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2010 Governor's Engaging Aging Award

Allen Ottens, Ph.D., Retired Professor of Counseling, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb

Nominated by Northern Illinois Area Agency on Aging. 

Before the start of the National Family Caregiver Support Program, in 2000, Dr. Ottens saw the need to support family caregivers who often neglected themselves. In 1993, he started a caregiver support group in Rockford that was both supportive and educational. Since then, Dr. Ottens has served hundreds of caregivers, many of whom report appreciation for his guidance and listening ear.

Kendall Area Transit (KAT)

Nominated by the Northeastern Illinois Agency on Aging. 

Earlier this year, KAT officially kicked off service as the first-ever, county-wide public transit provider for Kendall County. KAT provides services that are especially vital to seniors and persons with disabilities. KAT, administered through the county with daily operations provided by the Voluntary Action Center, posted a double-digit increase in monthly ridership. Instrumental in KAT were Kendall County board member Jessie Haffenrichter; Kendall County administrator Jeff Wilkins; Senior Services Associates' executive director Betty Schoenholtz; Kendall County advocate Goldie Tarr; Voluntary Action executive director Tom Zucker, and KAT program director Paul LaLonde.

Wanda Aberle

Nominated by Central Illinois Agency on Aging. 

Aberle, from Peoria, has been a community leader and advocate for more than 20 years. She is passionate about nursing and public health. She has worked as a clinical instructor and was instrumental in expanding case management to include a focus on health promotion and prevention. Aberle's more noteworthy projects identified chronically-ill seniors who were repeatedly hospitalized to foster more continuous health assessments, and a study to help control diabetes and congestive health failure.

Senior Resource Center at Family Service

Nominated by East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. 

At the center, older adults with chronic diseases and disabilities receive help to take charge of their health. Since 2006, master trainers at the center have disseminated evidence-based healthy aging programs including coordinating workshops such as Take Charge of Your Health: Live Well, Be Well that have helped nearly 300 participants.

Connie Heinle and Patricia Prewitt

Nominated by Egyptian Area Agency on Aging. 

Both women have dedicated their lives to the service of seniors. Heinle, from Marion, taught high school before working for Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Before retiring in 2006, she was responsible for Medicare presentations in 41 counties at senior centers, health fairs and state fairs. Prewitt, from Vienna, retired last year from Medicare Part B work after 25 years. Together, they are quite formidable in their knowledge. Recently, Heinle and Prewitt began volunteering for the Senior Medicare Patrol to empower seniors to prevent and detect health care fraud.

Ray Wiedle

Nominated by the Area Agency on Aging for Lincolnland. 

Wiedle, who is originally from Chatham, was instrumental in forming the land of Lincoln Honor Flight and serves as chairman. Honor Flight flies veterans of World War II to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II Memorial. Wiedle makes presentations about the program and works to secure donations. To date more than 300 World War II veterans have received the trip free of charge in honor of their service. Wiedle's goal is to get as many veterans as possible on these flights to see their memorial.

Leroy Gruber, 90, O'Fallon

Nominated by the Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois. 

Gruber, a long time Lions Club member, saw that many older adults were neglecting their eye care because their insurance would not pay. So, Gruber brought together the local Lions clubs, Lenscrafters, the University of Missouri-School of Optometry and the Area Agency on Aging to screen older adults and provide them with glasses when needed. Gruber continues to work with the Greater East St. Louis Health and Social Services Consortium.

Rush Older Adult Programs

Nominated by AgeOptions, Suburban Chicago. 

The Older Adult Program at Rush University Medical Center operates under the leadership of Robyn Golden. Golden is a national leader on transitional programming for older persons who return home after a hospital stay. She and her staff work to bridge medical and social services to better improve the lives of older adults in the Chicagoland area. Through the program, local issues and programs are brought to the attention of national policy and program leaders.