Four honored with Marie Wilkinson awards
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org September 14, 2012 1:54PM
Jesse Vazquez reacts after receiving the Marie Wilkinson 2012 Spirit Award for Civic Leadership during a luncheon at the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry on Thursday, September 13, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:10AM
AURORA — Four local volunteers were honored as recipients of the Marie Wilkinson Spirit Awards at the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry awards luncheon.
The awards are given annually to those who embody the spirit of Aurora matriarch and Civil Rights activist Marie Wilkinson, said Clayton Muhammad, spokesman for the East Aurora School District. In addition to the food pantry and Marie Wilkinson Child Development Center that bear her name, Wilkinson also founded the Aurora Human Relations Commission and was a recipient of the Lumen Christi Award, the Catholic Church’s highest missionary honor.
Theodia Gillespie, executive director of the Quad County Urban League, read a letter to the honorees from Sheila Scott-Wilkinson, Marie’s daughter.
Scott-Wilkinson said the honorees, like her mother, are at the front lines of social change.
“My mother’s spirit is like a pebble that is tossed in the ocean and creates a tremendous ripple effect,” Gillespie read. “Her spirit continues to touch the hearts and minds of all of you.”
Jesse Vazquez, Kane County Board member from Montgomery, was presented the Spirit Award for Civic Leadership.
In addition to acting as chairman of several charity events , including the St. Peter’s Church and Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce golf outings, Vazquez has been a legislative advocate on behalf of non-profits. His support resulted in the Wilkinson food pantry’s current location on Highland Avenue. Vazquez is co-founder of Compeneros en Salud (Partners in Health) and has served on many non-profit boards.
Oswegoan Kathy Snow was presented the Spirit Award for Community Service for her work with area non-profits.
Snow began volunteering in the 1970s at the Aurora United Way, and helped set-up the Aurora Area Information and Referral Program and Energy Assistance Program. She worked with Marie Wilkinson on many community events and non-profit boards, including the Mutual Ground Board of Directors and Hesed House Transitional Living Facility. Today Snow works at the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
“(This award) will remind me to keep walking like Marie does,” Snow said.
Rosa “Rose” Marshall, a longtime neighbor of Wilkinson’s, was presented the Spirit Award for Volunteerism.
After Wilkinson helped Marshall, then a young mother, find bunk beds for her boys, Christmas toys and secured a better-paying job for her husband, Marshall was inspired to give back. Marshall, known as “the Meat Lady” at the pantry, has volunteered at the food pantry for more than 45 years.
“I never thought I’d get an award for what I do,” Marshall said. “I do it because I love people. I just love ‘em all.”
Karen Evans, a career advocate for children with developmental disabilities and behavior problems, was presented the Spirit Award for Education.
During the 1970s, Evans worked to serve “severely disturbed”’ students in an era before mandated special education, and when schools opted to exclude problem children from public education.
Evans worked to place students in parochial schools and private programs, and eventually set up Special Education Services, now the Aurora-based Menta Group, an organization that serves 900 students in 11 schools.