Rotary Club of Sycamore, Illinois
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Wednesdays at 11:45 a.m.
St. Mary's Parish Activity Center
312 Waterman Street
Sycamore, IL 60178
United States of America
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Sycamore Rotary News
Our guest speaker Gerald Lott, introduced Club Members to The Sauk Valley Voices of Recovery which is a non-profit Recovery Community Organization created to advocate for recovering people in Lee, Whiteside, Ogle, and DeKalb counties. The collective works on behalf of all people affected by alcoholism and substance use disorders in order to build an environment that encourages, promotes, and sustains healthy recovery.
 
His organization’s mission is:

1. Hosting monthly recreation/education events to demonstrate that there is fun in sobriety, allowing sober socialization and rebuilding healthy lifestyles.
2. Producing a monthly Newsletter to encourage communication within the Recovery Community between support groups, institutional stakeholders, and recovering people.
3. Conduct Outreach Programs, working with Newcomers, on local boards, and speaking at school.
4. Assisting people to find appropriate treatment options for recovery.
 
Their organization’s sole purpose is to support and strengthen the safety net of activities and meetings for those in recovery. Voices of Recovery is not aligned with any one path to recovery and are open to multiple methods and philosophies.
 
Besides the many positive developments that Mr. Lott shared with us since 2019 i.e. securing grant funds, increasing access points, opening an additional sober living house for men in Dixon, etc. he showcased a brand new effort for providing “Narcan” availability through a lunch box size Narcan spray holder with an electronic video player explaining how to properly administer this agent spray to individuals who may have passed out due to a drug overdose or negative reaction. This is an amazing new technology, although somewhat pricey at $200 per box, needs high traffic sites for installations. Gerald asked any members who may have interested businesses to contact him or Heather. The Sauk Valley Voices of Recovery number is 779-707-0151 at their office: 114 East Everett Street, Dixon, IL 61021. Website: www.svvor.org.
Avery Gerdes was on a family trip when she was diagnosed with leukemia at age three.  She went through a series of intensive blood treatments over the next four years.  The Sycamore High School Senior can now say she’s been cancer free for ten years.  She is active in clubs like Rotary Interact and enjoys sports like volleyball and soccer.  She plans to pursue an early childhood education curriculum in college.
 
Gerdes admits that because of her young age she does not fully remember all that went into her treatment or the hardships endured by her family, but she knows she wants to give back to the organization that supported her.  Through a program called “Young Visionaries” organized by the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, Gerdes and others like her are raising money while learning about philanthropic leadership.  She has a fundraising goal of $30,000.  One of the members of her fundraising team is lifelong friend and mentor Rotarian Julie Sgarlata who knew Gerdes and her family from their church preschool program.
 
The ”Young Visionaries” training builds on the fundraising pillars of the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.  These are research, education and support for patients and their families, and advocacy to help break down barriers to care.  Gerdes says she wants to see a day without fear of blood cancers.  A fundraising wrap-up event will be held March 9th.  Individual Rotarians generously added their support for Gerdes by giving to Sgarlata and helping her make up several hundred dollars needed to exceed her personal fundraising goal.  More details are available at www.llsstudentvisionaries.org.
The wide range of services through the Ben Gordon Center were explained by Manager of Crisis Continuum of Care Yemilei Schroeder during this week’s Rotary Meeting.  The Ben Gordon Center can provide multiple specialty behavioral health experts for all ages.  Schroeder said taking the step for access to a mental health behavioral professional is often a major hurdle to overcome for those needing treatment.  She said the recently enacted nationwide “988” telephone crisis line number is the latest approach for expanding awareness to services.  It is estimated that as many as 80% of calls can be resolved over the phone.  Schroeder said there has been limited use of the crisis line in DeKalb County for now, but increased call volume is expected as more people seek out telehealth options.  The Ben Gordon Center also offers an in-person drop-in space called their “Living Room” Center.  No appointments are necessary and no insurance coverage is required.
 
Schroeder said treatment for those with behavioral health needs has recently transitioned into a 24-hour service.  She gave as an example the Ben Gordon Center mobile crisis response team which works in tandem with the DeKalb, Sycamore, and County law enforcement agencies.  The team consists of two people trained to help deescalate emotionally charged situations related to behavioral health issues and then provide resolution coordination to prevent a repeat of the situation.  Schroeder gave as an example a special thank-you award by the City of Sycamore  that went to one of their response team members for aiding an elderly resident.  Schroeder said their teams are specially trained through crisis planning and best crisis follow-up.
 
Should you or someone you know be struggling with emotional or substance abuse issues or thoughts of suicide, call “988” for confidential support, learn more about behavioral health issues and help by visiting the Ben Gordon Center website at www.bengordoncenter.org, or visit the Center at 12 Health Services Drive, DeKalb.          
Since its founding in 1980, the Oak Crest Retirement Center strives for superior service and care, according to Resident Services Administrator Liz Hoppenworth who was this week’s speaker.  Hoppenworth explained that their 31-acre campus offers a full range of living options for those at least 62 years old.  For independent living there are several styles of duplex units as well as apartments ranging from 600 to 2,200 square feet.  Once accepted into an independent living program, lifetime plans open the way for assisted living and licensed nursing home care if needed.  Hoppenworth noted the various amenities offered at Oak Crest like their fitness and aquatics center, recreational and educational programs, and community interaction including their satellite Rotary club.  Oak Crest has 265 residents and a staff of more than 240 full and part-time employees.
 
Hoppenworth made a special effort to actively engage Rotarians in a couple of exercises designed to show how the Oak Crest staff becomes patient-focused.  The first was called “the shared vision exercise.”  It involved closing one’s eyes and then following several verbal instructions to fold and tear a piece of paper.  Of course, there were wildly differing versions from what was actually described because you did everything without seeing what others were doing.  The second was an awareness test involving misdirection for what to observe.  Hoppenworth had everyone number a piece of paper 1 to 20; then invited a person into the room carrying a tray she said had 20 items; the person with the tray then left; and Hoppenworth asked everyone to list features of the person carrying the tray (when everyone thought they would be listing the items on the tray).  Hoppenworth explained how Oak Crest wants its employees to avoid assumptions and be alert for unexpected patient needs by stressing relationship building as part of their staff training.
 
Hoppenworth gave an open invitation for Rotary to meet at the Oak Crest to see first-hand what they have to offer.  Details are also on their web site at www.oakcrestdekalb.org.
The Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association (KSRA) begins its 47th year with popular programs in place and new offerings coming according to this week’s Rotary speaker Executive Director Dawn Schaefer.  Schaefer holds a degree in Therapeutic Recreation and is a nationally certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist saying, “I went to school to learn to play.”  She explained how the Association structure with its goal of serving those with disabilities is unique to Illinois.  In Kishwaukee’s case, it is made up of combined taxpayer support from the Sycamore, DeKalb Flagg-Rochelle Township, Genoa Township, and Sandwich Park Districts. Besides program offerings, KSRA also provides one-on-one support including sign language interpretation and activity modifications.
 
KRSA’s longest-running program is Camp Maple Leaf.  Schaefer said this is a seven-week, full-day camp experience.  She said a modified experience called Camp Adventure Leaf incorporates special therapy sessions from the Adventure Works non-profit in DeKalb.  It runs for three weeks after Camp Maple Leaf.  Other programming offered through KSRA are Special Olympics, swimming, and botchy ball .  Schaefer said their newest program is called ARISE and gives recent high school graduates access to structured recreation activities, fitness training, and group projects.  Schaefer said participants can build their life skills through recreation and community outings.  Coming in 2024 will be a new “sensory room” in cooperation with the Sycamore Park District and programs for veterans according to Schaefer.
 
Full details on KSRA offerings and contact information are available from their website at www.kishsra.org.
DeKalb County Administrator Brian Gregory says the County Board is no longer looking at sale of the County Nursing Home.  Originally faced with mounting losses, the County planned to sell the facility to a private operator.  The sale fell through when the buyer was unable to obtain initial state approval and opted to back out of the deal rather than pursue resolution of state oversight board issues.  Gregory said a change in state Medicaid reimbursements opened the path to a break-even operating scenario for the county.  The Jordan Health Group provided a business plan to the county which won bi-partisan support.  The county will create an oversight board for the nursing home and defined budget checks and balances going forward according to Gregory.  He is currently looking for volunteers to serve on the new oversight board.  Gregory also urged Rotarians to spread the word about the county retaining ownership of the nursing home and its commitment to quality care for residents.
 
Gregory also mentioned several items affecting county services and taxpayer benefits.  He noted that county treasurer and Rotarian Becky Springer was able to earn over $500,000 in interest on property tax collections which will be apportioned out to the county taxing bodies for extra income.  Springer said she plans to offer paperless property tax billing this coming tax cycle.  Meanwhile, he said county clerk and Rotarian Tasha Sims is reviewing new ways to make sure election voting is both secure and easily available to all qualified voters.  Sims added she is always looking for election judges to help with the voting process.  Gregory added that taxpayers are benefiting from economic development growth in the county, particularly along the I-88 corridor in DeKalb.  He said this means the overall county tax rate will be going down again this year.  Gregory also noted that state rules mean several large-scale solar projects planned for DeKalb County are expected to move forward this year.