RANTOUL — The Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce doesn’t give out lifetime achievement awards every all that often. Friday night was one of them.
Lincoln’s Challenge Director Peter T. Thomas was presented the award by Executive Director Belynda Allen.
Allen said it is a "very special special award to a very, very special person."
"I think that everybody would agree there is no one who (deserves) it more."
Thomas said credit also goes to the staff of the academy and the village for helping to graduate 19,000 young men and women since the academy was started on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Force Base in 1993.
Lincoln’s Challenge students, age 16-18, complete a rigorous 22-week resident program. The resident program is conducted in a quasi-military environment to provide students who have dropped out of high school a clearly structured and regimented educational environment.
The award was one of several presented at the banquet.
Educator of year
AJ Richard was named Educator of the Year.
Richard is a member and leader of the Rantoul Township High School Social Science Department.
According to the program bio on Richard, "Teachers in all subjects look to ... Richard as an innovator in the Standards-Based Learning System. His strong work ethic and strength of character are evident both in and out of the classroom."
Other Educator of the Year nominees were Rhonda Bletscher, a paraprofessional at RTHS; Rachael Greist, a first-grade teacher at Broadmeadow School; Becky Krall, a teacher at Pleasant Acres School; Jenna Mahoney, a social worker at Pleasant Acres; Amy McElroy, a Rantoul City Schools teacher; Rebekah Lightly, a teacher at Pleasant Acres School; and Todd Wilson, principal at RTHS.
Marv Remmers Volunteer of the Year
Jennifer Crites was named Volunteer of the Year.
A Champaign County parole officer, Crites created the Rantoul Crusaders Olympic Team and serves as the head coach. She also volunteers for the Cop on Top fundraiser, the Polar Plunge, Summer’s Soldiers, Back 2 School Drive and supports her kids in the Tom Jones Challenger Baseball League and seasonal parades.
"Jennifer has totally committed herself to these special kids and their successful involvement as students and athletes," according to her bio.
Other Citizen of the Year nominees:
— Jasmyne Boyce, who was instrumental in the creation of the Finders Keepers downtown shopping event this summer. She was also an important part of the 2015-16 farmers market. Boyce has also been an active supporter of the veterans memorial project, donating her time to promote fundraising.
— Roxanne Johnston, who is a former Rantoul Rotary president; has worked in several community activities; the First Baptist Awana Program for 16 years; and a Girl Scout trooper leader for more than 20 years.
— Volunteers with the Rantoul Fire Department, who strive to provide assistance as first-responders. The department continues to visit local schools and day cares to provide learning experiences in fire safety to students. "They maintain a high level of professionalism in their training, maintenance and their work ethic," reads their bio.
— Rich Thomas, who has been involved in local recreation programs for many years. Thomas was instrumental in the development of the local softball programs. Thomas is former Rantoul Rec Department superintendent and continues to volunteer with the J.W. Eater softball team and is an assistant coach for the high school team.
Citizen of the Year
Michael Fox was named Citizen of the Year.
Serving as Rantoul Exchange Club treasurer, Fox is also Kids Foundation vice president and treasurer, St. Malachy Home and School vice president, member of the chamber of commerce board of directors, and a Knights of Columbus officer. Fox also serves as the St. Malachy assistant baseball coach, church usher and coaches two Rec Department Little League teams.
Also nominated were Phil and Janet Warner, who are longtime owners-operators of United Fuel who have been involved in numerous local activities, and Kellie Wahl, former chamber executive director, who is involved in numerous social and civic groups and teaches at J.W. Eater Junior High School.
Ariel Rogers and Bridget Schlueter Rogers were named recipients of the New Business of the Year for their Shear Excellence business.
Business of the Year went to Kevin Modglin on behalf of Mid-Illinois Concrete and Excavation.
Todd Modglin was recognized as outgoing chamber of commerce board president.