Judson University Honors D. Ray Wilson Award Recipient Dr. Risé D. Jones
(Elgin, IL – May 7, 2014) More than 325 local volunteers and civic leaders gathered at Judson University on Wednesday morning, May 7, for the institution’s Community Prayer Breakfast.
Dr. Risé D. Jones received the 2014 D. Ray Wilson Volunteer Service Award, given to the candidate who has contributed to the greater good within the Fox Valley community by voluntarily serving others' physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual needs. Dr. Risé D. Jones is the co-founder of Hamilton Wings (HW), an enrichment program for Elgin-area children that uses the arts to promote leadership development and academic readiness of socially and/or economically challenged children.
"Dr. Jones has been described by friends and colleagues as tireless, determined, and passionate about meeting the ever-increasing needs of Elgin’s under-served youth," said Mary Rees Freeman, announcing Jones as the winner. Freeman was the 2013 recipient of the D. Ray Wilson Award. "It is said that children flock to this incredible volunteer to soak up her knowledge, her passion for arts education, her love and affection, and most importantly, her desire for them to succeed in life."
Under Jones' leadership, Hamilton Wings develops arts-based, out-of-school programs that directly link to School District U-46 Goals and Learning Standards as well as Illinois State Board of Education Standards, utilizing the arts as a vehicle for student success. Dr. Jones is responsible for developing award-winning curriculum for Hamilton Wings, known as SCORE! (Students Creating Opera to Reinforce Education!), through which students create, develop and produce an original opera in nine months with the assistance of professional artists from the Chicagoland area. SCORE! has grown to provide over 140 hours of arts-based, educational workshops to socially and economically challenged youth in 13 schools from School District U-46. It was even honored by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities “Coming Up Taller” multiple years in a row, distinguishing it as "one of the 50 top after-school and out-of-school arts- and humanities-based programs in the United States."
In addition to her 17 years of volunteer leadership with Hamilton Wings, Dr. Jones has volunteered for several other organizations, including the local YWCA, the African American Student Advisory Commission for U-46 and the Elgin Community College Board of Trustees. She has also contributed her own musical talent to numerous charitable organizations, and was recently given a grant from the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission for a three-part series titled "Legacies in Song," an adaptation of "An Evening with Ethel Waters."
Four other well-known volunteers of the Fox Valley were nominated for the award, including Jeffrey Small, Velma Sept, and Dr. Phyllis E. Folarin. The award was named for D. Ray Wilson, a renowned Fox Valley civic leader and the event founder of Judson's annual community prayer breakfast.
The event featured Dr. Dean Hirsch, former CEO of World Vision International, as the morning's keynote speaker. Hirsch served as World Vision president from 1996 through 2009, and then as Global Ambassador for the organization until 2010. During his presidency, Hirsch refocused World Vision’s development and advocacy work for children. Globally, World Vision programs now benefit more than 3.6 million children and their families and communities. Under Hirsch’s leadership, World Vision dramatically scaled up its relief operations, responding to large-scale disasters including the Asian tsunami in 2005-06 and the Myanmar cyclone and Sichuan earthquake in 2008. During his tenure, World Vision’s income grew five-fold. Today, its 40,000 staff members provide health care, education, clean water, emergency food, tools, shelter and technical expertise to millions of the world’s poorest inhabitants. Currently, Hirsch works as a part time consultant to a number of non-profit agencies that provide assistance domestically and internationally. His focus remains on programs serving the poor and disadvantaged. Among his clients are World Vision, KPMG and Child Help.
In his keynote, Hirsch spoke of unintended consequences versus surprise consequences in international affairs, explaining that while the news is full of unintended negative consequences, the world is still full of surprise positive consequences as the result of people helping one another. He shared stories from his work with World Vision in remote areas where he witnessed people of faith working together to meet community needs. In one example, Hirsch described the situation in outer Mongolia, where young children fled their abusive, alcoholic parents to live in manholes beneath the village streets. Thanks to the the response of the local faith community and World Vision, these children now have food and shelter and a desire to learn, so much so that there are not enough school classrooms to house them all.
He encouraged the audience to be generous, globally-minded citizens, always asking the question, "What surprise consequences can we offer the world in need through our generosity? How can we continue to meet these changing needs? How can we give more, surprise others, and surprise ourselves?"
Rick Jakle, president of the Fox Valley Broadcasting Company, emceed the early morning event. A series of prayers were led by local civic leaders including Daniel Walter, partner and senior vice president of Lundstrom Insurance; Barry Swenson, executive vice president of Wings Associates, LLC; Ian Simkins, a 2006 Judson alumnus and current pastor at Poplar Creek Church of Bartlett, Ill.; and Jennifer Benson, a 2003 Judson alumna and the manager of the Downtown Neighborhood Association Harvest Market in Elgin, Ill. The Westminster Christian School Choir provided musical entertainment.
Photos Courtesy: Eric Secker and Rachel DesJardins, Judson University