Rotary Club of Sycamore, Illinois
We meet In Person
Wednesdays at 11:45 AM
St. Mary's Parish Activity Center
312 Waterman Street
Sycamore, IL 60178
United States of America
Club Events
President Elect
President Nominee
Immediate Past President
Subscribe to our eBulletin and stay up to date on the latest news and events.

Bills and Donations
Sycamore Rotary News
Organizers Don Paulsen and Dwain Adkins explained the community service aspects of their veterans’ groups and the meaning they have for residents at this week’s Rotary meeting.  Paulsen is part of the American Legion Riders motorcycle group.  Adkins holds several different responsibilities with Post 99 of the Sycamore American Legion and is a main organizer for the Courthouse Honor Guard which carries out the 24-hour “veterans honoring veterans” vigil held the Friday and Saturday before Veterans Day.
Paulsen said the motorcycle group helps veterans, children, and the community.  One of their events is an annual Motorcycle Motorcade where they visit eight area retirement centers to make contact with veterans.  He said the oldest veteran they’ve met was a 106-year-old woman.  He said their Toy Run ahead of Christmas has raised as much as $20,000  in sponsorships for toys and other items for needy children  Riders participating in the event pay $10 and bring a toy to contribute to the cause.  Paulsen said the group has also partnered with other various non-profits for charitable causes.  One of those is “Ride Janie Ride” to help families that have someone undergoing cancer treatment.
Adkins explained he got involved with the Courthouse vigil in 2013 when the founding Viet Now organization began to have problems with staffing it.  He said he’s seen participants grow beyond just Viet Nam veterans, going from 20 volunteers to 42 this year.  He pointed out that  this is a totally separate event from actual Veterans Day celebrations.  With the growth of participation, Adkins said he is pursuing a standard jacket for all involved to wear showing their unity with each other regardless of their branch of service or period of service.  Adkins himself proudly noted five generations of his family serving in the military beginning with his grandfather in World War I through his grandson who has just entered ROTC training.  Adkins also showed Rotarians plaques posted by the local Legion on the founding dates of the various branches of service as well as key memorial service dates.
Izabela Pieniadz is overseeing a busy schedule of events and significant restoration work at the Ellwood House mansion as she gets ready to celebrate one year as Executive Director.  Pieniadz came to the museum from the Art Institute of Chicago.  A graduate of the School of the Art Institute,  she holds a Master’s degree in Arts Administration and is completing a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation.  Her goal is to continue to grow event outreach and administer a $1.3 million capital campaign fund raised from 2018-2021 to help preserve the Ellwood mansion built in 1879 by barbed wire baron Isaac Ellwood.
Pieniadz said attendance at the museum campus is strong.  Almost 2,500 people visited the mansion over the past year.  They hosted 183 tours along with hosting special events.  Their venues include the 1879 Ellwood House and the neighboring Nehring-Ellwood mansion built at the turn of the 20th century.  Pieniadz said their programs include the Arts Action series featuring local artisans, a Local Lore series highlighting local history, Evening at the Ellcourt which features live music, and their major fundraiser, Wine on the Terrace.  Another highlight is the annual mansion  Christmas decoration exhibit which will open soon. 
Managing through increasing material costs has been a challenge according to Pieniadz but progress is being made at stabilizing and restoring the Ellwood House mansion.  She said their “1879 Project” is divided into seven parts of specific improvements.  Currently they have undertaken repair and restoration of windows, installing ultra-violet light protection on windows, and stabilizing steel doors going into the mansion’s living room.  Select masonry repairs were done that included matching tuckpointing to original coloring from the mansion’s original construction.  There have also been significant electrical upgrades by replacing outdated knob and tube wiring.  Pieniadz said they opted to run new wiring by taking up flooring rather than going through walls that might not be able to be restored properly.
Pieniadz said the Ellwood House Museum is always looking for new members and volunteers.  Their website is
Sycamore Fire Chief Bart Gilmore and City Manager Michael Hall explained the need for a new fire station at this week’s Rotary meeting.  Gilmore and Hall came prepared with videos and slides showing the challenges the fire service faces operating in their  66-year-old downtown building.  Fire station #1 was built in 1957 and originally housed a volunteer department handling 89 calls a year as well as the police department and city hall.  Today the department is staffed by full-time firemen and handles over 3.000 calls a year.  The building was modified for only fire service use but the aging heating and cooling systems are failing and coupled with poor air quality factors mean unhealthy working conditions exist.  Gilmore noted that power-operated bay doors have failed at times, adding critical delayed response to fire calls.  Gilmore also said there are height restrictions in the garage bays which added about $100,000 in modification costs to a new fire engine.  He said the height restrictions also preclude adding a much-needed aerial ladder truck to their fleet.
Gilmore and Hall said several options were reviewed but an offer of a land donation by Ideal Industries makes building a new station the best long-term plan for the City.  The land is at the southwest corner of Borden Avenue and South Prairie Drive in the South Prairie Business Park.  Gilmore says the location will better balance call assignments with Fire Station #2 on the north side of town.  He also said the approximately 6-acre site would let the fire department develop a fire safety campus including a “safety town” for children.  Hall said the City can structure finances so that an estimated $10 million in construction bonds for the new building can be paid as other bonds expire without any property tax increase. Rotarians were invited to follow developments of he fire project at
Rotary’s November student of the month is Sycamore High School senior Lili Jennings.  Jennings has a passion for the performing arts.  She has appeared in over two dozen musical and theater productions.  She started doing performances while in third grade at North Grove school.  She’s also participated in state and national vocal competitions.  She has completed two novels (both in their first-draft form) which are in the Harry Potter fantasy genre.  Jennings ranks fifth in her class and is a member of the National Honor Society.  In 2020 she qualified for the National Spelling Bee.  Her volunteer service work includes active participation in the Rotary Interact club, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) events the past two years, and physical education programs assisting students with disabilities  She is currently working on documenting her arts  background in order to apply for acceptance at performance oriented schools like the California Institute of the Arts, University of Michigan, and University of Cincinnati,  Jennings will be performing in the upcoming Sycamore High School musical “Mama Mia” and was coaxed into singing a few measure of the production’s theme song.  The musical will be staged November 10-12.  Jennings said she will be donating her $100 check from Rotary to the school’s drama club.
The new Executive Director for the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC), Mark Williams, talked to Rotarians this week about his background and the outlook for economic development in the county.  Williams succeeds Paul Borek who retired in September after 15 years leading the DCEDC.
Williams began his remarks by giving special credit to his parents, both World War II veterans, for his service-oriented outlook.  He is no stranger to the region, having grown up in Mendota and then served in area economic development roles including as executive director of Growth Dimensions (serving Boone County), Economic Development Manager for the City of Rockford, and Executive Director of the Greater Freeport Partnership (serving Freeport and Stephenson County).  He serves on several statewide economic development boards.  He has been instrumental in successfully implementing various economic development tools such as Enterprise Zones and Tax Increment Financing Districts.  Williams is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.
Williams credited his predecessor with achieving significant countywide development interest and growth over the last few years.  This translates into increased industrial-related property evaluations that help reduce property tax rates.  Figures presented by Williams showed overall industrial-related investment in the county since the DCEDC was founded in 1987 totals over $4.8 billion with over $2.7 billion occurring since 2020.  Williams says this shows how economic development is really a long-term strategic discipline.  He noted that for this to continue there needs to be planning and support on where to locate future industrial-type development.  He added that much of this growth will be from businesses already here.
Williams says his approach to economic development is to look at various programs as cost reduction tools to make it easy for companies to decide to expand or locate here.  He noted the importance of reliable and abundant electric power, good road systems, and an available well-trained workforce as key ingredients for continued economic growth.  He considers Northern Illinois University a key player for creative product and workforce development.  More information about the DCEDC is available from their website:
A desire by members of the Middle School Interact Club (sponsored by the Rotary Club of Sycamore) to do a water project culminated with $2,000 in local funds helping pay for a well for the remote Guatemalan town of Churunel.  The well will cost over $200,000 and will bring safe, clean water to the village of 147 households.  Residents currently need to gather water from a spring outside of town and transport it in buckets to their homes.  Rotary Club of Milwaukee member Jerry Stepaniak was this week’s speaker and explained how they partnered with the group Engineers Without Borders and students from the Milwaukee School of Engineering to be project leads.  He said they are also working with a local agency in Guatemala and labor donated by Churunel residents.
Interact member Vivian Meier, a seventh grader and two-year club member, said it was a student driven idea to be involved with a global water project.  Past District Governor Steve Kuhn found out about the Milwaukee Club’s water well initiative and passed the information along.  Sycamore Rotary club member and Interact Sponsor, Julie Sgarlata, said the students organized a “loose change” collection and ended up raising $1,000.  This was then matched by Sycamore Rotary.
Stepaniak said the country of Guatemala suffers from debilitating poverty.  He said much of it stems from the aftermath of the country's civil war from 1960 - 1996 where an estimated 200,000 people died.  Complicating any recovery is the multiethnic base of their population according to Stepaniak, where some people still have direct ancestral links to the Mayan culture that predates Spanish settlers.  He says this accounts for the large numbers of Guatemalan residents immigrating to the U.S. to escape poverty.
Stepaniak is optimistic that additional training about maintenance and future expansion of the well system will ensure sustainability of the water system once it is complete.  Stepaniak expressed thanks for the support of the project and being able to share its impact with the Rotary Club of Sycamore.