Chesterton Tribune



Chamber of Commerce honors Humanitarians, Volunteers of the Year

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There are two Humanitarians of the Year in 2019, honored on Wednesday by the Duneland Chamber of Commerce at its annual awards luncheon at Sand Creek Country Club: Dr. John and Linnea Forchetti; and Deshawna Neal.

Presenting the award to the Forchetties: Bill Higbie of the Porter County Community Foundation. “It all starts with caring, and the Forchetties most certainly do,” Higbie said. “As a doctor and a nurse, as parents and grandparents, their lives have been dedicated to caring for others. From establishing a cardiac rehab program to being a member of the first class of nurse practitioners in the region. From serving as the CHS football team physician for over 40 years to starting the Table of Plenty at St. Pat’s Church.”

Most recently, Higbie said, the Forchetties were instrumental in the Duneland YMCA’s acquisition of the former Chesterton Montessori facility, the new home of the Forchetti Family Early Learning Academy. “Another gift to the community that will help kids prepare for their future,” Higbie said. “All because the Forchetties care, and care deeply. They don’t have to be asked to do something good. They see an opportunity to make things better and they just do it.”

“We came from Pennsylvania,” Dr. Forchetti said, in accepting the award. “And we found that Duneland was good to us. And we thank you for this honor.”

Presenting the second Humanitarian of the Year Award, to Deshawna Neal, was the Rev. Greg Arthur of the Duneland Community Church. “With a background that includes work in the medical field as a nurse practitioner, the legal field, and criminal justice, Deshawna brings exceptional educational and professional experience to her work in Duneland.”

That work began when she and her husband, Oscar, moved into the Whispering Sands Mobile Home Community five years ago, where in short order they took to providing care, ministry, and even food to the neighborhood. “Their life as great neighbors began by simply feeding children who were hungry. This turned into their opening their home and feeding up to 20-30 children a day during the school year and even more during the summer.”

“Through Deshawna Neal’s tireless work there is the Duneland Impact Food Program, Benevolence Day Camp, and a Girl Scout troop that are bringing the neighborhood together in community, providing for families in need, and allowing local churches, schools, and other community members from outside of Whispering Sands to come in and build relationships.”

“I am humbled,” Neal said. “And when I look through this room I see optimism, I see hope. It’s starting with your neighbor, the person right next to you, the kids down the block, and you help in any way you can.”

Volunteer of the Year

There are also two Volunteers of the Year in 2019: Jeff Larson; and Elizabeth Marks.

Presenting the award to Larson was Nichole Charlene Botsford, who noted that Larson’s contributions to Duneland are almost too many to list: “Many of his volunteer efforts touch our paths every day, like Worthy Women, Christmas in April and Rebuilding Together, Bridges mentor, Joseph’s Pantry, Westchester Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Shirley Heinze Land Trust sponsor and volunteer, Angel Tree sponsor, Izaak Walton League, The Waters bookreading initiative, Habitat for Humanity, and United Way.”

Larson also serves as vice-president of the Porter County Council, a member of the Northwestern Regional Planning Commission board, and as a liaison for ‘12 other boards that establish and help our communities every day,” Botsford said.

“Many of us here today have followed this service path,” Larson said in accepting the award. “It’s kind of frightening to hear all of this, because I just follow my heart.”

Presenting Volunteer of the Year to Marks was Suzanne Radzik of the Duneland Family YMCA. Marks is not only director of strategic development for Lakeside Wealth Management, Radzik said, but “also an innovative driver and avid supporter of the Duneland YMCA.”

“Elizabeth’s passion for the Duneland Y shows in everything she does,” Radzik noted. “As a member of the Executive Board of Directors, Elizabeth has been a driving force behind the acquisition of the Chesterton Montessori School building and property, which will now become the new home of the Forchetti Family YMCA Center for Early Learning. For the past three years, she has dedicated countless hours to the success of the Duneland Y’s annual fundraiser, Dancing Like the Stars, and has served on several committees. Lakeside Wealth Management would certainly not operate the same without Elizabeth and we think it’s safe to say the YMCA would not without her either.”

“I found my home for volunteering at the Duneland YMCA,” Marks said. “I enjoy doing something for the good at the Y.”



Posted 7/18/2019




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