The Kiwanis Club of Aurora will present its annual Service To God and Fellowman Award to Jo Fredell Higgins at an evening banquet in her honor Monday, May 20 at Gaslite Manor in Aurora.
The award annually honors a community member for exemplary leadership skills, consistent service as a role model, and improving the lives of Aurora area residents, especially children. Higgins joins a long list of recipients since the award’s inception in 1975.
Jo Fredell Higgins generously has contributed her time, energy, and expertise to the Aurora community since moving to Aurora in 1971. She has combined her passions for literature, photography, and service to positively impact the lives of thousands of Aurora area residents. In nominating her, previous God and Fellow Man Award recipient John Galles said, “I have found her to be a person of the highest integrity who values her sisters and brothers on this life journey. She demonstrates how to care for others in both word and deed. Her first thought is of others and how she can help them live better lives.”
Jo Higgins taught Title I at East Aurora District 131, began the kindergarten program at Annunciation School, worked with civic activities under Aurora mayor Jack Hill’s administration, was director of public relations for the Paramount Arts Center, taught at Sacred Heart School, was director of Little Saints Center and volunteered as a reader to students at both Nicholson and Johnson Schools in Aurora.
For more than three decades Ms Higgins selflessly has sought to make a difference in the lives of Aurora area residents, especially immigrants and children, through the Adult Literacy program at Waubonsee Community College, first as a volunteer and later as program manager.
Under her leadership and compassion, the volunteer ranks went from 42 to 356 volunteers a year, a number which was maintained for more than a decade. The program was recognized with community, State, and national awards, and received the prestigious national LVA and Tutor Program of the Year in 1997. As program manager, Ms Higgins secured a $42,000 donation of materials from Leap Frog for the family literacy component. She wrote, budgeted, and managed 22 grants for the program. A thousand Aurora area adult and student residents yearly learn the English language as a result of her leadership. Her commitment to literacy has extended to the Aurora Public Library where she served three years on the Library Foundation Board, including as vice president and secretary.
Higgins was chair of the Aurora Township Youth Commission for 20 years and was honored for her contributions with a Chairman Emeritus Resolution by the Aurora Township Board of Trustees in January 2017.
She has been equally committed to the research and preservation of community history. She served 16 years as chairman of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), volunteered at the Aurora Historical Society, and has published texts on the unique history of communities such as Aurora, Naperville, DeKalb, Geneva, and Montgomery.
Higgins has volunteered more broadly over the past four decades for innumerable organizations and projects such as Morton Arboretum, Fox Valley Hospice, Comcast Cares Day, Salvation Army, Our Children’s Holmstead, Elmwood Nursing Home, Kids Count, food pantries and soup kitchens, Mutual Ground, Stamping From Our Hearts (cards for troops), Mayfaire at Sacred Heart School, WHO group at First Presbyterian Church, and many other invaluable efforts throughout Aurora.
Jo Higgins was previously recognized for her volunteering as YWCA Woman of Distinction in 2004, Community Champion by the Compassion Foundation in 2012, Friend of Youth by Aurora Township in 2007, and received an Award of Appreciation from Family Focus in 2002.
She writes a column each week in The Voice newspaper.
To make a reservation to the May 20 evening banquet at Gaslite, visit the Kiwanis Club of Aurora website at www.aurorakiwanis.org, mail to Aurora Kiwanis Club at P.O. Box 1551 or send E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. RSVP deadline is Tuesday, May 14. Tickets are $40 per person, $75 for two or $300 for a table of eight. Menu options include salmon with dill sauce, vegetable kabob over rice, or beef filet dinner.
— Kiwanis Club of Aurora