BEST CHARITABLE COMPANY
BEST CLOTHING BOUTIQUE
830 S. Grand Ave. W., 679-1352
If a charitable organization is going to successfully raise money for its cause, it helps to offer a product that people actually want. According to our readers, District 23 – the boutique which, per district23.com, sells “on-trend women’s clothing, accessories, home décor, gifts and more” in order to advocate in favor of cochlear implant surgery awareness – encompasses the best of both worlds. In the words of one satisfied customer posting on the District 23 Facebook page, “I love the clothes, the people and the charity they support. The only one in the world like it. Amazing!” That pretty much says it all.
Finalists: Best Charitable Company: Bank of Springfield, Bunn-O-Matic Corporation, Horace Mann, United Community Bank
Finalists: Best Clothing Boutique: Eye Candy, Gypsy Soul, Second Time Around, Springfield Vintage
BEST CITY OFFICIAL
Mayor Jim Langfelder
Call him Sunny Jim. Mayor Langfelder is a consummate optimist, not afraid to poke fun at himself and almost always, it seems, smiling, even when others are not. Some of his enthusiasm and ideas can be jarring, like when he talks about replacing railroad tracks on Third Street with a trolley that would run between North and South Grand avenues. What is this, the Neighborhood of Make Believe, and don’t we have a Y block to finish up first? But Langfelder is no Mister Rogers. He’s persuaded the city council to pass needed tax hikes, and when the council backed off a plan to ask voters to merge Capital Township with the city, the mayor did the right thing and vowed to collect signatures on his own to put the question on the ballot.
Finalists: City Treasurer Misty Buscher, Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso, Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan, Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor
BEST COUNTY OFFICIAL
Sangamon County Sheriff Wes Barr
Wes who? Not prone to blowing his own horn, Barr keeps a low profile, usually letting Joe Roesch, his first deputy, do the talking when there’s something worth talking about. To Barr’s credit, that’s been pretty rare, which is good. The best police departments operate efficiently and quietly, and that seems to be the case with the sheriff’s office under Barr. Happy retirement.
Finalists: auditor Andy Goleman, clerk Don Gray, recorder Josh Langfelder, circuit clerk Paul Palazzolo
West Side Christian Church
2850 Cider Mill Lane, 793-2800
Finalists: Paul Hemenway, Trinity Lutheran Church; Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; Stan Summers, Koke Mill Christian Church; Martin Woulfe, Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation
MOST COURAGEOUS ACT (Staff Pick)
Angie Muhs tweets the truth
These days, newspaper editors aren’t rewarded as often as they should be for telling the truth. Just look at Las Vegas, where the folks who called the shots at the city’s biggest daily, run by GateHouse Media, found themselves in the unemployment line after uncovering sundry acts of skullduggery by the newspaper’s owners and writing about it. Revealing that the paper had been sold to a casino magnate wasn’t on GateHouse’s list of things to do, and in less than a year, every journalist who helped blow the whistle in Vegas was gone. Beyond that, there’s GateHouse’s perennial “we really care about pick-a-city” line whenever the chain slashes newsroom employment whilst chortling to shareholders. It’s against that backdrop that Angie Muhs, editor of the State Journal-Register, put her job on the line this fall in a tweet she put out while GateHouse was, again, cutting newsroom jobs in Illinois and across the nation. “You cannot cut the value of the product you give readers and expect them to reward you with growth,” wrote Muhs, quoting New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger. Then Muhs stepped it up with her own take: “Amen. If only all owners heeded those words.” Saying something like that in public is sheer balls when your employees have gotten buyout offers and GateHouse is firing journalists across its empire. We need more like her.
MOST TRUSTED POLITICIAN
U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin
Some folks love him, some folks hate him, but love him or hate him, Dick Durbin isn’t known for telling fibs. You don’t get reelected time and time again by telling whoppers, nor do you win trust and respect from colleagues by being fake. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that Durbin’s track record for being truthful isn’t spotless, according to PolitiFact, which truth squads politicians. It is an imperfect scorecard, to be sure – there’s no way anyone could research everything that comes out of a politician’s mouth – but of 10 statements by Durbin checked out by the Pulitzer Prize-winning website, four were deemed true or mostly true, three were found false and one, a 2014 claim that the federal debt was on track to be reduced by $3 trillion over the next decade, earned the senator from Springfield the dreaded pants-on-fire rating. Ouch. Still, in a world where politicians are prone to puffery, and worse, Durbin stands out as a guy we’d buy a car from.
Finalists: U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, State Sen. Andy Manar, Gov. Bruce Rauner
BEST NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION
Sojourn Shelter and Services
1800 Westchester Boulevard
Appropriately, given the times we live in, readers this year selected Sojourn Shelter and Services as our city’s best nonprofit organization, and it is at once easy and saddening to see why. Sojourn provides victims of domestic violence, some of our community’s most vulnerable residents, with shelter and transportation and meals and counseling and advocates who help with orders of protection and otherwise assist battered folks, usually women, in negotiating the court system. In addition to counseling for people who’ve been battered, Sojourn also connects kids with counselors and helps parents understand the effects of domestic violence on children. They do a ton of good with less than $1 million in annual revenue and you can help by volunteering. The need runs the gamut, from painting and yard work to answering phones to giving stressed-out moms a break by fixing a meal or two.
Finalists: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region, Central Illinois Community Blood Center, Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital
BEST ORGANIZATION SUPPORTING CHILDREN
Girls on the Run of Central Illinois
907 Clocktower Dr., 726-9808
Girls on the Run is an international, nonprofit prevention program that prepares girls between the ages of eight and 13 to run 3.1 miles and encourages healthy physical and emotional lifestyle choices. According to its website, “Girls on the Run is dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. Our 10-week program drives transformative, sustained change in the lives of third- to eighth-grade girls.” Girls on the Run of Central Illinois encompasses 15 counties including Brown, Cass, Christian, DeWitt, Logan, Macon, Mason, McLean, Morgan, Menard, Montgomery, Peoria, Sangamon, Scott and Tazewell. For further information, visit gotrcentralillinois.org.
Finalists: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois, Compass for Kids, Gear Forward, Girl Scouts of Central Illinois
BEST UP-AND-COMING LEADER
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan
Finalists: city treasurer Misty Buscher; Ward 6 alderman Kristen DiCenso, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois director of development and community engagement Tiffany Matheis, Ward 5 alderman Andrew Proctor
BEST PLACE TO VOLUNTEER
Animal Protective League
1001 Taintor Road, 544-7387
Do you like cleaning up dog poo? Getting scratched by nervous cats? Listening to hounds bark and bark and bark and bark and bark? Answering phones for free? Then the Animal Protective League has an offer you can’t refuse. This place that has made life better for countless animals through the years can always use folks to pitch in, and there are plenty of jobs that need doing, from playing with dogs housed in kennels to providing foster care for mutts and cats when there’s no room at headquarters, which can happen all too often. Not just anyone can do it. You have to be 16 to deal with cats and 18 to handle dogs, although younger folks are welcome so long as a parent or other responsible adult is volunteering at the same time. Some stuff, such as walking dogs, requires a bit of training, which APL provides. But it’s well worth it, and there’s no greater reward than a lick from a grateful pup or kitten.
Finalists: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region, Central Illinois Community Blood Center, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois
BEST SCANDAL (Staff Pick)
There was nothing untoward about seven members of the city council, a quorum by a long ways, showing up last fall to collect checks from labor and construction mucky-mucks at Saputo’s restaurant, where aldermen never discussed any city business whatsoever. Just ask them. To a person, aldermen who fattened their campaign accounts by a collective $18,500 said that everything was groovy at the get-together where they ate free food while collecting cash. We stayed away from each other so no one could accuse us of having a secret meeting, they explained, and we talked about innocuous stuff like baseball and economic development. They professed outrage at any suggestion that attending such a shindig was a really stupid thing to do, and they insisted they’re not for sale. Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer delivered the money quote. “It was a nice little reception,” the alderman said afterward. “Then they gave us envelopes, and that was pretty nice.” We’ll remember this the next time the city council says no when union members pack council chambers to demand that a vote go their way. Which will happen on the twelfth of never.
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