By Lanae Clarke
Since the inception of Central Illinois Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Awards, the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana has seen many of its members honored for their leadership, community service, and outstanding achievements throughout the community. This year is no different. In fact, Becca Guyette, a member since 2007, achieved the prestigious title of Woman of the Year. Additionally, two others in the JLCU membership, Katie Madigan and Kelly O’Neill, were both acknowledged for their contributions. Becca, Katie, and Kelly embody the tenets JLCU has been founded upon through their continued promotion of voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving their communities.
Previous to their service with JLCU, each of these women have performed duties both personally and professionally exemplifying their leadership skills above and beyond the call of duty thus proving their resilient strength of character.
As published in her bio, Becca Guyette’s mission, as the director of leadership giving at the United Way of Champaign County, is spreading the word about the good works of an organization she believes in and helping others find a way to support it. “My joy is matching passion with resources — when people have resources to give and a passion, and finding a mission for them to support,” she said. “I feel what we are doing in the community is life-changing stuff,” Guyette continued. “The United Way is not about charity, it’s about change. The change is what excites me.”
Early in life Becca was exposed to the joys of community service through her family’s devotion to their church and those in her small community in Paulding, Ohio. She took these qualities to heart and melded them with her skills while in college at Bowling Green State University. Through her work in student government involving the development side of fundraising, she realized her true calling was to enrich the community through community service.
Like many other women in JLCU, Becca only happened upon Champaign-Urbana in 2001 because of love. She entered the University of Illinois to pursue her master’s degree in organizational communications while her now husband finished his law degree. The rest is history as they say, and after successful positions with the University YMCA proving her finesse at hitting fundraising goals, she was actively recruited this past year by Sue Grey, the United Way of Champaign County’s President and CEO. She had volunteered for the United Way as a program funding reviewer and on a committee, and she was familiar with the organization and passionate about its mission. “Becca is someone I had my eye on for a while,” Grey said. “She brought some fresh perspective to us, on analysis of our donors and where we needed to go.”
Like many in the JLCU membership, she balances her role as a mother, while also balancing her volunteer time with JLCU. She and her husband have already begun talking with their older child about the importance of community service.” I think it’s so important for people to have a sense of civic responsibility,” Guyette said.
Katie Madigan’s service in JLCU has spanned a number of years. She has balanced successfully the tasks of raising her daughter, serving in numerous roles in JLCU, and also tending to the needs of those she teaches throughout the Unit 7 school district. Recently she received the prestigious Elizabeth Alexander Award in May, so this award acknowledging her talents as one of the 40 Under 40 just follows in line with the spirit of her commitment to the community-at-large.
Fellow winner and nominator, Laura Bleill, CEO of Chambanamoms.com, gives a succinct synopsis of Katie’s talents. “Katie’s dedication to causes she believes in is exemplary. She is devoted to making the community a better place to live and to helping children.” Katie not only tries to benefit the children throughout the community in her work as a speech-language pathologist, but she is also involved in many organizations which tie her professional skills to her community relationships: Board positions on JLCU, specifically Community Impact Council Director, Co-Vice President of the Thomas Paine PTA, CU Cradle to Career, Member of the Leadership Council and Kindergarten Readiness Goal Group, United Way Emerging Community Leaders, and religious education teacher at the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Her ability to portray her commitment to the children in the community can best be summarized by her response when questioned about the rewards in her work with children professionally and personally. “Working with young children, especially those with disabilities, can be quite challenging but also holds so many rewards. I feel accomplished every time one of my students learns a new sound, a new word or a new communication technique.”
No matter what the task is at hand, Katie exceeds the goals and brings perfection to each individual she encounters, especially if it is a child in need.
Kelly joined JLCU unlike many in previous new member classes. She took to heart the community service instilled in at University of Illinois during her undergraduate years through her sorority’s community service projects. Because of this, she brought a new energized spirit to JLCU and has not stopped lighting up her professional and community projects since.
Recently she was promoted to Associate Director, Illinois MBA Student and Academic Services and Recruiting Programs. Obviously this hasn’t dimmed her commitment because she has lit her path brightly the few years since she graduated from University of Illinois with her commitment in other endeavors. Associations like CU One-to-One Mentoring; the United Way Emerging Community Leaders program; Beta Theta Pi advisory committee; Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Organization president and advisory committee chairperson have benefitted greatly with her time and efforts to improve community efforts and leadership.
Fellow JLCU member and nominator, Caitlin Drake, summarizes why Kelly is so successful in her endeavors, “Kelly’s dedication to bettering herself, women and the community at large is remarkable. She leads such an immensely full life but always makes time for service work and her friendships.”
Keeping in line with her mantra, she lives by the credo, “Dreams don’t work unless you do!”
Congratulations to each of these women as they continue to reach their goals and dreams while enriching the JLCU community! They are truly leaders and deserve the credit they are due while showing each of us through hard work and leadership, everyone can truly make a difference.