MORRIS – In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first began to take hold and change lives around the country, Grundy Area Vocational Center Health Occupations program coordinator Jennifer Shell was one of the first to take action toward helping others when she received an email from the Illinois Department of Public Health stating the need for personal protective equipment.
GAVC Director Lance Copes said Shell went to the school and retrieved surplus items. These included 163 isolation gowns, 50 shoe covers, 100 caps, 175 regular face masks, 15 N95 respirators, 15 protective goggles and 65 boxes of protective gloves. These, in turn, were distributed to Park Pointe Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Morris and Morris Hospital.
For those and other efforts, such as personally sewing masks to be used at area health care centers and having her students write letters to Park Pointe residents, Shell received an Exelon Everyday Hero award Tuesday while she was teaching her class. The recognition, sponsored by Exelon and the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce, comes with a reward of $4,000 in cash from Exelon and $1,000 in Grundy Chamber gift certificates.
“We at Exelon take a lot of pride in helping our community,” Exelon Dresden Generating Station site communications manager Sara Peters said when presenting Shell with the award. “When I read about you making and donating the masks, having your students write letters to the Park Pointe residents and doing the ‘Flat Stanley’ pictures, it was exactly what we had in mind when we came up with this award. I am proud to present it to you.”
Copes nominated Shell for the award. His nomination read:
“Jennifer Shell, lead GAVC Health Occupations teacher, took it upon herself to support community organizations in need of PPE when COVID hit the region in spring of 2020. Jennifer organized the massive effort of donating GAVC PPE supplies to the local hospital and long-term care facilities. Jennifer’s generosity and forward thinking helped keep hundreds safe during the pandemic and modeled the true spirit of health care and giving for all GAVC students.”
Copes also cited a March 2020 story that ran in the Morris Herald-News in his nomination.
Shell was surprised and touched to receive the award.
“Definitely surprised,” she said as she wiped away tears after a round of applause from her students. “I didn’t do any of this because I wanted something for it. The money will go right back to the classroom.
“I like to say that I am their [the students] role model. I hope I am teaching them to jump in and help whenever they can, so to get this award presented to me in front of them means a lot. Hopefully they will see that helping others is a good thing. There are so many other wonderful and deserving people. I just can’t believe that I got nominated.”
Shell and her class have continued to work with Park Pointe.
“We just completed our hours and went to the nursing homes,” she said. “The residents were so happy to see the kids. The staff at Park Pointe said they have never seen their residents so happy.”
Copes had more praise for Shell.
“Jennifer is just fabulous with the passion she has to give and care for others,” he said. “We had a good program before, but she has made it great. We at GAVC are very grateful to have her working with us.”