Hearts of Gold Honorees

Hearts of Gold Honorees for 2020
Posted on 01/21/2020
Gold Heart

People who live and work in Arlington Heights and have made a difference in the lives of others or have significantly contributed to the community will be honored at the 22nd  Hearts of Gold Awards banquet on Saturday, February 15 at the Rolling Green Country Club.

The Hearts of Gold, organized by the Special Events Commission, honors educators, neighbors, business leaders, volunteers, students, senior citizens and others who have been nominated by a group or individual for the 11 awards given annually.

Please join the Village in congratulating the 2020 Hearts of Gold Honorees. All are welcome to be a part of the celebration, please download the Hearts of Gold Invitation.

2020 Mentor Hearts of Gold Recipients

Jordan Friedman, Mentor 
Jordan FriedmanMany communities rely on the invaluable work of non-profit organizations to help enhance the lives of their residents and businesses.  Jordan Friedman is the Executive Director of HandsOn Suburban Chicago which is a non-profit organization that finds hundreds of volunteers of all ages and connects them with diverse volunteer opportunities from mentoring, tutoring, house painting and more. This group of 800 volunteers has been serving AH and the surrounding area for 50 years.  Mr. Friedman uses his 25+ years of experience to help 150 non-profits do an even better job for their constituents.  In many ways, Jordan is a mentor of mentors.

Through Jordan’s leadership, HOSC provides a variety of services to other non-profits:  connects volunteers with organizations that need help; support a large underserved population of seniors to help them age in place; mobilize volunteers to deliver academic and social support to at-risk youth; educates non-profits about volunteerism and best practices through training programs; provides volunteers for exterior home painting to low income seniors, individuals with disabilities and veterans.

Many non-profits rely on volunteers to survive and many of them need guidance to be most effective.  Jordan Friedman and his staff of 8 do a lot of the “heavy lifting” some of those organizations need.  They provide time and, in many cases, skilled volunteers to enable those non-profits to succeed in their respective missions.   Simply put, their mission is “to positively impact communities by connecting people to enriching volunteer experiences”. 

Paul Bowen, Best Neighbor
Paul BowenArlington Heights is known as the city of good neighbors, so how does one stand out as a ‘best’ neighbor?  Paul Bowen is described by those that live near him as kind, good natured, the “Go To Guy” for all answers, and someone who positively impacts them.  He can just as easily be seen walking his dog, Daisy, as helping a child adjust a bike helmet, or helping a neighbor with a leaky faucet.  His genuine interest in others and willingness to lend a hand at a moment’s notice is what makes Paul the ‘best’ neighbor. 

Paul and his wife, Marcia, grew up in Arlington Heights.  They attended Arlington High School and then went to college. After Paul and Marcia were married they moved to California where Paul went to graduate school at Claremont McKenna College for American Literature.  In 1972, his father needed help with the family business of three Bowen Ace Hardware stores, so Paul and Marcia returned to the area.  Paul eventually took over the family business where customers became friends and employees became family. Paul loved going to work. 

Paul retired from the hardware business and now spends his free time reading, fly-fishing, and tying flies, but Paul’s favorite past time is watching his grandkids’ compete at their swimming meets.  

Paul is a shining example of someone who makes a difference by consistently going out of his way for his neighbors, and this is why Paul is so deserving of the Best Neighbor Heart of Gold.

Nicki Koch, Educator 
Nicki KochNicki Koch has been a teacher in the Early Childhood Program for District 25 for twenty two years.  The Early Childhood program services three, four, and five year old children in the district.  The half day classes are 4 days a week and include self contained classes for children with special needs as well as blended classrooms. 
District 25 recently adopted a new Early Childhood curriculum. While it included a Teaching Guide for each unit of study, there were no supplies provided to support it.  Last summer, after teaching summer school classes, Nicki spent countless hours of her own time to accept delivery of the supplies and organized a central storage closet. This required her to physically move equipment throughout the schools many storage areas, design and implement a new filing system, document a master inventory, and finally present her work to the Department for implementation. Today Nicki’s act of dedication positively impacts the teachers and students every day. Nicki also played a large role in implementing a monthly activity called “Family Fun”.  This well received program was designed to help parents be involved with their children’s learning by showing them easy fun activities that they can do at home.  

Nicki is described by her coworkers as being inspirational.  She has mentored young teachers and shares the Team Leader role for the department.  She is always available to help when needed, and willing to share her knowledge, ideas, and materials with her fellow teachers. Nicki also helps students and families in need beyond the classroom curriculum. Examples include supplying a warm coats and boots, Christmas gifts, extra school supplies and snacks.   She also supports her students and other children with disabilities by participating in walks and fundraisers.  She volunteers at the village’s Disabilities Day during Frontier Days so that she can connect with current and former students. One year Nicki organized and ran a silent auction to benefit research for a rare neurological syndrome that one of her students had.  This is just one of the countless acts she has done with great humility. 

On a regular basis, Nicki goes above and beyond the school day to positively impact her student’s learning experience. She is truly deserving of the Educator Heart of Gold. 

Judith Wampach Amberg, Young at Heart
Judith AmbergSaint Viator High School has been an Arlington Heights institution for five decades. For many of those years, Judith Amberg has been among the school’s most recognizable representatives. 

While Saint Viator provided a Catholic education to young men from 1961 to 1987, female students attended Sacred Heart of Mary. Judith was a religion teacher and Assistant Principal there for 14 years, forging lasting relationships with many students. When the two schools merged in the late 1980s, Judith served on the transition team before continuing her career at Saint Viator as the chair of the Religion Department, working in the Campus Ministry office and ultimately being named Director of Alumni Relations.

It is in dealing with alumni from both schools that Judith has established her legacy. Her unwavering commitment to honoring the traditions of Sacred Heart has endeared her to countless alumnae of the school, making sure that those students had a place to go home to and celebrate their legacy after the school closed.

In her retirement Judith volunteers countless hours on behalf of the alumni of both schools and is now recognized as Director of Alumni Relations Emeritus. Among her most treasured experiences are her involvement in the annual Alumni Memorial Mass which recognizes graduates of both schools who have passed away. She considers it a privilege and blessing to support the families as they celebrate the lives of their deceased family members. She keeps her connection to current students and young alumni through her love of the arts by attending the schools theatrical productions.

Nominated by multiple people from the Saint Viator community, Judith Wampach Amberg has clearly touched many hearts in our community, and is so deserving of recognition as the Young at Heart award recipient.

Michael Graves and Scott Bellanger, Heroic
Bellanger, GravesBeing dedicated 20 year employees of Arlington Heights Public Works Traffic Department, Michael Graves and Scott Bellanger have been involved in many precarious situations.  None would compare to the tragic evening on Bangs Lake in Wauconda, IL on April 19, 2019.  Scott, a loving father of two, and Michael, an avid bass fisherman, spent the day fishing in rough and cold early spring conditions.  The two were called into action by a couple of people frantically signaling from shore.  With no knowledge of what they were responding to and only finger pointing gestures to guide them, they motored out to the middle of the lake.  

They miraculously drove directly to an 11-year-old boy barely able to stay afloat in the choppy waters. The two were able to swiftly pull the drowning, hypothermic boy onto the boat by his sweatshirt.  Upon rescuing Marquis Montez, he informed Scott and Michael there was a second boy who had already tragically gone under.  The men covered the boy with their dry clothing while searching the lake for the second boy until paramedics arrived. 

They safely delivered the hypothermic child to the awaiting ambulance on shore and proceeded to take five Wauconda fire department divers back out onto the lake.  Using the sonar the fishing boat was equipped with, Mike and Scott assisted the firemen with the ongoing rescue mission.   

Their experience in critical thinking under pressure helped them to perform a miracle water rescue in adverse conditions. Because of their prompt and decisive actions a young boy has been given a second chance at life.

Erin Johlie, Young Champion
Erin Johlie“When you judge someone based on a diagnosis, you miss out on their abilities, beauty, and uniqueness.”

Everyone is able and everyone has abilities. Hersey High School senior Erin Johlie embraces this mindset and seeks to include all by spending her time connecting, supporting, and engaging a wide range of students and staff. In addition to her impressive academic work, Erin’s strength comes from being an active member and advocate in her school and community.

She is a member of the Orchesis Dance Team, the Hersey Student Council and is a teacher aide for a special education class. She is a leader and enjoys supporting others and creating friendship opportunities through programs such as Super Buddies, being a student leader for a St. James youth group, and as one of the coordinators of the Service Over Self (SOS) club that has over 350 members.

Her participation in these activities have provided a unique perspective that will drive her in the future - focus on people’s strengths and not their deficits. Erin knows that other students she works with teach her as much as she teaches them and her focus on the mutual benefits of these relationships allows her to be a wonderful mentor, teacher, and friend.

Her compassionate approach and volunteer nature started far before her time at high school. For Erin, giving of her time was something that was always part of childhood with her mother (Sharon) and her father (Matt). They modeled these traits for all their children as Erin also learned by watching her brother (Sean) and sister (Clare) be thoughtful leaders during their time at Hersey. Her specific future is not yet determined but those involved with Erin Johlie will be positively impacted by this Young Champion!

James Perkins, Volunteer
Jim PerkinsThere are numerous ways in which one can choose to give of themselves for the betterment of others.  For some it’s taking the time to do something good for a specific charity or cause.  For others it’s a commitment to years of service to benefit the entire community.  For James (Jim) Perkins, the 2020 recipient of the Volunteer Heart of Gold award, it’s both.  An Arlington Heights resident since 1993, giving to others has been a lifelong endeavor for Jim.  

Beginning in 2001 when he was appointed to the first of his two terms on the board of the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization (NSSEO), with a stint as a youth mentor at Omni Youth Services in between, Jim has always lent a helping hand to those that were less fortunate.  For most of us that would be plenty to fulfill our moral calling, but not for Jim.  He also served on not one, but two school boards: Prospect Heights District 23 from 2001-2004 and Township High School District 214 from 2007-2017, the latter of which he was Vice President and President for two years each.  

Jim and his wife of 29 years, Angie, have also been involved at St. Edna Catholic Church in Arlington Heights since 1999, serving on numerous ministries as well as the finance and fundraising committees.  They were also foster parents to two young boys when their own children were in grade school.

A proud father of two adult children, daughter Andrea and son Joseph, Jim works out of his home as a certified public accountant, enjoys traveling and has recently taken up golf again.  But rest assured that none of these will get in the way of him continuing to live up to this recognition, being that in his own words “Civic duty is very important and I feel very blessed to be able to utilize my talents and treasures to help those that are less fortunate and also am proud to serve the community.”  

Pat Sturgeon, Community Spirit
Pat SturgeonPat Sturgeon is our 2020 Community Spirit Heart of Gold award winner, and it’s easy to see why.  Since the early 1970’s Pat has been a fixture within the Arlington Heights community selflessly giving her time and talents to those of us who are lucky enough to interact with her.  She started student teaching at Olive Mary Stitt Elementary in the early 1970s and quickly moved to Arlington Heights in 1975 with her husband to raise their three children. Forty-five years later, they still call Arlington Heights home.

Pat continues to support our school community as an educator at Patton School in District 25. Her coworkers, students and parents of students recognize all that she does to consistently go above and beyond the call of duty in her role.  

It is hard to believe that her contributions extend so far beyond her job.  In addition to her work at the school, she dedicates countless hours of her time to support causes at her local church, 4-H, Sunday School, CEDA, and Faith Community Homes. Pat has also become a contributor to the Cook County Expansion Review Committee whose sole purpose is to address the concerns of youth and community members in Cook County and the Northern Suburbs.

People in our wonderful community will tell you that Pat’s a friend to not only the children she works with, but also the parents and anyone she encounters.  It is highly likely that you, your children or someone you know has been the benefactor of one or several of Pat’s selfless contributions to our community.  She serves our community with such enthusiasm. She is an inspiration and highly deserving of this award.

Joe Keefe, Business Leader
Joe KeefeWhen thinking of a deserving Arlington Heights Business Leader, Joe Keefe naturally springs to mind.   Joe has been an active fixture in the Arlington Heights Community for 5 Years since becoming Executive Artistic Director at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre.  Joe can be found everywhere around town, enthusiastically promoting a current show at Metropolis, volunteering at a major Arlington Heights Event (large or small), serving on the Executive Board for the Arlington Heights Chamber and Downtown Business Association, and helping donate nearly 1000 tickets per year to support Non-Profit Fundraisers.  His heart is as big as our community.  

Since starting his position, Joe has taken Metropolis to a new level of Theatrical Production, Talent and Sponsorship, helping the Theater become a valued treasure in Arlington Heights.  Joe attributes his success to the “Vibrant Loving & Giving Community Spirit of Arlington Heights”.  He feels “the purpose of any Theater, is to serve the Community as a noble means to enrich the lives of its residents, through the Arts of Live Entertainment”.  His position supervises all aspects of over 360 live Shows, Concerts and Children’s Theater Productions per year at Metropolis. He often jokes that “sleep is over-rated.”

Joe grew up in Wilmette and lives in Glencoe where he and his wife Karen raised their two great sons: Andrew & Johnny. Joe has a long, successful career in Comedy and Live Theater including his start at age 5 as a recurring Chicago cast member of Romper Room.  He went on to do Sketch Comedy in High School and College.

In the early 1980s he became an Improv Actor for Second City and went on to become an Executive Producer, working with talented artists including Chris Farley, Steven Cobair, Steve Carell, & Tina Fey.  Following Second City, he produced innumerable touring shows, consulted as Artistic & Executive Associate for many theaters, developed syndicated television, and traveled North America doing over 800 Live Shows and Concerts per year - while also ghostwriting for television shows, authors, and a few notable criminals - until coming “home” to Metropolis.

Joe is honored to contribute to Arlington Heights’ rich legacy.  His comedic wit & enthusiasm is an inspiration to everyone he meets.

Danzella Graham, Kenneth M. Bonder Beautification
Danzella GrahamThe HandsOn Suburban Chicago organization provides exterior painting, light outdoor home repairs, and yard clean-up services to low-income seniors, individuals with disabilities, and veterans. Every September, they host a Community Paint-a-thon in Arlington Heights. Danzella (Donnie) Graham has been the Community Paint-a-thon coordinator for the past three years and is responsible for recruiting over 900 volunteers from schools, businesses, faith-based social services and civic organizations. 

Her background as a carpenter, and years of experience working for the Chicago Housing Authority, allows Donnie to match volunteers to homes based on the skills needed and complexity of the job. Her efforts result in a positive experience for the volunteers and a great benefit to homeowners and the community. Over the past three years, 11 Arlington Heights homeowners have benefited from the over $37,000 in services provided by the volunteer teams Donnie has recruited and formed. These homeowners are financially disadvantaged and physically unable to paint or repair their home themselves. 

The results of Donnie’s leadership has enhanced the physical character of Arlington Heights by sprucing up the affected neighborhoods. This vital community restoration and beautification program enables seniors, persons with disabilities and veterans to remain in their homes with an improved sense of dignity. 

Donnie’s lifetime of dedication and service has not only improved the Arlington Heights community but has also touched so many lives!

Christine Weber and Elaine Sianis, Pam Stocking
Weber & SianisChristine Weber and Elaine Sianis, both licensed Physical Therapists and co-founders of Arlington Pediatric Therapy Management Services, have been chosen for the Pam Stocking Heart of Gold award because of their nearly 40 years of outstanding support for children living with disabilities.

After starting their business in the basement of one their homes, Chris and Elaine saw a need for their therapy services and worked together in creating Arlington Pediatric Therapy (APT) Management Services to help children with disabilities reach their potential no matter what their disability may be. Their innovative business provides physical, occupational and speech therapy services to pediatric clients where the primary focus is to improve the quality of life of all children with special needs and their families. 

While Chris and Elaine are now semi-retired, the amazing foundation they have built at APT remains a strong and valuable resource for patients and their families. Their unending commitment and encouragement to pediatric clients continues to inspire all who seek the help of APT. 

Their unwavering commitment to their passion of helping children with disabilities is a shining example of the great things that can be accomplished when determined, caring people are committed to helping improve the lives of others.  

Their dedicated and compassionate work with children with disabilities makes them especially deserving of this award. The Pam Stocking Heart of Gold is named in memory of the Village’s first Disability Services Coordinator who successfully helped enhance the quality of life in Arlington Heights for people living with disabilities.