Several area organizations count themselves lucky to have Jill Deege on their team.
Deege, who is the assistant vice president of mortgage loans for Mercantile Bank, spends many of her non-working hours serving a number of charities. She has been a member of Altrusa International for more than 15 years and is the group's lead person for the community coat drive every year. She also is a judge for the Adams County Fair, is involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, organized the bicentennial celebration for Fowler and is an active member in her church.
But Deege says she's the one who feels blessed to live in such a caring community.
"Very often I hear acquaintances express what a friendly community this area is. I believe this is a result of caring and doing for others as God has asked of us," she said.
"I became a member of Altrusa in 1999. It is a service organization started in the late 1800s by Mamie L. Bass. The international organization's focus is on literacy."
"Currently I am co-chair of the coat drive and have been for the past six years. I have held the office of secretary, treasurer, vice-president and president with the organization."
"Altrusa usually gives away about 2000 coats. We try to fit needs of the whole family. The collection lasts about two months prior to the giveaway, which is usually the last Saturday of October. We publicize in the community and contact the schools, the housing authority and other organizations so people in need have time to come get them."
"It takes a couple weeks to organize that many coats. Some have to be washed or dry cleaned. They have to be sorted by size, and some need mending."
"We want the coats in the hands of people who can use them. After distribution day we keep all the children's coats we have left. That's usually when school secretaries or nurses communicate specific needs that they have. We don't have room to store the adult sizes so I bundle up about 100 coats and take them to the Illinois Veterans Home. Any remaining coats are taken to the Salvation Army and they distribute them."
"I was a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America for nine years. My ‘little' just recently turned 18, therefore our match is closed. It was a very rewarding experience, and we stay in touch."
"Our church is small so everyone works together. Chairing and working at church meals, serving on council, Bible school, Sunday school and puppet ministry are all things I have been involved with."
"Growing up in 4-H, the Adams County Fair has been a tradition as long as I remember. When our sons were young they showed their animals at the fair. Once they stopped showing animals it was time for me to lend some assistance for the years of enrichment the fair has brought to our family. I am superintendent of the textiles department so I collect entries and do judging on open entries including quilts, sewing projects, cross stitch, crochet, and so on."
"We each do what we can. We are busy but we make time for what is important in our lives. I know there are certainly people who do a lot more than I do, there are so many worthwhile projects."
"My family and fellow Altrusans inspire me. I have been fortunate to have shining examples of community involvement and doing for others through my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and wonderful Altrusa friends."
Jill Deege was interviewed by Staff Writer Sandi Terford and photographed by Photo Editor Phil Carlson.