The League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn announced its 2021-22 annual award winners, recognizing outstanding contributions from among its hundreds of members.
Selected by committee from nominations submitted by members, the awards are bestowed during the organization’s annual meeting, according to a news release that noted the league has given the awards for the past 22 years. The awards recognize the outstanding contributions to voter education and community service that have resulted from volunteer efforts benefiting the citizens of Glen Ellyn.
The Susan B. Anthony Voter Service Award goes to a member or members who have worked diligently to register voters and educate voters on candidates and issues. This year’s award goes to outgoing Voter Services Director Bernadette “Bernie” Laszewski, a two-time winner of the award. A member since 2019, Laszewski got involved immediately in voter education and was sworn in as a voter registrar. In 2020, she took on the role of voter services co-chair and had to reinvent the role because the pandemic.
“Bernie’s commitment to the League through her belief in the League’s work is what makes her so effective in this role,” league Co-President Sarah Allen said in the release. “She spent countless hours resetting the candidate forum format to a virtual program, which was emulated across DuPage County League forums.”
Laszewski also led the charge to create a program aimed at young voters through specific targeting at the train station during Lollapalooza weekend, in high schools through government teachers, via special birthday postcards, and with “selfie” frames that helped soon-to-be 18-year-olds picture themselves as voters. Her voter services team also worked to arrange educational demonstrations, along with six other DuPage Leagues and the Office of the DuPage County Clerk, for the new voting equipment that debuted in the June 28 Illinois primary.
The Outstanding New League Member Service Award is bestowed on a new member who has become actively involved and assumed a leadership role in the League. The award goes to Barbara Kwaitkowsky, a newcomer to the league as well as Glen Ellyn, having moved with her husband from Oak Park in 2020.
“Barbara jumped in headfirst in her first year as a member of our League,” League Co-President Michelle Thorsell said in the release. “She has fully engaged in league activities, volunteering to serve on the Civic Betterment Party Study, agreeing to serve in a leadership position on our 2022-23 board as director of local government, and, most recently, volunteering to attend the national League of Women Voters Convention where she will serve as one of our League’s delegates. She’s a rising star.”
The Phyllis Renfro Community Action Award goes to a member who has been exceptionally active in the League and is an activist in the community. The winner is Erica Nelson, who recently won the Hometown Hero award from the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce. The league has recognized her for a wide range of league and community activities to which she has committed her time, energy and leadership.
Nelson served as co-president of the league from 2019-21 and is a voter service co-director.
”Erica’s excellent management skills in so many areas of league leadership are deeply valued and appreciated,” Allen said. “She has a strong commitment to the mission of the League and works tirelessly to ensure that our democracy remains strong.”
Nelson is one of the founders and a board member of One Community, a nonprofit organization in Glen Ellyn dedicated to creating an inclusive community. She was a District 41 board member for 12 years and served as president of the board. She has been on the P.E.P. Education Foundation board since 2015 and is an active member of Rotary and the Glen Ellyn Resource Center. Nelson is an advocate for improving resources for mental health services, helping steward a successful effort to pass legislation creating a 708 Mental Health Board in Milton Township that now actively serves the community.
“Our League and our community are fortunate that Erica is so committed to improving the lives of others,” Thorsell said. “In this work, she is a leader who engages others, and I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition.”
For information, visit lwvge.org.