When it comes down to it, Kane County Magazine is all about women.
We write about women’s style, women’s health, women’s hobbies and women’s achievements. But more than that, we strive to share with you stories about the women in your own community who have done amazing things.
In fact, many of our stories in this October issue share the successes and struggles of women who are financial advisors, mothers, breast cancer survivors and all of the above, and we feel honored to recognize such amazing ladies in the surrounding pages.
Kane County Magazine has decided to take that recognition one step further.
To honor those who have made it their passion to better their community, Kane County Magazine has chosen seven Kane County women to receive its first Women of Distinction Awards.
These awards will be given to women who have made a difference in Kane County and who are representative role models as leaders in their fields and communities. The featured women were nominated by a member of the community and selected by a special committee as one of the top seven women in the county.
In the following pages, you will meet each of our winners, and in subsequent months, you will find a special feature dedicated to a different honoree.
It is our hope that you become inspired by these women and find your own way to make Kane County a better place to live.
To further honor these exceptional women, Kane County Magazine will host an awards luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, at Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park.
The keynote speaker will be Harriet Parker, manager of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee Community College. Parker actively supports the local business community through her involvement on numerous boards and committees. But her 20 years of experience managing successful start-up businesses — in which she played a key role designing and marketing software products that are in use nationwide today — have made her a proven leader in the small business world. She will share words of empowerment at the luncheon.
The community is welcome to join Kane County Magazine in celebrating the achievements of our seven Women of Distinction and listen to our renowned guest speaker. Tickets cost $35. For more information or to purchase a ticket, visit www.kanecountymagazine.com.
Village of residence: Wayne
Organization/company/corporation: The Wellington Group Inc./Fiora’s Restaurant
Ann Anastasio has dedicated herself to creating jobs. In 2002, she formed The Wellington Group Inc. in Geneva, which refers human resource and recruiting professionals for contract projects and full-time employment positions. More than 1,000 men and women have been placed in well-paying positions through Anastasio’s company, which has grown to be recognized as one of the leading human resources companies in the nation.
Anastasio also saved 317 S. Third St. in downtown Geneva from possible demolition, turning it into Fiora’s Restaurant, which was recently voted “Best Restaurant” by Kane County residents.
Career ambitions aside, Anastasio gives to Blessings in a Backpack, which provides food to children from low income families; she has helped fund Christmas gifts and construction of a playground for orphaned children in Khazitan; and she funded the reconstruction of three homes for Haitian earthquake victims. Plus, she makes her Geneva property available for adoption events sponsored by 4 Paws 4 U Forever animal adoption charity.
“I have always found her to be a very kind and generous person who is impressive on many levels,” her nominator writes. “While she doesn’t talk much about [her] philanthropy and accomplishments, I was able to get her to agree to a brief interview during which I compiled [some of her achievements].”
Village of residence: Oswego
Organization/company/corporation: Law Offices of Gil and Cruz
Born and raised in Chicago, Elizabeth Berrones-Rotchford could have taken a prestigious job in her home city as an attorney. Instead, she chose to practice law in one of the most impoverished and dangerous parts of Chicago because she wanted to help the people there.
In 2006, she joined the Law Offices of Gil and Cruz in Aurora with one stipulation — that she be able to do as much pro bono work as she wanted. Since joining Gil and Cruz, she has accepted more than 100 pro bono cases and has devoted hundreds of hours helping Kane County residents by handling cases for Prairie State Legal Services and other agencies.
It is important to note that Berrones-Rotchford is no stranger to tough circumstances. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in the top 1 percent of her class, even though she was a single mother at 19. She also put herself through DePaul University College of Law — while raising a child on her own — and graduated in the top 15 percent of her class.
“The people she helps all appreciate her efforts,” her nominator writes. “As I write this today, yet another client has stopped by to thank Elizabeth for helping her obtain an Order of Protection against her abusive boyfriend. The client thanks her with [five] cucumbers and a handful of tomatoes she has grown from her garden. In Elizabeth’s eyes, that small gesture of thanks is worth more than any money.”
Victoria “Tory” Haines
City of residence: St. Charles
Organization/company/corporation: Embrace A Family
Victoria “Tory” Haines founded her nonprofit, Embrace A Family, seven years ago to help single mothers get a leg up in life.
Seven years later, she’s still running her organization, which today serves 66 tri-cities families with various needs. Volunteers coordinate school supply collections, clothing swaps, picnics, holiday parties and parenting workshops, plus any additional events that can help local moms.
Haines balances this work with her positions as president of the St. Charles Library board and as a board member of Elderday Center in Batavia, an adult day care center for those 55 and older.
She devotes a great deal of time to these endeavors, and community service is a top priority in her life.
“Tory and her husband were honored as the Charlemagne Award Winners in 2008,” her nominator writes, an award that is given to those who have spent their lives giving ‘voluntary service to the community that has made a significant, positive difference in the quality of life in St. Charles.’
City of residence: Batavia
Organization/company/corporation: St. Charles North High School
As coach of the St. Charles North Varsity Drill Team since 2002, Nancy Prentiss has known much success. Her teams have won 11 straight state titles, and in 2009, the drill team became Grand Champion at a Team Dance Illinois state competition.
But it’s her work outside of pure competition that sets this coach apart. She teaches her drill team members to be appreciative for what they have and to give back to the community by encouraging them to volunteer at places such as Living Well Cancer Resource Center in Geneva. There, her girls have assisted with classes and parties. They also have helped host parties and coat drives for a local elementary school under the direction of Prentiss.
Additionally, the Kick-A-Thon — a drill ream fundraiser where community members, parents and the drill teams from both St. Charles high schools form a kick line to perform 100 kicks at the Cross-Town Classic football game between St. Charles East and St. Charles North — has benefited from the hard work of Prentiss, who is a recent cancer survivor herself. In 2011 alone, the drill teams were able to donate nearly $82,000 to the American Cancer Society and Living Well Cancer Resource Center. More than $600,000 has been raised through this event in 18 years, not solely through Prentiss’ work, but definitely not without her.
“When I think of a woman I aspire to be like, I think of Nancy Prentiss,” her nominator writes. “She is definitely a selfless woman who lights up a room and has a heart that knows no limits. Through her leadership and compassion, she has made a huge difference in many people’s lives.”
City of residence: Batavia
Organization/company/corporation: Children’s Neurobiological Solutions (CNS) Foundation
In 2005, Mary Schneider’s 2-year-old son was diagnosed with mild-to-moderate cerebral palsy. Instead of accepting the diagnosis, she researched and presented an idea to Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke University that her son’s umbilical cord blood stem cells — which she had banked, not knowing if her son would ever need them — might help repair the neonatal stroke damage her son had encountered. Three months after Kurtzberg transplanted Schneider’s sons’ umbilical cord blood stem cells back into him, he was cleared of all his issues. Today, he is a healthy 9-year-old.
There is now a phase 2 and 3 clinical trial taking place at Duke for what Schneider started, and almost 200 children from all over the world have been accepted for transplant there. But Schneider wasn’t done. She proposed, helped draft the legislation and worked hard on the passage of the cord blood banking bill for Illinois. Through her various additional efforts, Illinois collects more cord blood donations for the National Marrow Donor Program than any other state in the U.S.
Most recently, she was named a grant recipient in 2011 from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to speak at the World Stem Cell Summit. She is also the cord blood educator and field representative for Cryo-Cell International Cord Blood Bank for the western and northwest suburbs of Chicago.
“What you really need to know about Mary though, is she never looks for a pat on the back for her efforts, but I would like to give her one,” her nominator writes.
City of residence: St. Charles
Organization/company/corporation: Royal Family KIDS
Royal Family KIDS is the nation’s leading network of camps for abused, neglected and abandoned children. As the volunteer director of the Kane County branch of Royal Family KIDS, Carol Weber has been able to impact the lives of many children.
Although the camp is only a week long, preparations take place throughout the year. Weber spends hours on the phone with social services locating children eligible for camp to fill every available spot. She makes sure counselors are trained, secures camp dates and locations, coordinates the week’s activities and purchases supplies.
On top of that immediate work, Weber helps coordinate the Feets of Strength 5K Run in Batavia, in which the proceeds are donated to Royal Family KIDS.
“Carol’s passion for these hurting children is great and is evident in how effectively and joyfully she serves and leads in her role as Director of Royal Family [KIDS],” her nominator writes. “She knows all her efforts and hard work are helping to heal these children’s wounds.
As she often says when things get frustrating, ‘It’s all for the kids.’ Carol Weber’s desire to make a difference in the world truly makes her a [Woman] of Distinction.”
Joan Arteberry Zavitz
City of residence: St. Charles
Organization/company/corporation: City of St. Charles Youth Commission
For more than 20 years, Joan Arteberry Zavitz has been a member of the City of St. Charles Youth Commission, which directs services and grants to support the welfare of the city’s youth. She has provided leadership for the Teen Center, has focused on youth crisis and prevention of suicide and addiction and has helped choose “Challenge Grants,” in which young people identify a need in their peer group and offer solutions to intervene. For her work with the commission, Zavitz was awarded a key to the city.
But her community service doesn’t stop there. Zavitz has been a leader at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles; she is a founding member of Hearts of Hope, a nonprofit organization that fights for drug-free communities through awareness, education, prevention, advocacy and support; and she is on the board of directors for TriCity Family Services, Visiting Nurse Association and the Family Support Center.
“Joan has achieved so many things in her life that I cannot pick [one] single achievement that stands out more than another in Joan’s life and career,” her nominator writes. “I strongly feel that Joan has been a role model for community service … .” kc