Every year United Voices for Children gives three awards to honor extraordinary volunteer service or advocacy efforts on behalf of children, youth and/or families throughout the Northern Illinois Conference.
These awards are:
- Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt Child Advocacy Award
While serving as our bishop from 1980 to 1988, Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt led by example as he participated, represented and spoke out for children, youth and families who did not have a voice. One of his greatest passions was speaking out to educate and inform local churches about legislation and issues impacting the lives of children.
Full list of Bishop Jesse DeWitt Child Advocacy Award winners.
- Katherine B. Greene Child Worker Award
Katherine B. Greene was a past president and founding representative of United Voices for Children who put forth tremendous efforts in promoting child advocacy, working faithfully against child abuse advancing and supporting children with unmet needs across the Northern Illinois Conference. She reminded and challenged us to step up, step forth and speak out for children.
Full list of Katherine B. Greene Child Worker Award winners
- Rev. Margaret Ann Williams Service Award
Rev. Margaret Ann Williams, former Associate Executive of Church Relations at Marcy Newberry, served on the United Voices for Children Board of Directors for 33 years, including a term as president. Rev. Williams’ dedicated service has influenced the lives of children, the church and community for nearly 50 years. Award recipients model her “Joy of Serving” within the Northern Illinois Conference Community.
Full list of Margaret Ann Williams Service Award winners
Any United Methodist member or congregation in Northern Illinois can nominate someone to receive one of these awards. Nominations are received in the winter and early spring and the awards are given at the Northern Illinois Annual Conference in June.
Nominations for 2019 awards will be received early next year.
Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt Child Advocacy Award
Deacon Wesley Dorr, United Church of Rogers Park
When Deacon Wes Dorr arrived at United Church of Rogers Park ten years ago, he posted a notice of a free after-school program. Immediately dozens of neighborhood children showed up to participate. Over these years Deacon Wes has worked diligently to provide a safe and healthy space for children to learn and grow in this eclectic urban neighborhood. He founded a Peace Center and developed partnerships with Chicago Public Schools, Loyola University, Northwestern University, the Chicago Food Depository and several United Methodist congregations. Today more than 80 children participate in the Peace Center’s after school program—still free!
Two years ago, Deacon Wes directed the dismantling of an old house on the church property and established a Peace Garden where children learn about cultivating plants and food. The high visibility and community involvement with the Peace Garden has resulted in a significant reduction in gun violence at Ashland and Morse avenues, a “turf intersection” among several gangs. Furthermore, no child participating in the after-school program has been a victim of gun violence.
Deacon Wes has spoken passionately in different forums in the community and in the church, advocating for safe and healthy opportunities for children in the city to develop. He has made significant personal sacrifices to channel resources into services for children and youth and to live out a commitment to peace and justice.
Katherine B. Greene Child Worker Award
Chana UMC, led by the Rev. Chan Choi, has responded to the needs of its rural community by providing services for children and families that would otherwise not be available. The congregation has created PROMISE (Providing Rural Outreach Ministries Initiatives of Safety Education), an eight-week summer program that addresses the challenges rural children face. The program provides information about first aid and CPR training, weather safety, fire safety, animal safety, emergency preparedness and contact, safe and responsible social media usage and exposure to community resources. The program’s goal is to educate at least one school-aged child in every household where children are present. A total of 24 children with ten professionals and twelve adult volunteers participated in the program in the summer of 2017.
The congregation provides fun and safe outdoor play equipment for preschool and early elementary-aged children in the community since there is no public playground in the area. In 2017, the congregation constructed a Gaga Ball pit for recreational use by older children and teens. There is no library in the area, so the church has created a children’s library–refreshed with new paint, rugs, lighting and media equipment—to provide reading and literacy opportunities. Several church volunteers come in to read to children during a weekly story time.
The Chana congregation has intentionally chosen to represent Christ by being a community center that brings citizens together to interact, meet and learn ways to improve their quality of life. First Saturday Coffees, Harvest Party, community meals and candidates’ forums empower area residents to embrace life’s challenges and to live fuller lives.
Katherine B. Greene Child Worker Award
Karen Klaus, First UMC Crystal Lake
Nathaniel’s Hope Buddy Break
For over two years, Karen Klaus has led this congregation in developing a Nathaniel’s Hope Buddy Break program. Buddy Break is an enrichment time for special needs children to make friends, play games, enjoy crafts, stories, music, and activities while providing a rare respite for their families. This program pairs children—with any physical, cognitive, medical or hidden disability—and their siblings with a specially trained volunteer for three hours on a Saturday morning once a month.
For this ministry the church building is transformed into a safe, non-threatening playground and activity center. Karen and her team plan a theme for the day, set up multiple rooms with appropriate play equipment and snugglies, create activities, and pair each child with their buddy. Karen has provided extensive training to over 50 volunteer Buddies in the congregation. She works with parents to create a profile of each child describing the child’s medical, physical, mental and emotional needs.
Karen is the Director of Spiritual Development and Family Ministries at First UMC of Crystal Lake. Karen oversees the Sunday School program, summer science camp faith lab, Phantom Ranch camping and the vacation Bible school program which enriches the lives of over 200 children each summer. Karen has implemented creative and fun ways to teach children about Christ and his love and to share that love with others.
Rev. Margaret Ann Williams Service Award
Licia Knight, St. Mark UMC Chicago
Children’s Church & SVH Dance Ministry
Licia Knight is a lifelong member of St. Mark UMC. She was actively involved in church activities and leadership through her childhood and youth, eventually serving as the young adult representative to the Church Council. Almost 25 years ago, Licia proposed and founded a Children’s Church. Under Licia’s faithful leadership, Children’s Church has become an integral part of the ministry at St. Mark with hundreds of children participating and receiving the foundations of their Christian faith.
Licia has provided assistance to the St. Mark Liturgical Dance Ministry since its founding; her daughter was one of the original six dancers. Licia was an active parent helping with choreography, rehearsals and performances. When the founder Shirley Hobson died in 2009, Licia stepped in as coordinator and has enabled the ministry to grow to more than 40 youth and adult dancers in four troupes of different ages and abilities. She emphasizes the spiritual aspects of worship and praise among the dancers, making this one of the most impactful ministries of the congregation.
Licia currently serves as the Church Treasurer and a valued member of the Finance Committee. Through the whole of her life and ministry she has demonstrated a heart for children and youth and has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for them to grow in faith and in the love of the Lord.