The Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees honored Joe Schmitz with the 2014 Joliet Junior College J. D. Ross Extraordinary Service Award (ESA) at their June 9 meeting.
The ESA is the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the college; it was developed by the Board of Trustees to honor residents who have given outstanding service to Community College District 525. The award is named for former JJC President J. D. Ross.
Schmitz, a resident of Morris, was nominated by Morris Mayor Richard Kopzick for his charitable work with Operation St. Nick, a non-profit Schmitz founded in 1979 to provided needy children with Christmas gifts that their families would not have otherwise been able to give them.
“Growing up, Joe was taught by his father the importance of helping neighbors and giving back to his community,” said Kopzick. “It’s that generous and kind spirit that is the driving force behind Operation St. Nick and has made the organization one of Grundy County’s leading non-profits.”
Over the past 35 years, Schmitz has guided the charitable organization in raising more than $1.5 million to help more than 6,000 families through a variety of annual initiatives, including:
– The Bicycle Program, which provides bikes to local children
– The Back-to-School Program, which provides $50 in school supplies and $100 in clothing to approximately 400 children
– The Christmas Wishes program, which provides approximately 150 children in 60 families with toys, gifts and food gift certificates
– The Christmas Veterans Program, which specifically helps 12 military families by fulfilling a Christmas wish up to $2,500
– The Literacy Initiative, which provides $8,000 worth of books to approximately 200 children
In addition to running Operation St. Nick, Schmitz is a Navy veteran and a former president of Exchange Bank in Gardner, Ill. He and his wife of nearly 50 years, Carol, have three children and seven grandchildren.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled that the JJC Board of Trustees chose me to receive this prestigious award,” said Schmitz. “Receiving the J.D. Ross Extraordinary Service Award has inspired me to do more for those in need in the communities Operation St. Nick serves. I have realized over the years that inspiration comes from not focusing on myself, or the world of ego and entering the world of spirit to benefit others.”
For more information about the ESA and to see past winners, visit www.jjc.edu/board-of-trustees/service-award/Pages/default.aspx