By TESA GLASS email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — The city has received the highest award in the state during the 31st Annual Governor's Hometown Awards.
The award comes after Mt. Vernon won a Governor's Hometown Award for the Lifeboat Alliance homeless shelter project. The project was one of six Hometown Award winners in the running for the Governor's Cup Award.
"I'm so excited," said Mayor Mary Jane Chesley. "It's just an honor for the city of Mt. Vernon."
The award was given to the project, which had already received a Hometown Award in the volunteerism category. Hometown Award winners receive a plaque and a road sign for its community — the Governor's Cup winner receives the traveling trophy and a unique road sign that proclaims its status as the overall winner.
"It just shows what residents of Mt. Vernon can do when they put their heads together and come up with a plan and follow through with that plan," Chesley said. "They took an old, dilapidated building and turned it into a functional, safe facility for people to get shelter, food, clothing, counseling assistance and financial guidance."
The City of Mt. Vernon was awarded the traveling silver trophy on Tuesday during a ceremony in the Illinois Executive Mansion. The trophy is at Lifeboat Alliance shelter, and an official unveiling will be held at a later date.
Those attending the ceremony representing Mt. Vernon and the project were Jenny O'Daniel, executive director of Lifeboat Alliance, Father John Iffert, president of the Lifeboat Alliance Board, City Tourism Director Bonnie Jerdon, who wrote the award application, and Chesley.
"You could look around the room and see all the representation of volunteer group that made a difference in their communities," Chesley said. "You know they made a difference in the lives of their residents, their communities, and the State of Illinois."
"The Governor's Home Town Awards honor the efforts of 22 remarkable groups who have selflessly dedicated their time and efforts to making their communities a better place to life," said Gov. Pat Quinn. "We applaud these groups of volunteers for improving the lives of others and truly making a difference in our state."
Lifeboat Alliance opened in October 2012, serving not only as a homeless shelter, but operates a number of programs to help people and families transition back into the workplace and find stable housing. Lifeboat Alliance has served about 150 families in the first year of operation through its programs.
The shelter supplies case workers to help guests with job searches and financial planning. The Lifeboat Alliance used more than 300 community volunteers who donated 5,000 hours of service and $13,800 worth of materials toward the project. In addition, a total of $321,258 in private funds were raised to complete the project and operate the shelter.
The city is not new to the Hometown Awards, and this is the second time the city has received back-to-back awards and the first time it has received the Governor's Cup.
In 1988, the city received the award for the Regional Senior Olympic Games; in 1990, the World Affairs Forum was honored; in 2002, the Mt. Vernon Police Athletic League was the volunteer recipient; in 2004, Mt. Vernon City-Wide Cleanup was honored; in 2005, the Veterans Memorial project at Veterans Park was honored; in 2009, two projects were honored — the Granada Center for the Performing Arts and Nutrition on Weekends program; and in 2012, the Daughters of the American Revolution Women's Veterans Memorial statue at C.E. Brehm Memorial Library received an award.