|Citizen of year puts others before self|
|Written by Renee Changnon, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Tuesday, 26 July 2011 16:27|
Making a difference in the community can be seen in both the big and small things done for others. After several years of dedication to the town of Normal, one such citizen received recognition for his efforts across the board.
Earlier this month, Wendell Hess, retired acting president of Illinois Wesleyan University, was named the Normal Citizen of the Year.
Hess has been an active member of both Bloomington and the town of Normal, where he has found several areas to devote extra time, such as the Baby Fold, United Way and Habitat for Humanity.
In addition to the time spent in several different volunteer-based organizations over the years, Hess was a key factor in working out a deal to revitalize six old homes near Advocate BroMenn Medical Center.
When Hess heard his name called as Citizen of the Year, he was shocked to learn the news.
“I was surprised beyond belief,” Hess said.
According to Normal Mayor Chris Koos, who is in charge of selecting Citizen of the Year annually, the choice normally varies, but finding someone who is an active member of the community without any employment ties is usually who he tries to honor.
“I tend to look at people that are not elected officials or retired city workers, just general community members that stand out,” Koos said.
For Koos, the decision to choose Hess as the citizen of the year was an easy decision.
“I’ve known Wendell Hess for a long time. He’s been involved in the community quite a bit,” Koos said.
According to Koos, Hess helped the Neighborhood Association by working to negotiate a solution for the all parties involved in helping revitalize and bring six old homes to life again, putting his own time and money on the line.
“He didn’t have to do this. He spent a lot of his personal time; he spent money out of his own pocket to make this happen. It’s that kind of love and awareness for your community that stands out,” Koos said.
For Hess, the efforts taken to help the community are extremely important, and should be a group effort.
“I think we’re all members of our community, and everyone should step up and do their share to have a nice, livable, comfortable community to live in,” Hess said.
Even while Hess was at Illinois Wesleyan as a professor and later on in administration, he says he still made an effort to stay true to both his church and the Baby Fold.
After all is said and done, Koos said Hess is a great member of the community and represents the town well.
“[Hess is] very civic minded, he’s a very hard worker. He’s in his eighties and he’s remodeling a house right now—that says something. Just a very dedicated, hard working, civic-minded man,” Koos said.
For students living in the Normal community, even if only during the school year, becoming involved and following the lead of Hess is something that Koos urges all Illinois State students to do.
“Take a look at what’s going on around in the community. Look at the world as a little larger than yourself and do what you can to make it a better place,” Koos said.
For Hess, giving back is easy as the town he serves he holds close to his heart.
“I’m very proud of the town of Normal, and it’s citizens, and it’s neighborhoods, and it’s leadership. I find Normal to be a very nice place to live and raise a family,” Hess said.