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From left, Elaine Smith, Jerry Thornton, Elaine Jones and
Al Willett were among HF Park District volunteers
and sponsors who were recognized Tuesday night 
for their contributions to local parks and park 
. (Photo by Tom Houlihan/HF Chronicle)

Temperatures were cool Tuesday but feelings were warm as the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District hosted its first-ever appreciation event for volunteers and sponsors.

Honorees were treated to hors d’oeuvres and other refreshments underneath the patio tent at Wiley’s Grill. Park officials said volunteers and sponsors are a big reason for the success of wide-ranging programs that appeal to all age groups in Homewood and Flossmoor.

“We honestly could not provide this level of services without their help,” said Executive Director Debbie Kopas. “A lot of our programs are free or offered at a very low cost to our community. We need volunteers and sponsors to make all this happen.”

Kopas said park officials have been talking about offering an appreciation event for the last several years.

“We are very glad to tell them tonight how much we appreciate their efforts,” she said.

Volunteer Al Willett said he enjoys helping out at Irwin Center senior programs.

“I help set up for events,” said Willett, of Homewood. “I’m glad to be able to do it.”

Jerry Torrence, a 45-year Homewood resident, is on the park district’s Leisure Service Committee. 

Stephanie Simpson, the district’s superintendent of recreation, said the committee acts as the community’s “eyes and ears” and reviews proposals for new programs before they go to the full park board.

Elaine Jones and Elaine Smith are both members of the Senior Advisory Committee and said they have worked together for years on programs at the Irwin Center.

Simpson said about 150 volunteers were invited to Tuesday’s event. Park district events that rely on volunteer participation, she said, include 4th of July Fun Fest, Park Pride Day, Halloween Happening, Lucky Egg Hunt and Tennis Fest. Basketball and flag football coaches are volunteers and the district’s 5K races also rely on volunteer participation, she said.

 “Volunteers are important to us because they add that extra element to our events,” Simpson said. “Where we might not be able to staff all areas of events, if we have volunteers we can add that extra touch of someone giving directions or answering questions that help give the participants an overall better experience.”


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