Find out the latest news and events from the Heart of Illinois United Way, which brings together people from business, labor, government, health and human services to address community needs in Marshall, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell and Woodford Counties in Central Illinois.

Steve Montez Receives 2022 Hoot Gibson Award

L-R, Jennifer Zammuto, President with Steve Montez and Bob Gates, Board Chair

L-R, Jennifer Zammuto, President with Steve Montez and Bob Gates, Board Chair

Since 1985, the Heart of Illinois United Way has recognized a volunteer who spends countless hours working without fanfare to help others. Our annual Hoot Gibson Award is presented in memory of Horace J. “Hoot” Gibson, Jr. who pursued his goals in a quiet, determined matter, caring little if others knew of his accomplishments. In addition to serving on our health committee and as board secretary, Hoot’s hard work more than 40 years ago helped the Heart of Illinois United Way transition our allocation process to address prioritized needs. His leadership is the basis of how we continue to fund vital needs today.

Steve Montez, our 2022 Hoot Gibson honoree, has much in common with Hoot.

His volunteer support of our United Way began in 1985 on our fund distribution committee.

He left for a couple of years for graduate school, but came back in 1990, and served as a campaign ambassador. Since 1998, he as a volunteer grant reviewer for our Community Impact Fund and his support has helped us  strengthen families and enhance education opportunities for the people in central Illinois.

In 2019, he retired from a 35-year career as the Supervisor of Arts and Leisure Services with the Peoria Park District during which time his mission was to share his extensive experience and knowledge of building sustainable communities through quality recreation, supportive programming, and leisure opportunities.

During his career, Steve also served on the boards of several community groups including the Peoria Area Community Events (PACE), the Peoria Area Arts and Sciences Council, Arts Partners of Central Illinois, Peoria Players Theater, the Community Foundation of Central Illinois, the Heart of Illinois Senior Olympics, and the Return to Pimiteoui Pow Wow. He also served on the Illinois Arts Council Granting Committee and currently works with the Community Foundation’s Community Needs granting committee.

Beyond these contributions, he also devoted much of his time to another volunteer activity that is dear to his heart – coaching young people including youth baseball, soccer, and wrestling. As you might suspect, he is a sports enthusiast, but his passion is to use athletics as a vehicle for building leadership skills in youth.

Steve has long considered the Heart of Illinois United Way to be a positive force for change and mentorship in our community. He attributes his growth as a community member and a co-worker to his experience with United Way.  Congratulations to Steve Montez!

Freedom House Presented 2022 Jim and Katie Owens Partner Award

L-R Jennifer Zammuto, President with Jen Johnson and Michael Zerneck from Freedom House Staff and Bob Gates, Board Chair

L-R Jennifer Zammuto, President with Jen Johnson and Michael Zerneck from Freedom House Staff and Bob Gates, Board Chair

In 2007, the Heart of Illinois United Way created the United Way Partner Award that is presented annually to a United Way agency in recognition of their outstanding leadership, collaboration and engagement with the Heart of Illinois United Way.

In 2009, Jim and Katie Owens were presented with the Heart of Illinois United Way’s Philanthropist of the Year award at the Tocqueville Society reception. Over the years, Jim and Katie have provided outstanding volunteer leadership to the United Way and our partner agencies. They have served on our campaign cabinet, board of directors and several committees. To recognize them for their tremendous support, in 2009 the United Way Partner Award was renamed in their honor to be the Jim and Katie Owens Partner Award.

At the 2022 Heart of Illinois United Way’s annual meeting on August 3, Freedom House was presented with this year’s award.

Founded in 1983 as a walk-in shelter, Freedom House serves more than 800 clients and provides more than 4,000 nights of shelter annually, plus countless hours of medical and legal advocacy, counseling, prevention education, and professional training.

Under the guidance of Executive Director Michael Zerneck, the agency has become a strong supporter of our organization. Since 2018, the first year the agency received funding, they have successfully administered and achieved outcomes for services that focus on intervention and counseling for individuals and families impacted by domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Over the last couple of years, the agency was a recipient of the Illinois COVID-19 Response Funds distributed by our United Way. Funds were used efficiently and effectively to provide emergency food and supplies, interim housing/emergency shelter, health and mental health care services, and direct financial assistance. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, this agency provided strength and refuge for many individuals in the northern portion of our United Way’s service area.

With a mission to provide compassionate, confidential, free services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as awareness and prevention education, we were honored to present the 2022 Jim and Katie Owens Partner Award to Freedom House.

Women United: 100 Years of Community Impact

You’re Invited to this event on Thursday, May 5, 2022, 5:00pm to 7:30pm, at Par-A-Dice Hotel, East Peoria.

Read more at hoiunitedway.org/womenunited/

The history of the Heart of Illinois United Way is truly the history of how the people of central Illinois, women and men both, care for one another. We hope you will join us for a fun, relaxing evening honoring our past, celebrating our present, and providing inspiration for the future. Click here to learn more or RSVP…

Heart of Illinois United Way Celebrates 100 Years of Community Impact and Announces 2021 Campaign Results

The Heart of Illinois United Way has proven time and again that we are built to support central Illinois in times like these. Through our Community Impact Fund, we are able to adapt to changing needs while providing a solid foundation of services year-round.

Each year, approximately 300 local companies and organizations participate in our annual campaign. In 2021, there were 14 new corporate gifts, 11 corporate gifts with a 10% or more increase, 22 new employee campaigns, and 53 organizations that increased their donations to the United Way by 10% or more. In total, the 2021 Heart of Illinois United Way Campaign raised $9,115,359.

Annually, the Campaign Achievement and Best-in-Class Awards are one way the Heart of Illinois United Way recognizes local companies who improve their campaigns. Peoria Housing Authority received the Campaign Achievement Award for the largest percentage increase in employee participation; and Burklund Distributors, Inc. received the Best-in-Class Award for continued campaign excellence from year to year.

“As the Heart of Illinois United Way celebrates a century of community impact this year, we will continue our mission to help the people of central Illinois to care for one another. Just as our first campaign brought our community together for a common cause in January 1922, our work across sectors ensures we effectively stretch every dollar to make real change. An investment in our work is the best combination of using our hearts and trusting data to help the community we call home,” Jennifer Zammuto, President, said.

The Heart of Illinois United Way constantly evaluates data and collaborates with community partners to ensure personal and corporate donations to our Community Impact Fund address the greatest needs while providing a reliable and steady source of income for our partner agencies. Through the community’s generosity, the Heart of Illinois United Way ensures people in central Illinois have continued access to education, financial stability, and health programs.

“To raise more than $9 million over the past year in a community the size of central Illinois is an incredible achievement. The Heart of Illinois United Way does not do this work alone. For a century, teams of nonprofits, volunteers, and donors have generously worked together to create sustainable impact on the education, financial stability, and health needs of central Illinois,” Brian Ray, Regional President of PNC Bank and 2021 Campaign Chair, said.

Contributions to the Heart of Illinois United Way stay in central Illinois supporting vital health and human care programs throughout Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Stark, Marshall, and Putnam counties.

News about our 100th Anniversary Celebration!

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You’re Invited to the 100th Anniversary Celebration!

Join us to celebrate a century of community impact! Founded October 1921, our United Way has created lasting change for the education, financial stability, and health needs of people in central Illinois for 100 years. We could not have done this work without you. We hope you will help us celebrate!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022
5:00-7:00 pm at Par-A-Dice Hotel, East Peoria

Thank you to our celebration underwriters:
Thank you to our 100th Anniversary Celebration underwriters:

Event Details

The 100th Anniversary Celebration is an open-house/after work/cocktail event; no assigned seating; guests can come and go as they need between 5-7 pm; program runs from 5:45-6:15 pm; cash bar and light appetizers.

To ensure guest safety, the Heart of Illinois United Way and the event venue require that guests follow current public health protocols, including but not limited to wearing a mask at all times unless enjoying food, a drink, or taking a photograph. If you are registering additional guests on their behalf, please share this information with them. Thank you!

Click here to RSVP!

Questions? Please Contact:

Gina Edwards, VP Marketing and Community Engagement
Heart of Illinois United Way
309-674-5181, ext. 1234

The Foundation of Trust, Peoria Magazine, November 2021

By Jennifer Zammuto, Heart of Illinois United Way

Building trust is key to successful teamwork in the workplace and in the community.

The building blocks of successful teams start with a strong foundation of trust. From CEOs to coaches, from business leaders to teachers, we have all worked on teams that are not as cohesive or successful as we knew they could be. And, if you are lucky enough to have been part of a team that is highly successful, what was the difference? Trust.

Trust Involves Letting Go

Any great coach will tell you that trust is not a one-way street. Not only do the players need to trust the coach, but the coach must trust the players—and the players must trust each other—in order for the team to win.

It is easy to talk about but much more difficult to do, especially if you have been burned before. Trust involves letting go of control a little, and it requires leaders to have the courage to address challenges as they happen. This is not something that can happen overnight, but it can happen immediately in small ways. Trust is earned when actions match words.

The same dynamic takes place within our workplaces. Good leaders do not micro-manage—they trust their people to do their work; they share information and are not afraid to admit when something is not working. Over the past year, our trust in one another has been put to the test in schools and workplaces. Improving trust starts with communicating and understanding your team, where they are coming from, and who they are.

Read more at PeoriaMagazines.com…

High Street in Peoria Named Honorary Heart of Illinois United Way

Thank you to City of Peoria for joining us on October 25 to dedicate High Street in honor of our work and the place we have called home for 60 years.There is not “one way” to celebrate 100 years of community impact…but an Honorary Heart of Illinois United “Way” is a great place to start!

Thank you to City of Peoria, Councilman Sid Paul Ruckriegel, and Councilman Charles Grayeb for joining us on October 25 (date of our first board meeting in 1921) to dedicate High Street in honor of our work and the place we have called home for 60 years.

Watch the dedication on YouTube…

Heart of Illinois United Way Turns 100 Today!

It's our birthday! Here's to all of you who made it possible! The Heart of Illinois United Way was founded October 18, 1921! Thank you to the more than 35 companies, families, and organizations who sent us birthday wishes today! It’s our birthday! Here’s to all of you who made it possible! The Heart of Illinois United Way was founded October 18, 1921! Thank you to the more than 35 companies, families, and organizations who sent us birthday wishes today! Click here to “tune in” button and help us celebrate!

Celebrating 100 Years of Community Impact: how it all began

Thank you to Peoria Magazine for helping us celebrate the launch of our 100th anniversary year this month! Checkout their October issue for a sneak peek at how Heart of Illinois United Way, along with the support of our community, have relied on data-driven processes to create lasting change for the education, financial stability, and health needs for the past 10 decades.

Click here to see a sneak peek of our history.

Thank you to Peoria Magazine for helping us celebrate the launch of our 100th anniversary year this month!

Mike and Margee Cullinan, 2021 McCord Philanthropist of the Year

Mike and Margee Cullinan

Mike and Margee Cullinan

Congratulations to long-time Heart of Illinois United Way supporters – Mike and Margee Cullinan – our 2021 McCord Philanthropists of the Year! As donors, volunteers, and sponsors, they have been part of our organization for more than 30 years.

In honor of the McCord Family’s long-standing support of central Illinois, this annual United Way award was named the McCord Philanthropists of the Year in 2018 to recognize the legacy of the Michel and Kay McCord. At the heart of their work, rooted in love, was a constant commitment to the community. Those honored with this award emulate the McCord’s values.

Established in 2007, the Philanthropists of the Year award recognizes members of the United Way’s Tocqueville Society who are committed to the health and well-being of central Illinois. The award honors individuals or couples for their leadership, dedication, and inspiration – thereby creating a lasting impact on the quality of life in our community. For a list of previous Philanthropist of the Year honorees, click here.

Congratulations to Heather Ford, 2021 Hoot Gibson Honoree

Since 1985, the Heart of Illinois United Way has recognized our community’s unsung heroes who spend countless hours working without fanfare to help others. Our annual Hoot Gibson award is presented in memory of Horace J. “Hoot” Gibson who was the manager of the Peoria IBM office for many years along with being an active volunteer for the United Way.

Heather Ford, this year’s honoree, has much in common with Hoot. Dr. Ford is a Professor of User Experience Design at Bradley University where she teaches and coordinates the User Experience Program for the Department of Interactive Media within the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts.

With more than twenty years of fine art, digital creative, and UI/UX experience in the commercial and academic sectors, Heather shares her experiences in the methodologies of user experience design and research to not only teach the upcoming generation but to also help local nonprofits with website, mobile, branding, and product design. This past year, she has rebranded Home for All Continuum of Care (part of Heart of Illinois United Way) including a new logo, website, and more. When it came time to launch the new mobile hygiene unit called HOWIE (Hygiene.On.Wheels.Independence.Empowered.) as part of the United Way’s COVID-19 efforts, Heather designed the vehicle’s outer wrap and interior graphics to lend the space a welcoming and inviting atmosphere for individuals experiencing homelessness in central Illinois.

Heather is also an active member of the Continuum’s General Membership and also serves on the Board for Phoenix Community Development Services. She is the first to raise her hand to offer her services when a task or project comes up. And you know when she is at the helm, that the work will be completed well and on time without so much as a reminder or nudge.