Retired Streator Chamber of Commerce Director Jack Dzuris was surprised Monday when he was awarded the inaugural Jack of all Trades award, named after him, at the chamber’s 109th annual meeting.
The crowd at the Eastwood knew as much, because he was digging for a joke. And managed to come up with one on the fly.
Dzuris had served the chamber since October 2009, delivering a regular string of jokes at the annual dinners.
His passion for Streator is serious, and the new award will go to model citizens who share their expertise and serve as role models for the community.
“I’m without words,” Dzuris said in an emotional speech after accepting the award. “This is really a shock and I really appreciate it. I love Streator.”
Dzuris was just one of many individuals and businesses highlighted Monday for their service to Streator.
Ellen Vogel, community health engagement program manager at OSF and coordinator for Live Well Streator, was awarded the Maxine Wargo Award, which is given to someone who works to improve Streator through hands-on work, positive outreach, leadership and motivation.
“What an honor,” Vogel told those in attendance after receiving the award. “I knew Maxine and what a fabulous person she was. Thank you so much for this, I really appreciate it.”
The Cephas Williams Award was given to Rick and Stephanie Wilkinson, who opened Gaetano’s Vault at 200 E. Main St. The Wilkinsons opened Gaetano’s Vault in the former Union/Centrue bank building in a 1920s theme, completely rehabbing the building, adding a courtyard and keeping the vault in place, as a destination restaurant for Streator.
Wilkinson was unable to attend Monday, but Streator Chamber President Jennifer Skerston said Wilkinson gave back to Streator with the project and it has transformed downtown Streator in a positive way.
Several other business and individual awards winners were named:
Outstanding Young Leaders: Riley Hintzsche, Streator High School agriculture instructor and FFA advisor; Afton Caulkins, Danchris Nursery, Streator Park Board member and Streator Young Professionals treasurer; Haley Lentman, founder of Busy Bee Activity and Learning Center; Ed Levy, Streator firefighter, Streator Elementary board president; and Derek Barichello, regional news editor of The Times and NewsTribune.
Manufacturing/Industrial: Lilja Construction
Retail/wholesale: Wild Hearts Boutique, Deb Sargent
Financial: Ben Hiltabrand, of Edward Jones
Community Action: Live Well Streator
Not-for-profit: Streatorland Food Pantry, which has served the community for more than 50 years.
Professional/business: Streator Engine/Streator NAPA
Restaurant/entertainment: Light Up Streator, a volunteer group that decorates all-year round, including lighting City Park for Christmas.
Streator Chamber ambassadors Judy Booze, Kris Conner, Jennifer Currier, Karen Karpati, Gigi Lansford, Ryan McGuckin, Lisa Piecha, Amy Spears, Stacy Starjak, Beth Palm, Melissa Givens, Cindy Cameron and Gail Darm were recognized.
Streator Chamber fundraising team members Carri Alexander, Conner, Jamie Gahm, Karpati, Lansford, Doug Patterson, Dana Stillwell, Cindy Taylor and Skerston also were recognized.
Bernard Anderson, Steve Broadus, Mark Brockman, Dzuris, Courtney Levy, Mayor Tara Bedei, Vince Luckey, Jeremy Palm, Dave Plyman, Matt Seaton, Everett Solon, Janette Strabala and John Swanson sit on the Streator Industrial Development board.
The chamber also celebrated its staff Levy, who was named executive director nine months ago, and Megan Wright, who was hired membership services coordinator shortly after. Skerston serves as the board’s president, Pete Honiotes as vice president, Theresa Muntz as treasurer and Gene Anderson, Lori Snell, Denny Hatzer, Hiltabrand, Karpati, McGuckin, Plyman, Solon, Stillwell, Strabala and Brandon Urbance as board members.