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Two local winners for Governor's Volunteer Service Awards

Sterling woman, Dixon Culver's recognized

SPRINGFIELD – The Sauk Valley is represented by two of the 30 state winners in this year’s Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards.

Melissa Ryan-Bergstrom of Sterling will be recognized for her volunteer efforts, particularly her work with Team Jess, which has raised more than $184,000 in 5 years for cancer awareness and scholarships for area high school seniors.

Team Jess honors Jessica Strader, a 29-year-old special education teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, who died of breast cancer in 2013. Events are held year round, culminating in the annual community touchdown event.

In addition to Team Jess, Ryan-Bergstrom is involved in several other community causes. As the marketing and community engagement director at Candlelight Inn, she works in the restaurant’s Candlelight Gives Back program and heads up its participation in other community events and fundraisers.

Ryan-Bergstrom launched food programs at the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and at outreach sites in Sterling and Rock Falls. She is also involved with volunteer efforts through local schools, April House Child Advocacy Center and Sunrise Rotary.

Bergstrom-Ryan and husband, Chris, have five children, Isaiah, Carter, Kael, Bella and Abigail.

In the business category, Culver’s of Dixon earned an award for its volunteer efforts for Sauk Valley Community College. The college launched a new agriculture program last fall through the Culver’s “Thank You Farmers” project.

Culver’s raised nearly $11,000 for equipment and other program materials through a series of fundraisers held last year. The events includes the sale of barn cards, “Scoop of Thanks” days, and silent auctions.

The Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Services received more than 130 nominations in six categories: AmeriCorps, adult, business, senior, Senior Corps and youth. The nominees were grouped in five state service regions.

Winners will be honored during a reception planned for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.


Go to to read more about this year's Governor's Volunteer Service Award winners.

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