and Route 13 in Williamson County, the City of Marion has worked diligently to improve the quality of life for its citizens. With a population of 17,000, the city has been recognized by Boom Town USA Magazine as one of the fastest growing towns in Southern Illinois due to the quality of health care, recreation, and educational options. Marion is very aggressive in the area of economic development, and continues to attract new businesses. The city has been working with the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless and Habitat for Humanity to encourage building in the city.

The Honorable Eugene Siegel, Mayor of Chicago Ridge

Nominated by AgeOptions, Inc. 

Mayor Siegel began service in 1975 and has been reelected to the part time post since that time. He has provided senior citizen events from his campaign fund over the years and created a solvent tax base by being instrumental in the Chicago Ridge Mall, in 1981, and the Commons of Chicago Ridge, in 1988. His administration also boasts village improvements such as a senior citizen center, creation of full-time fire department/paramedics, and establishing a Youth Service Bureau. Mayor Siegel's most recent accomplishments include the Public Works Facility located in the Industrial Park, and the new Eugene L. Siegel Municipal Complex.