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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Abby Westendorf Awarded the Governor's Volunteer Service Award..services and training to people with disabilities in Effingham County Illinois - 2011

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Abby Westendorf Awarded the GovernBy Staff reports
Teutopolis Press-Dieterich Gazette: April 20 2011

Teutopolis, Ill. — In May, residents of ARC Community Support Systems will become 4-H members and begin work on learning skills in horticulture and nutrition, and it's all because of the work of an Effingham County 4-H teenager.

Abigail Westendorf was awarded the Governor's Volunteer Service Award by Governor Pat Quinn Wednesday, April 6 in Springfield for her leadership role in providing 4-H experiences for the mentally challenged and disabled individuals in Effingham County. The ceremony was held at the Executive Mansion. Westendorf was one of only five youth in the state to be recognized for her volunteerism. She represented the East Central service region.

Abigail is the 16-year-old daughter of Robert and Janette Westendorf of Effingham and is a junior at Teutopolis High School. She began her 4-H career as a member of the Country Cousins 4-H Club where she has taken such projects as swine, sheep, pygmy goats, rabbits, dogs, woodworking, heritage arts, foods and visual arts.

Once in high school, Abigail was also accepted as a member of the Effingham County 4-H Youth Ambassadors, a 4-H leadership club which empowers teens to work to better their community through service, leadership and education, said Patti Logan, 4-H community worker for the University of Illinois Extension.

"Abby quickly put her leadership skills to work and wrote grants totaling $4,000.00 to begin 4-H club work with the residents of the ARC Community Support Systems," Logan said.

ARC Community Support Systems is a not-for-profit agency, which provides services and training to people with disabilities in Effingham County. Each year, the ARC Family Fun Day allows residents and their families to enjoy refreshments and activities with members of the community. Budget cuts forced ARC-CSS to reduce some services, including those associated with the Fun Day. Through Westendorf's work, money was raised to allow for continued Fun Day events.

"Abby didn't stop there," Logan said. The teen-ager wrote an additional grant to cover the 4-H program fee for up to 100 residents. With this grant, residents will begin 4-H club work in May. The first clubs will focus on horticulture and nutrition.

The Effingham Master Gardeners will work with several members of the Effingham County Youth Ambassadors to help ARC residents plant container gardens at their homes and learn to care for them throughout the growing season. Another club will focus on nutritious meal preparation.

"Both are skills, which will improve the quality of life for ARC residents," said Rachelle Hollinshead, county director for the Extension unit, which includes Effingham County. "In addition, the ECYA youth will gain skills in the area of leadership, organization and compassion."

These two new clubs will build on the 4-H club work Westendorf began last year. The "Ladies Club" is a group of older ARC residents who meet and learn new skills, such as crafting, painting, planting flowers and cooking. The club is led by volunteer Shelly Herboth.

In addition to Westendorf involvement in 4-H, she has been involved with Volunteens, a high school club, which is service oriented, sings in her local church choir and assists with Vacation Bible School. In addition, she is involved in Catholic Heart Work Camp which is a mission group of Teutopolis High School students who spend one week each summer assisting impoverished areas of cities throughout the United states. They assist with renovations for the elderly and for people with disabilities, work at food banks, soup kitchens, daycare for under-privileged children and homeless shelters. She attended the camp in Memphis last year and will be leaving in June for Milwaukee.

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