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.