SHEFFIELD — A Bureau County man has been honored for his volunteer tutoring and mentoring of young people in the Illinois Youth Center in Kewanee.
Ron Happach of Sheffield is one of 23 individuals and four businesses named by Gov. Pat Quinn and the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service as the Volunteer Service Award winners for 2014 for the Northwest Region of Illinois. The total of 27 award winners were chosen from 180 nominations statewide.
Quinn announced the winners on Monday, saying the prestigious award recognizes volunteers and volunteer programs that have made a difference in Illinois and highlights the importance of community service. The Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards focus on the areas of economic opportunity, education, environmental conservation, disaster preparedness/response, health and veterans’ affairs. The awards were presented to the recipients at a ceremony held April 28 at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield.
“Every day across Illinois, thousands of volunteers donate their time and work hard to help others and build stronger communities,” Quinn said. “Today we are honoring these individuals who donate their time to make our communities better and set an example for others with their initiative, creativity and energy.”
A retired Sauk Valley College professor of industrial education, Happach is an AmeriCorps member and volunteers as a literacy tutor and mentor for young people at the Illinois Youth Center (IYC) in Kewanee, which is a secure medium-security facility that houses youthful male offenders. Opened in November 2011, the IYC has 18 general education classrooms and three vocational classrooms in its education department. Happach also tutors GED (General Education Diploma) students at Black Hawk College in Kewanee.
On Tuesday, Happach said he knew he had been nominated for the award by his AmeriCorps supervisor Deb Sundberg but was pleasantly surprised to learn he had been selected as one of the winners.
As a retired teacher, he had the available time and wanted to stay active and give something back to others, Happach said. Most of the young people he mentors have had a hard time with reading and math, and his work with them will help them earn credits to get a GED through Black Hawk College.
Happach began his volunteer service at IYC-Kewanee twice a week in November of 2009 and then increased his tutoring time at the center to three days a week. In February 2011, he became a minimum time AmeriCorps member and continues to tutor and mentor youth at IYC-Kewanee in that capacity.
On Wednesday, Sundberg commented on why she thought Happach was so deserving of the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award.
“When I nominated Ron for the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award I felt he set an excellent example of volunteerism not only through his dedication to the students he assists at IYC-Kewanee but also by giving of himself and his time to a variety of other organizations,” Sundberg said. “Ron is an important part of the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois Tutoring Program; the administration and teaching staff at IYC-Kewanee fully support his efforts. His commitment, perseverance and patience are admirable.”
Beyond his AmeriCorps service at IYC-Kewanee, Happach has also served the community in various other capacities, including serving on the Bureau County Board for 20 years and as its chairman for four years. He’s also active in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sheffield. Happach and his wife, Lorraine, are the parents of six grown children.
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