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!