On November 28, we had the pleasure of joining together with hundreds of our volunteers, community partners and sponsors to celebrate the spirit of service in Chicago. The Chicago Cares Star Awards are awarded to people who have used their time, skills and resources to increase the impact of the work we do. We enjoyed the luxurious accommodations of The Four Seasons ballroom as we spent time reconnecting with many of the people who are committed to volunteer service in our city. The generous sponsorship of Newell Rubbermaid, Discover and USG also allowed us to present a fun and inspirational ceremony; where stories of service we shared and celebrated.

To become a Chicago Cares Star, you must first be nominated by a fellow volunteer or a Chicago Cares staff member. Once we have received all of the nominations, a team of past winners and Chicago Cares staff and board members meet to review each nomination. This team looks at the comments on the nomination forms as well as things like number of hours served. Once they have reached a consensus, the winners are notified and we are all ready to celebrate.

Please get to know our 2011 Chicago Cares Stars!

Leader Team Star: USG Leader Team at Holden Elementary, Serve-a-thon
The USG team has led at several Chicago Cares annual events. It’s clear that they are committed to service, enjoy volunteering together, do great work and have a lot of fun! The team from USG used their leadership skills to accomplish all of their Serve-a-thon tasks at Holden Elementary this year, even though it was one of our largest sites. It’s difficult to manage 200 volunteers for four hours, but the USG team made it look easy!

Youth in Service Star: Christopher House
The youth at Christopher House have demonstrated true commitment to service through their participation in monthly volunteer projects since 2008. Their dedication to their community is clear as they continue to develop relationships with clients and receive constant praise for their positivity and insight from leaders and community partners.

Community Partner Star: Ginkgo Organic Gardens
Ginkgo Organic Gardens consistently communicates with volunteers about upcoming project dates, other gardens in need of volunteers, and how they can become involved with Vital Bridges; a local food pantry catering to the needs of those living with HIV/AIDS. Their collaboration with Vital Bridges enables volunteers at Ginkgo Organic Gardens to impact the community in a variety of ways. By managing and maintaining a consistent volunteer base every week, their leaders make our volunteers feel welcome and truly appreciated.

Corporate Partner Star: Grosvenor Capital Management, LP
Grosvenor Capital Management, L.P. has been a dedicated supporter of Chicago Cares since 1992. As a leadership supporter for the past several years, Grosvenor participates in many Chicago Cares programs including: Celebration of Service, Serve-a-thon and multiple corporate service events. These corporate service events have made a lasting difference to one of our long-term Chicago Public School partners, Cook Elementary in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. The depth of impact that Grosvenor employees have had on our community is indescribable, with thousands of volunteer service hours donated over the past two decades that has furthered capacity at hundreds of nonprofits and schools throughout the city of Chicago.

Volunteer Star: Ildifonso Fuentes
Ildifonso Fuentes is tireless. His daily life is busy, but he takes time to volunteer on a regular basis. Ildifonso inspires the leaders that he works with through his commitment to make service a priority in his life. Leaders know they can rely on him and that makes a big difference when projects face challenges. He likes to get involved and is extremely committed when he sees that his time and effort are doing good in the community. Ildifonso makes others feel welcome at projects and is always interested in learning something new.

Volunteer Leader Star: Melissa Degleffetti
Melissa Degleffetti embodies one of the key skills of any Chicago Cares leader; flexibility. Melissa is always willing to help in a variety of ways and is able to adapt to situations and think of innovative solutions when necessary. She serves at a variety of projects and is mindful to involve everyone who is volunteering. She is professional, welcoming, positive and a great role model for both adult and youth volunteers. Melissa is also very reliable and wants to help in the areas where she can have the most impact. She continues to look for new ways to get involved with Chicago Cares, learning and growing as a volunteer and leader.

Jefferson Award for Public Service, Certificate of Excellence: Dave Varga
Dave Varga has been volunteering with Chicago Cares since 2005. Dave has had a profound impact at Lincoln Park Conservatory, where he has been a volunteer leader for 5 years. However, Dave’s commitment to Chicago Cares and his community does not stop there! He has also served as a leader at both Celebration of Service and Serve-a-thon for the past few years. His fellow volunteers comment that he is always open to other people’s ideas on how to accomplish project tasks and goals, and makes everyone feel welcome. He interacts with every volunteer and his excellent leadership and problem solving skills ensure everyone has a great time at projects. In addition to volunteering at projects and programs, Dave has worked closely with Chicago Cares to evaluate and improve our leader training processes. His work in this area has enhanced our leaders’ abilities, which in turn creates a better experience for our volunteers and our community partners.

Congratulations to all of our Star winners and thank you for your service to our city!