North Suburban YMCA among chamber award winners
Updated: January 20, 2013 12:23PM
NORTHBROOK — The Northbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry has chosen recipients for its Seventh Annual Business Awards.
The Volunteer of the Year, selected for consistently helping the Chamber achieve its goals, is Trudy Welker, who died last November and whose family will receive the award on her behalf.
Corporate Citizen of the Year, recognized for promoting a spirit of giving and community involvement, is the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel.
And the Small Business of the Year, honored for excellent business practices, is the North Suburban YMCA.
The businesses will be formally honored at the Annual Meeting and Dinner Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Renaissance Hotel.
The two business award winners will receive plaques and a $500 donation to be given to the charity of their choice. The volunteer award winner’s family will receives a $200 honorarium.
Whether hanging posters for the Chamber’s annual golf outing, coaxing golfers out of a few dollars for raffle tickets, or tracking down donations to support the Chamber’s Auction and Taste, Welker will be remembered as one of the Chamber’s most likable and dependable volunteers.
“Every time the Chamber needed her, she was happy to do the task at hand, and did it cheerfully,” said Lise Schleicher, a fellow Chamber volunteer.
Jeanine Rippel, for many years the Chair of the Chamber’s Auction and Taste volunteer committee, also noted that working with Trudy was always a pleasure.
“With so many tasks to manage, I appreciated how reliable and dependable Trudy was and how dedicated she was to the Chamber’s goals,” she added.
Trudy’s legacy of helping others dates back to her days as an office assistant at Glenbrook North High School.
Beginning in 1975, she worked in the foreign language department, and later the dean’s office.
Her son, Don Pollack, recalled that she enjoyed interacting with everyone and was a generous humanitarian for several generations of high school students.
“She often reached out to students that others would label as ‘problem kids,’” he added.
As she was winding down her 23-year career at the high school, Trudy launched her aromatherapy career and became a certified aromatherapist.
Trudy is survived by six children and their families who will donate her $200 gift to the Northbrook Public Library.
While the Renaissance, Northbrook’s largest hotel, serves an international clientele, it regularly demonstrates compassion for the surrounding community, which is why it will receive the Corporate Citizen of the Year Award.
Whether it’s something as simple as donating space to a local chess club, or hosting a day-long event to pack thousands of meals for area needy families, the Renaissance has a consistent track record of giving back.
Hundreds of area organizations and businesses approach the Renaissance every year seeking donations for their charitable causes and fund-raising events.
During the past three years, General Manager Rik Blyth reported that the Renaissance has steadily increased its support for area organizations.
Since 2010, the Renaissance has made more than 600 donations in the form of overnight stays and hotel packages valued at more than $21,000.
“We are happy to support these causes and try to help whenever we can,” Blyth said.
Chamber board member Steven Lewis, who also served on the nominating committee to select the award winners, noted that the Renaissance always goes above and beyond the call of duty to support Chamber events and the community.
“People probably don’t realize it, but without the help of the Renaissance, executing something as massive as the Meal Packing event or the Chamber’s Auction and Taste would be extremely difficult,” he added.
“Having the event at the Renaissance made it possible for 260 volunteers to package more than 42,000 meals for area food pantries. This kind of generosity is meaningful and helps to make our events fun for everyone.”
And the North Suburban YMCA won the Small Business of the Year Award, because it has made a total turn-around since 2006, when it faced its own fiscal cliff.
Confronted by crippling debt, membership at an all-time low, deteriorating infrastructure and with the threat of losing its charter from the National Y-USA, the situation could not have been more bleak.
But Executive Director Howard Schultz launched a “Save the Y” campaign.
“We were committed to making our Y a community center that would provide vital services, open to everyone, ” Schultz said.
Soon, membership and participation began to turn around. Momentum built quickly and steadily, enabling the Y to completely discharge its $2.3 million of debt by March 2008 and reassure the Y USA of its viability.
A capital campaign continued, raising a total of $5.8 million to date, providing funds to remake the facility into an attractive, welcoming location and replace much of its aging mechanical systems.
The Y also has experienced a 31 percent overall growth in membership, from a little more than 1,550 dues-paying-member households (not including scholarships) in November 2009 to 2,030 member households in December of 2012.
Young adult memberships (ages 18 - 30) are now three times what they were just two years ago, growing from around 70 in January of 2011 to a little more than 210 by the end of 2012.
Family memberships also have increased 36 percent, growing from 673 in November of 2009 to 884 by the end of 2012.
“We always believed that if we could show the public the potential for a rejuvenated Y, we could achieve extraordinary things here,” said Matthew Brennan, president of the Y’s board.