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  2009 Press Releases  

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23rd Annual Elder Rights Conference and 2009 Abuse Prevention Awards

2009 Outstanding Long-Term Care Ombudsman Award (2 recipients):

  • Phil Gillespie volunteers up to 30 hours per month through the Shawnee Alliance for Seniors Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, in Carterville. He is willing to travel to any of the 81 facilities which encompass a 4,558-mile geographic territory. Gillespie has been instrumental in creating the Southern Illinois Pioneer Coalition, recruiting volunteers and developing projects including a "pen pal" program matching volunteers from churches with residents in facilities.


  • Stasia Miller is a supervisor at the Senior Services of the Center for Prevention of Abuse, in Peoria. She helped develop in-service training for aging awareness sensitivity. And since May 2008, more than 25 trainings have been given to 582 individuals, including staff from area nursing homes in the six counties the program serves. Miller also helped to develop a Culture Change Coalition to promote change in long-term care facilities in six counties.

2009 Outstanding Long-Term Care Ombudsman Honorary Certificates:

  • Mary Louise Curry, of Illinois Community Advocates for Residents' Empowerment (I CARE), in Springfield, has been volunteering for the ombudsman program for 16 years. As a retired teacher, she has developed skills allowing her to work effectively with all people. Curry is known by staff, residents and family members as someone they can trust. She diminishes stress and has improved the lives of many residents.

  • Elaine Gilbert, of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, works as a Lake County volunteer. She regularly puts in up to 20 hours each month and works tirelessly. She knows every resident and has worked on nearly 100 cases. Gilbert has counseled and educated many residents, who were threatened with discharge, to ensure they receive proper medications.

  • Susan Hriljac, with DuPage County Senior Services, in Wheaton, volunteers at Westmont Convalescent Center. She shares her legal expertise, provides clarity and support to peers and ombudsman staff through her clear, concise explanations of often complicated regulations, laws and issues. She holds a Juris Doctorate as well as a degree in geriatric nursing. Hriljac is credited with bringing stability during staff transitions and ensuring that the civil and human rights of residents are upheld.


  • Jesse Kartus, with DuPage County Senior Services, in Wheaton, has endeared himself to residents and the Resident Council Advisory board. He has not missed a month of volunteering since his first visit in 2006 and maintains a healthy working relationship with all residents, staff and administration. Kartus has been successful on all areas of the mission including advocacy, education and upholding confidentiality.

2009 Outstanding Elder Abuse Program Caseworker Award:

  • Yvonne Anderson is a supervisor with the Visiting Nurses Association, in Rockford. She is active on the Illinois Violence Prevention Collaborative and the 17th Judicial Circuit Court Elder Abuse Committee. She was instrumental in having a shelter designate a room for senior victims. Anderson recently completed a project to assist nurses to accurately assess abuse in their patients, developed a tool nurses can use in their interviews, and established a system to collect and recycle old cell phones for use by clients.

2009 Outstanding Elder Abuse Program Caseworker Honorary Certificates:

  • Shannon Finch, with Solutions for Care, in North Riverside, eagerly accepts time-consuming cases needing legal assistance or court work and has built successful relationships with law enforcement, attorneys and medical staff in the communities where she serves. Clients are receptive and feel comfortable with her. And she is also an effective communicator with aggressive abusers. Finch volunteers time after work to conduct elder abuse presentations at health fairs and other venues.


  • Sarah Jackson, of the North Shore Senior Center, in Northfield, interfaces exceptionally well with clients and their families. Always taking into account self-determination, she considers a clientís safety and least restrictive environment, while she maintains relationships that support the client. Jackson is someone staff can depend upon for guidance, collegial support and to lend a listening ear when discussing challenging cases.


  • Vanesa Klimunda, with Solutions for Care, in North Riverside, dedicates a great amount of time working with clients, their abusers and families to provide resolutions. She has an innate ability to have clients openly discuss their feelings and emotions. She has the ability to meet emergency situations and locate needed contacts efficiently. Klimunda speaks both Spanish and Czech which is a tremendous asset to her clients.


  • Sarah Powell, of Senior Services of Central Illinois, in Petersburg, sets out to help her clients no matter the situation. She has been working with clients with physical and mental illnesses and helps them get their medication under control. She is credited with having her clients receive restitution as a result of financial exploitation. Powell is the elder abuse caseworker for Mason, Menard and Logan counties and also comes to the Springfield office when needed.


  • Elizabeth Thompson, of the Southwest Suburban Center on Aging, in LaGrange, always works toward the clientís goals, but she is also sensitive to the illness of the abuser. She uses her experience as a case manager to work with elder abuse cases and is adept at using the Community Care Program, emergency home response, respite care and legal advocacy to help her clients. Thompsonís calm approach and professionalism are assets to the agency and elder abuse program.

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