From left: Paul Yost, Xylem branch manager; Matt Johnson, Xylem application engineer; Ralph Schultz, Forest Preserve chief operating officer; and Suzanne Hart, Forest Preserve Board president (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)
A Mokena company and a Joliet college received Appreciation of Partners awards during the Forest Preserve's February 8 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Forest Preserve Board President Suzanne Hart presented the awards to Xylem Inc. and the University of St. Francis for volunteer work performed in 2017.
Xylem is a global corporation involved in wastewater treatment with offices around the world. Matt Johnson, an application engineer at Xylem's Mokena office, said the company encourages its employees to give back to their local communities. As a result, Johnson approached the District seeking volunteer opportunities that involved water resources. Xylem employees from the Mokena office subsequently helped with clean-up efforts at the Forest Preserve's Monee Reservoir and Rock Run Rookery Preserve.
"Our company has a global initiative called Watermark, and the mission statement is to protect and preserve water resources across the globe," he said.
The Forest Preserve District provided several opportunities for the Xylem group to do just that, he added.
"It's been a great experience for us," he said. "And it's really brought our office closer together."
Hart encouraged Xylem employees to continue the program this year.
"The group was fantastic to work with and exceeded our expectations," she said.
The award presented to the University of St. Francis was earned by the school's Recreation Sports Management Team under the leadership of professor Sydney Sklar.
"The collaboration allowed us to participate in a freshman orientation program in 2017 where 125 students helped remove invasive plant material on four consecutive high school workdays," Hart said. "This enabled the high school students to get their community service credits."
But the push for volunteerism goes beyond incoming freshman, said Sister Mary Elizabeth Imler, USF vice president for mission integration and ministry, who accepted the award along with the Rev. Terry Deffenbaugh, university chaplain.
"At the university, our mission really is about helping our students to be transformed into leaders who will be of service in their community," she said.
While students get credit for volunteer work as freshmen, by the time they are seniors, they are contributing because of an intrinsic desire to help, she explained.
"Our hope is that they really would go forth with values that are related to care for creation and peacemaking," she said. "And so, the Forest Preserve District gives them an opportunity for both of those."
Deffenbaugh said USF has been running the program for two years.
"And we're starting it and kicking it off again this year, and we're happy to be back at it," he said.
From left: Ralph Schultz, Forest Preserve chief operating officer; Sister Mary Elizabeth Imler, University of St. Francis vice president for mission integration and ministry; the Rev. Terry Deffenbaugh, University of St. Francis chaplain; and Suzanne Hart, Forest Preserve Board president (Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)