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Sunday, March 1

2015 NASW Illinois District Awards

Nina Nguyen, NASW Illinois Chapter Manager, Communication and Membership

Congratulations to this year's 2015 NASW Illinois District Social Work Awards! The below individuals have exemplified in their professional and personal work the basic tenets of the social work profession-giving voice to those who are without voices. Award ceremonies will be held in the corresponding district across the state. To find out more information about the award ceremonies, be sure to check out district page: www.naswil.org/naswil/districts/


Public Citizen of the Year: Marcus L. Strother
Marcus L. Strother(MEd, Olivet Nazarene University) is an advocate for youth through education and has been teacher and administrator for the past sixteen years. His most passionate love is to work with students through leadership development and mentoring. In this work Marcus has developed community-minded students that contribute over 1,000 hours of work to the local community and abroad in the Dominican Republic.


Social Worker of the Year: Gwen Pearson-Ginski
Gwen Pearson-Ginski (MSW, Loyola University Chicago; MEd, Benedictine University; LCSW)is a school social worker serving K–8 students in Rockdale, IL. She has served in regular and alternative school settings. She has also served as agency director and in foster care at Campagna Academy. She raised awareness in her community of the link between cancer and pollution. This was featured in the book, Taking Action, Saving Lives, by Kristin Shrader-Frechette. She volunteered as CASA and group facilitator for Compassionate Friends. She currently is a psychotherapist at Behavioral Health and Educational Specialists in Plainfield, IL. She has always been passionate about serving youth and promoting children’s health and wellbeing.

Click here for details about the Calumet District awards event in Plainfield: http://www.naswil.org/calendar/events/3494/.


Emerging Leader: Edna Flowers
Edna Flowers(MSW, Loyola University Chicago) has over five years of experience working with diverse populations in nonprofit and education settings. She is career specialist at Inspiration Corporation and assists participants in reaching self-sufficiency through employment training and support. She currently serves as a member of the NASW Illinois Chapter Diversity and Cultural Competence Committee.

Public Citizen of the Year: Derrick Young
Derrick Young is a member of the CBS Chicago morning news team alongside anchors Kris Gutierrez and Erin Kennedy, and meteorologist Megan Glaros. In addition to working as the CBS 2 Traffic Reporter, Derrick is also a motivational speaker and professional health coach. Since 1990, Derrick has mentored, coached, and trained individuals on a wide range of personal development topics. Derrick continues to spend time in classrooms mentoring and inspiring students to make the most of their lives. He facilitates programs for youth focused on building life-skills, character development, and fitness and health. Derrick grew up in the Roseland community and currently lives in the South Loop. 

Social Worker of the Year: Jeff Zacharias
Jeff Zacharias(MSW, Loyola University Chicago; LCSW; CSAT; CAADC) is clinical director of New Hope Recovery Center Chicago and maintains a private practice. His areas of interest include working within the LGBTQI community, all forms of addiction both individually and with partners, severe and persistent mental health, personality disorders, and trauma and its impact on recovery. He is a member of NASW, serves on the board of directors for NALGAP, NAADAC, and Alexian Brothers/Bonaventure House—a home for people living with HIV/AIDS. He's had numerous articles published as well as spoken extensively as conferences including NCAD, NAADAC, NASW Illinois, NASW Nations, NAMI National, and IITAP, focusing on issues within the LGBTQI community.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Daniel Kuhn
Daniel Kuhn(MSW, University of Illinois at Chicago; LCSW) has a person mission to enhance the wellbeing of people living with dementia and to support and educate their families and professional caregivers. For more than forty years he has accomplished this work through direct service, training, consulting, applied research, and program development in healthcare and aging service organizations in the Chicago area. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 publications including Alzheimer's Early Stages: First Steps for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (Third edition, 2013). He has given more than a thousand presentations on dementia, caregiving, and end-of-life care issues throughout the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Click here for details about the Chicago District awards event in Chicago: http://www.naswil.org/calendar/events/3505/.


Public Citizen of the Year: Elizabeth A. Robb
Honorable Elizabeth A. Robb (JD, Loyola University Chicago) has served for twenty-two years as judge in McLean County, Illinois, retiring in December 2014. In 2005 she was elected as the first woman chief judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit and served in that capacity for ten years. She was elected vice chair of the statewide Conference of Chief Judges in 2008 and elected as chair of the conference in 2014. As Chief Judge she worked collaboratively with criminal justice and community organizations to establish the McLean County Drug Court and Recovery Court (mental health), a Pro Se Small Claims Mediation program, the McLean County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation program, and numerous juvenile justice/child welfare programs.

Social Worker of the Year: Karen Major
Karen Major (MSW, University of Illinois; LCSW)has spent the majority of her 35-year career in social work in the fields of child welfare and children’s mental health. Karen has worked in both the public and private sectors and has spent the past fifteen years in leadership at The Baby Fold in Normal. She is currently director of the Family and Community Services department which provides home and community-based services to over 300 families in the central Illinois area. Programs include prevention and early intervention (Healthy Start), adoption preservation, foster care, and special needs adoption. Karen serves on several community and statewide committees related to social work education and practice, mental health awareness, affordable housing, and prevention services for at-risk youth and their families.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Barry Ackerson
Barry J. Ackerson (PhD, University of Alabama; LCSW) began his career in 1975 as psychiatric social worker. Prior to his academic career he was clinician and administrator in Alabama for twenty-three years, becoming involved in mental health system reform for the state. His practice background is reflected in his research on mental health services. He serves on the boards for the NASW Illinois Chapter and Community Elements. He presents at national conferences and publishes in a variety of social work and mental health journals. He has been at UIUC since 1998, associate dean since 2002, and has directed the MSW and PhD programs during that time.

Click here for details about the East Central District awards event in Champaign: http://www.naswil.org/calendar/events/3493/.


Public Citizen of the Year: Michael Schablaske
Michael Schablaske(MT, DePaul University) is executive director of Transform Rockford, a nonprofit whose mission is to facilitate the creation and implementation of a strategic plan by the community for the purposes of dramatically improving the social and economic wellbeing of the community and its residents. The initiative is about true transformation in which everyone’s thoughts and voice will contribute to its success. Michael has held various professional roles in accounting, finance, corporate tax, and treasury.

Social Worker of the Year: Maureen Mostacci
Maureen Mostacci(MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; LCSW) is director of Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling (RSAC). Maureen started her social work career as clinical director at RSAC in 1993 and became executive director in 1996. Maureen provides direct service to survivors of sexual assault/abuse as well as professional training. In addition she focuses on advocating with various institutions, increasing the understanding of sexual violence and its effects. Maureen has held positions in the statewide organization including Convener and Program Committee Chair. Currently she is a member of the Institutional Review Board of the UIC School of Medicine at Rockford.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard Apple
Richard Apple(MSW, University of Wisconsin; LCSW) served as clinical social worker and clinical supervisor with Family Advocate from 1982 to 1988. He provided individual, group, and family therapy for children and adolescents who had been severely abused by a parent. He served as social worker, social work supervisor, and senior public administrator for the State of Illinois at Singer MHC from 1988 to 2012. He worked collaboratively to implement significant culture change such as reduction of restraint/seclusion and consumer empowerment. Richard has served from 2012 to present with the Alzheimer's Association. His passion is assisting people to find joy in life in the midst of the losses of dementia as well as developing an ongoing support plan.

Click here for details about the Jane Addams District awards and CEU event in Rockford: http://www.naswil.org/calendar/events/3492/.


Lifetime Achievement: Arthur Diers
Arthur J. Diers (MA, University of Chicago; LCSW) has been practicing psychotherapy in Evanston and the Loop for forty years. He was president of the Chicago Chapter of NASW (before consolidation into the Illinois Chapter), initiating creative professional programming, developing standards, and obtaining licensure for the profession, and was also on the founding board for the Illinois Society of Clinical Social Work. As chairman of the Mental Health Board of Evanston, he facilitated the allocation of funds to local social agencies. He was chairman of the Life Enrichment Committee of the Levy Senior Center in Evanston. Arthur served as past president of the Chicago Literary Club and is currently a member.

Contact district chair Rich Jezioro for details about the Northeastern District awards event.


Public Citizen of the Year: Stephanie McKinney
Stephanie McKinney (BS, Greenville College) is CCAP Specialist for Rend Lake College at Project CHILD. Her employment is a great match and allows her to help others help themselves in achieving their goals of working and/or attending school by assisting with securing quality childcare for their children.



Social Worker of the Year: Kim Ratermann Peek
Kim Ratermann Peek (MSW, Southern Illinois University; LCSW; ACSW) has been working in the social work field for over twenty-two years. During this time she has held several different positions from direct service, quality improvement, and management. She has worked in several different settings such as community mental health, medical hospital, and residential treatment. Her emphasis on services is consistent with her compassion toward others.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Connie Baker
Connie Baker (MSW, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale; LCSW)has been a social work practitioner and educator for nearly forty years. She has expertise in child welfare, addiction treatment, behavioral health, supervision, administration, training, and private practice. She holds certifications in divorce mediation, bereavement counseling, EMDR, DUI Services, and the ARISE intervention model. After practicing in community mental health, she joined the SIU School of Social Work faculty where she coordinated field placements and taught numerous classes in the BSW and MSW programs. She has presented at international training programs in Russia, Egypt, and Ireland. She has served on local boards, was the 1999 Southern District Social Worker of the Year, and was a 2005 Delegate Assembly representative.

Click here for details about the Southern District awards event in Mt. Vernon: http://www.naswil.org/calendar/events/3479/.


Public Citizen of the Year: VaLarie Humphrey
VaLarie Humphrey(MA, Benedictine University) has been in the education arena for over twenty-three years. She has been labeled as the at-risk educator because of her outside-the-box thinking. She received the New Teacher of the Year Award from Chicago Public Schools her first year. She later took a position in the Bellwood School District 88. After thirteen years she became the principal of the Quad County Urban League’s alternative school. She then became assistant principal in Indian Prairie School District 204. She is member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In 2012 she founded True Eagle Beauty Foundation, Inc.

Social Worker of the Year: Ellen Carbonell
Ellen Carbonell(MSW, Loyola University Chicago; LCSW) is associate director of family programs for the Alzheimer’s Association’s national office. She is responsible for creating dementia-related family programs, training chapter staff, offering corporate webinars nationally and internationally, and overseeing support groups for the association. Ellen has over thirty years of experience working with individual and family programs in mental health, EAP, and voluntary health care settings. She is a member of the American Society on Aging and the Programs Committee of the Chicago End-of-Life Care Coalition; is a caregiver coach in private practice; and is founder of CaregiverTools.org which provides resources for caregivers of older adults.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Robert Skrocki
Robert Skrocki (MSW, University of Illinois at Chicago; LCSW) spent thirty-seven years at DuPage County Health Department, Mental Health Services, where he provided direct clinical services, supervision, and management in programs serving children, youth, and adults that emphasized collaboration across the child welfare, special education, justice, and behavioral healthcare service systems. He is now working as a faith community consultant and care ministry development coordinator at Samaritan Center for Congregations. He continues his work as communications coordinator for the Interfaith Mental Health Coalition. He chairs the board for the Pathways to Promise organization that is helping promote mental health training coalitions for faith communities all over the country.

Click here for details about the Three Rivers District awards and CEU event in Carol Stream: http://www.naswil.org/calendar/events/3495/.


Public Citizen of the Year: Karen Grotts
Karen Grotts has been a realtor since 2006 and obtained her GRI designation. This year she received the Maloof Realtors President’s Council Award for sales exceeding $6 million. She previously obtained 28 years of corporate background experience. Karen, with her husband Earl, started Whitney’s Walk for Life, a local walk held at Jubilee State Park to raise money for depression awareness and suicide prevention programs in central Illinois. Since its inception in 2004, Whitney’s Walk for Life has raised more than $917,000 for local suicide prevention. For their instrumental work with Whitney’s Walk, Earl and Karen were named the 2015 recipient of Hult Center for Healthy Living’s Volunteer of the Year award. They also received the Mental Health Association’s Dr. Walter Baer Award for promoting excellence in mental health in 2005. Karen serves on the Hult Center for Healthy Living Board of Directors, the Hult Center’s Mental Health Subcommittee, the Brimfield Area Health Services Board, the Brimfield Comprehensive Planning Committee, and is president of the Business Networking International (BNI) Peoria Chapter.  

Social Worker of the Year: Kelly McKenna
Kelly McKenna(MSW, Illinois State University; LCSW) serves as program manager for True North Solutions. She began her social work career in Danville, IL, at Crosspoint as outpatient therapist. She then went to Human Service Center in 2007 and was hired to develop an outpatient medication-assisted treatment program for opiate dependence using a new medication. After establishing that program in the area as a quality alternative to methadone treatment, she transitioned to program manager at True North. At True North she provides therapy and supervises a staff of 17.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Shipra Somani
Shipra Somani (MSW, University of Pittsburgh; ACSW; LCSW) began her career in 1960 as a case worker for the Child Guidance Center in Calcutta, India. In 1964 she came to the U.S. to pursue her master’s in social work. After graduating in 1966 she became the Neighborhood Development Supervisor of the Hill House Association in Pittsburgh, PA. In 1974 she joined Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, IL, as renal social worker. Over the years she has received numerous awards including Social Worker of the Year (in 1988 from NASW and in 1993 from Illinois Kidney Foundation). Somani has also been an active member of the Springfield community. She retired in 2005.

Click here for details about the West Central District awards event in Peoria: http://www.naswil.org/calendar/events/3497/

Congratulations to all of our 2015 District Award Winners! 

Posted on 03/01/15 at 08:00 AM


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