The Truth behind the Allen Award

August 05, 2016

   The Allen Award


Reverend James E. Allen, the man who knew everyone and whom they all knew, introduced me to Joliet/Will County Project Pride.  The organization is now known as “Project Acclaim – honoring civic pride.”  We rebranded last year.


“Let’s go to breakfast at Jimmy Dean’s,” Jim told me in 2003.


When I finished my breakfast, I was his newest convert to Joliet’s singular recognition organization, Project Pride. The former pastor of the Ottawa Street Methodist Church formed our organization when the community craved positive reinforcement about living here. In the 1970’s notoriety for crime, murder, unemployment marked our community unfairly. In his deep heart, Jim Allen knew Joliet was made of sterner stuff than headlines. Jim Allen has been a champion of Joliet. Since 1985 Joliet the Hall of Pride. Hall of Pride honorees are limited to no more than five per year.   


We received so many nominations for the vaunted Hall of Pride Award, we could not act upon them all. We wanted something significant to recognize more achievements.  Last year we fabricated a timely award for quarterly distribution. The result was The Reverend James E. Allen Award for Service to the Community. Project Acclaim is Jim Allen’s legacy. The Reverend James E. Allen Award is his namesake accolade. Our organization breathes and sparkles because of him.  We were particularly proud to unveil this award at a meeting he attended. The gavel is in our hands now.


So, the Allen Award with its personal resonance has found recipients.


First one went to our own member Bill Doolin.  He had joined us as a staffer from Harrah’s Casino. The business community had valued our organization by sending one of their own.  Bill orchestrated cleanups at the Old Joliet Ironworks Park with scores of Harrah’s employees for eight years.


Joliet’s Graffiti Abatement Officer, Jan Nahorski received the next one. He had us laughing one day on how to remove gang graffiti. His preferred viscous compound of paint remover came in a five gallon can labeled and copyrighted as Elephant Snot. The stuff really works. Jan is part of the certified Gang Identification network in Illinois and works closely with the Joliet Police Department.


Helpers of Mother Earth champion, Virgil Kemp received the Allen Award earlier this year. The presentation happened at the Sharefest Meeting in New Lenox. Mr. Kemp had taken his grassroots organization into the Fairmont area for a multi-month cleanup. The former stock broker is now dedicated to the unglamorous but immensely appreciated work of picking up.


The 30-year volunteer career of an ex-plumber, Dick Schuster earned another Allen Award. The cable company that holds the Joliet license pays to support the local cable access channel. There are nearly 36,000 homes strung for cable TV in Joliet. Dick Schuster is the long time President of JCTV who runs the monthly meetings that set schedules and priorities for local cable programming.  He’s a cameraman, editor, trouble shooter, and the man who loads the carousels that program 24/7 local programming to thousands of us. Humble and friendly, he received an Allen Award at the start of a televised Joliet City Council meeting.  He’s the man behind that curtain, like the wizard of Oz, whom we can no longer ignore.


If you have someone you believe qualifies for the Allen Award, let us know. Our email can be found under Contact Us. We want to hear about them.