A common thread of service wove throughout the achievements of seven recipients of Rep. Robert Dold’s (R-Kenilworth) Community Leadership Awards Tuesday evening at Lake Forest’s Gorton Community Center.
From human rights winner Gretchen Grad of Glenview, who brings youths from Palestine, Israel and the United States together each summer on the North Shore, to Lake Forest resident Dr. Michael Welch, who was honored for his work in education, their thoughts were about the greater good.
“We gave these awards out for community leadership,” Dold said in front of a gathering of more than 150 people. “Every one of them gets out there and helps better the community."
Welch, a neurologist as well as president and chief executive officer of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, was honored in part for the work he does with local young people to prepare them for careers in health care.
“Educating health care professionals is vital to all of us,” Welch said. “If we develop professionals among young people in the community, they will stay in the community to serve the community.”
Grad Brings Israeli, Palestinian Youth Together
Grad’s Hands of Peace program has been creating an understanding between young people on both sides of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians since 2003. She got the idea shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, and has seen direct results on a person-by-person basis.
Two months after an Israeli Arab from Hands of Peace went home to Haifa, her family’s restaurant was bombed. Were it not for the efforts of Grad and the young person’s colleagues from the summer, she may have taken a different path.
“All the other students reached out to her and offered support,” Grad said. “That reassurance kept her from turning bitter.” Today the young woman is 24 and part of the Hands for Peace staff.
Deerfield barber Elias Otero, who has been making a difference for the unemployed one person at a time, was one of the finalists for the Veterans’ Friend prize. He has been giving free haircuts to members of the military and those without work.
Job seekers must leave a resume in Otero’s binder as the price of the haircut. “We’ve got to keep it up,” Otero said. “There are still a lot of unemployed people.”
The winner of the award was Winnetka resident William Powell, who unable to attend.
Holmes Helps Young Entrepreneurs
Even Todd Holmes of Glenview, who was recognized for entrepreneurial excellence, sees his role creating businesses as one to foster the dreams of others he hopes will follow in his creative footsteps.
“We go where the market is and find ways to give back to the community so young people who trying can start their own businesses and realize their opportunities,” Holmes said.
It was a personal loss that spurred Jim King of Libertyville into a lifetime of volunteerism and earn the award in that category. His wife died 12 years ago and he needed something to help fill the void in his life.
“I had a lot of love left inside and still needed to do something,” King said. “Don’t say you don’t have time. If you have five minutes, half an hour or an hour, do something,” he added earlier during his acceptance speech.
Susie Schreiber of Winnetka was honored with the Friends of the Environment Award for her work with the group charged with cleaning up Waukegan Harbor. She talked about a partnership with a group in Russia where ideas are shared back and forth.
“The Great Lakes represent 20 percent of the world’s fresh water,” Schreiber said. “Lake Baikal in Russia represents 20 percent. We work in full partnership with them representing nearly half the world’s fresh surface water.”
Fremd High School soccer player Brian Handle of Hoffman Estates was the inspirational athlete of the year.