After years of annually naming a man and a woman as Western Springs Citizens of the Year, the members of the Citizen of the Year Committee (COTY) voted to disband at their meeting last month.
The group was founded in 1986 during the Village’s centennial celebrations, a year during which they bestowed 12 “Citizen of the Month” awards. That same year, the group was also instrumental in raising funds for the Village to purchase the former Grand Avenue School (now the Grand Avenue Community Center).
In years since, the committee has given out its Citizen of the Year award to both a man and a woman from the Western Springs community who had displayed exemplary community spirit and service. Award recipients would then become permanent members of the committee. The 2010 award winners were library volunteer Liz Burns and Historical Society volunteer Pete Caris.
But in recent years, the group said, while they have had no difficulty finding worthy candidates, the legwork has increasingly ended up on the same people's desks.
“We’re not attracting young people,” said Village Clerk Jeanine Jasica, a 1989 Village Citizen of the Year. “They aren’t coming out; they aren’t nominating people for Citizen of the Year… All the work falls to the same people.”
The committee was tasked with organizing the awards dinner each year, as well as collecting nominations and selecting award recipients. Sometimes, organizations like Thomas Ford Memorial Library and Friends of the Park pitched in support and sponsorship.
“We talked about it and finally decided that we’ve probably outlived our usefulness,” Jasica said. “Even though it’s a great thing, and a nice evening… it just seemed like from the general public there wasn’t much interest.”
Members hope that another group will step in to host their own event and award—even if they take it in a completely new direction.
“There were many of us who felt that we really hated to see this die, because there are so many great people that you’d like to get recognition,” said Jasica. “But we’ve had a great run and a lot of fun. It’s time for somebody to do something different.”
Any group interested in picking up the Citizen of the Year mantle can contact Jasica here.