Outstanding Volunteers of Kankakee County honored

May 1, 2019

“She’s McNamara’s madrina (godmother) and Ángel guardian (guardian angel),” said Bishop McNamara Catholic Schools principal Terry Granger about Outstanding Volunteer award recipient Lorenia Lara. “She’s our chief translator, a spokeswoman for the Hispanic community and a bridge between the Hispanic community and our school.”

The Community Foundation and the Pledge for Life Partnership again joined the United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties in celebrating the achievements of outstanding volunteers during the 31st annual event Friday at the Kankakee Country Club.

This year’s honorees were Lara, nominated by McNamara and Hippocrates Medical Center; Marty Knight, American Red Cross; Bob Bohlmann, Wright in Kankakee; Jerry Holohan, Hospice of Kankakee Valley; James Neally, Manteno Youth Football; and Kalli Jungles, Manteno High School.

Lara volunteers as a liaison for BMCS to local Hispanic families. She advocates for the tools necessary to help these families navigate the application process and helps them connect with other school families. She is instrumental in working with the Diocese of Joliet to create more scholarships for Hispanic students attending Catholic schools in Kankakee.

Lara also volunteers at Hippocrates Medical Clinic. She has taken on the responsibility of CEO, serves as board treasurer, translates for patients at the clinic and maintains the property. Lara also has worked with the Kankakee Police Department to create a police academy in Spanish and is an active member of St. John Paul II Church.

“She’s magical,” Granger said. “She’s mastered the ability to make one day more than 24 hours and one week more than seven days. She’s involved in so much, yet I can call her, and she’s in my office in 30 minutes. She makes time.”

Lara said, “For me, volunteering is an opportunity to learn, listen and be a part of the change. I’m thankful for the beautiful community I have and the opportunity to serve.”

Knight is the first person all Kankakee Red Crossers meet. He is a mentor, supporting volunteers on their journey, while helping to expand and strengthen the Kankakee County American Red Cross. Locally, he has taken on several different roles over the years. As a Disaster Action Team supervisor, he is the lead representative at the scene of many structure fires. He regularly meets with the local fire chiefs to support cooperation between agencies.

In 2018, he responded to disasters nationwide and was deployed multiple times. Knight also is a key volunteer with the ARC Service to the Armed Forces department. He regularly commutes to O’Hare Airport to lead informational meetings with families of new recruits. He also makes regular trips to the Illinois Veterans Home in Manteno. Knight is a U.S. Navy veteran.

“I’m honored and humbled. I thank my wife, who died last year. Without a good spouse backing you up, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Knight said. “We can all make an impact. Volunteering is a wonderful way to meet people and get to know the community.”

Bohlmann is the volunteer executive director of Wright in Kankakee and has been on the board since 2013. An architect for 45 years, he is a staunch promoter of the Frank Lloyd Wright B. Harley Bradley House. His architectural background benefits restoration and maintenance projects at the historic home. His most recent project at the Bradley House was the creation of a Student Educational Lab.

Bohlmann also is active at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where he is executive director. He is active in the American Institute of Architects and the Lions Club and provided the design and drawings for Safety Town in Bourbonnais.

Holohan, a HKV volunteer, sees patients for routine visits and volunteers with HKV’s 11th Hour and Pre-Hospice Transitions programs. In 2018, his first year as a volunteer, Holohan sat with 12 patients who would have otherwise died alone and made 70 regular patient visits, logging more than 200 hours of his time.

For 40 years, he has played Santa at Fox Center in Dwight and is a volunteer for the Ashkum Lions, the Methodist Church in Cabery and St. John Paul II Church in Kankakee.

Neally lives in Bourbonnais, but for Manteno, he is the kind of youth football coach parents everywhere hope their children will have. He has been a coach for the Manteno Wildcats for 13 years, and his team is part of the Manteno Youth Football Association. For the past 10 years, Neally has been on the Wildcat board, serving first as secretary and currently as vice president. He has devoted countless hours to the youth program without even having a child of his own involved. He also played semi pro-football.

Youth honoree, Jungles, is a major contributor to Team Smile, a group created by students to bring smiles to the faces of others at Manteno High School. She also was instrumental in creating a book-reading event for district second graders. She reached out to the local Rotary Club and requested funds to put the book series “The Girl with a Cape” in each classroom. She then developed organized activities to go along with the series.

In addition, the senior is a member of Student Council, the school library Teen Advisory Committee and the Interact Club. During the summer, she reads to youth in the Manteno Public Library’s summer reading program. She volunteers at Riverside Medical Center in the special procedures lab, works with Caring for Kids At Christmas for Manteno students and gives her time at the Illinois Veterans Home in Manteno. In the fall, she will attend college at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., majoring in biology.

This year’s Pledge for Life Partnership Harold Award winner was Dr. John Palan, Grant Park School District superintendent. Since beginning his career as a teacher at St. Anne Grade School in 1993, Palan has remained an advocate for children and a supporter of the Pledge for Life Partnership. Palan has supported the Pledge for Life Partnership Fun-a-Thon, Family Nights and serves on the board of directors.

“After 25 years, I still believe in the Pledge for Life mission. It’s had a positive impact on kids. The Life Education Center gives kids strategies to get out of bad situations.”

The United Way Advancing the Common Good Award was presented to Kankakee Community College president John Avendano.

“His leadership, passion and dedication to the betterment of the community continue to inspire others to do the same,” said United Way executive director Tiffany DeRocco. “We are deeply grateful for the impact Dr. Avendano has had, not only on United Way, but on our community as a whole.”

The Outstanding Volunteers of Kankakee County recognition event was originally established by the Junior League of Kankakee County in 1989.