By TRAVIS MORSE email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — The Lifeboat Alliance homeless shelter is now one of six finalists competing for the prestigious Governor's Cup award, said Mt. Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley.
Recently, Lifeboat Alliance won a 2013 Governor's Hometown Award in the category of Service and Mentoring. There are six award categories.
This achievement puts the agency in the running for the Governor's Cup, which is awarded annually to one of the six Hometown Award winners.
“We are elite just by winning in our category. We would be super-elite if we won the Governor's Cup,” Chesley said. “It shows people throughout the state that the people of Mt. Vernon step forward to work together and do outstanding projects to help make Mt. Vernon a quality city.”
Lifeboat Alliance opened in October 2012. It not only serves as a homeless shelter, but operates a number of programs to help the disadvantaged transition back into the workplace and find stable housing.
Jenny O'Daniel, executive director of Lifeboat Alliance, said the honor of being named a Governor's Cup finalist comes at an “opportune” time since Oct. 1 is the shelter's one-year anniversary.
“This speaks volumes,” O'Daniel said of the achievement.
Since its inception, Lifeboat Alliance has serviced about 150 families through its programs, said Marilyn Shipp-Gary, casework manager/security guard at the shelter.
“We're proud to be able to help the community and the surrounding communities,” Shipp-Gary said.
Before Lifeboat Alliance, meeting the needs of the homeless in this area was a “fragmented process,” said Bonnie Jerdon, tourism director of Mt. Vernon.
But the new shelter, Jerdon said, has taken a multi-faceted approach to helping the homeless and it has proven effective.
“There's just a lot more to it than just a shelter,” Jerdon said.
This is the second time a Mt. Vernon project has been a finalist for the Governor's Cup, Chesley said.
Last year, the Daughters of the American Revolution Women's Memorial outside the Brehm Library won a Hometown Award and was a Cup finalist.
“I think it just reinforces what a great community we have here filled with volunteers that meet the needs of the residents,” Jerdon said.
On Oct. 3, Jerdon, O'Daniel, and Chesley will travel to Springfield to make a presentation on why Lifeboat Alliance should be awarded the Governor's Cup. Then, about a week later, the winner will be announced, Chesley said.
“I feel sometimes recognition needs to be made for the people that put in all the hard work, planning, and the follow-through,” Chesley said.
The Governor's Hometown Award was launched in 1983 as a way to recognize projects that have contributed to a community's quality of life, states the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's website.
Winners of the Governor's Cup receive a traveling silver trophy. All Hometown Award winners are honored at a reception at the Governor's Mansion.