It was about 11 years ago when Jenny Halupnik felt a calling to help kids and her kids’ school at the same time. The Cedar Falls native hadn’t been in Bettendorf long, but that did not stop her.
“It was at a time when God was telling me to commit to kids and support the school at the same time,” Halupnik said.
She started with a Bible study that met before or after school. Included were service projects such as helping around the school, making packages for foster kids and children experiencing homelessness and other community projects.
Her first meeting with Kids for Christ, as it was first called, had about 35 students.
She hasn’t really stopped since. Halupnik is this month's Quad-Citizen Award honoree. The award is a partnership between the Quad-City Times and IHMVCU to honor outstanding Quad-City area residents who go above and beyond for their community.
The mother of three still volunteers for what's now called Quest for Christ, and includes about 500 kindergarten to Grade 8 students in 13 schools in the Bettendorf and Davenport school districts. She's also joined the One Eighty program that helped create food pantries in Davenport schools and offers programs that include basketball and baseball leagues for kids from Davenport's west side, who otherwise wouldn't have them. She's led the Prevent program, and had a hand in creating Opportunity for All, funding things like summer camp, gymnastics or band that students might not otherwise be able to afford.
When Halupnik sees a problem for kids, she ultimately tries to find a solution.
These days she tutors two days a week for One Eighty, where she still serves on the board, volunteers at Quest for Christ and helps out with the school parent-teacher organization while also going to school full-time to earn her master's in communications.
“No task is too big or too small for her,” said her friend and colleague, Michele Beck. “She does so much. And she does it all with humility.”
Halupnik is dedicated to kids.
“I see kids as a unique gift from God,” she said. “I love their joy, their gentle spirit, their creativity.”
Plus, children are the future. It’s a future she’s been working on for more than a decade.
“It hasn’t always been easy,” she says of bringing the message of Christ inside a public school. “There’s been some tightropes to walk along the way.”
The program meets before or after school, and is voluntary, similar to a Scouting group meeting inside a school building.
“We are not by any stretch trying to instill our faith values on anyone else who’s not interested in that," she said. "But we are inviting people to come and be a part and learn if they want to. You would be surprised how many people are really open to having that as a part of their daily life and really want that their kids to be able to experience that.”
Their tasks extend beyond the religious.
“Within One Eighty we would provide food pantries to meet physical needs of kids and their families,” and provide beds for kids who were sleeping on the floor at home, and provide services like lice treatment for kids struggling with that,” Halupnik said. “We feel like Jesus came in and met people’s physical needs and their spiritual needs, and that’s what we were trying to do.
“Whether they agreed with us on the faith, we are still happy to serve them and be a partner with the Davenport schools and making sure kids have what they need.”
She believes she’s making a difference, especially in a society where reading and scholastic achievement levels too often can be reflected by economic levels.
“We want to fix these problems,” she said. “We are meeting the needs of these kids.”
While tutoring one student on the West Side, she sees a positive value.
“This is the geography we are serving,” Halupnik said. “These are the schools we are partnering with. And our goal is to make a difference in this small part of the world.
“We feel like if we can do that, we will have succeeded. And there will be other groups that come along and say, 'How are you doing that? We want to do that over here.'”
Groups are already doing that, she said.
“We feel like there’s enough people in the world that see the vision and can come alongside and do that small thing in this small part of the world.
“That’s how you really change a community.”
You tackle challenges by affecting the child in front of you, she said. “You say, I am going to make a difference in this kid's life.”
QUAD-CITIZEN AWARD: COVID-19 doesn't stop Down By the Creek from helping abused, abandoned animals
Some of the animals have suffered unimaginable torment. Others have been neglected, or removed from hoarding situations.
Regardless of their pasts, all 90-plus creatures, great and small, know nothing but kindness and compassion while they teach exactly that to humans.
The lizards, rabbits, dogs, cats and even a horse are residents at Down By the Creek Companion Animal Sanctuary, Long Grove, where owner Debbie Wallace rescues and re-homes animals rehabilitated, socialized and trained for pet therapy.
“I think Debbie has the kindest ways with people and with animals, said Tricia Judge, of Bettendorf, who nominated Wallace for Quad-Citizen Award, a partnership between the Quad-City Times and IHMVCU to honor outstanding Quad-City area residents who go above and beyond for their community.
Judge met Wallace when Wallace came to a Cub Scouts program years ago. Judge and her son, Sam, began to volunteer there, and then she and her daughter, Kate, volunteered.
“The animals she rescues rescue the people that meet the animals right back.”
Wallace shares stories of the animals in her care, including their “amazing ability to forgive," when she gives tours of the sanctuary and takes groups of animals to schools, nursing home pet-therapy programs and other community appearances to talk about the importance of kindness.
Since her start in November 2007, Wallace encountered challenges in her teachings, but the animals have ways of helping there, too.
Now Wallace, a former educator at the Fejervary Park Zoo, has a bigger challenge than ever before: COVID-19.
Wallace had pet-therapy programs booked through 2020, using the help of "tons of volunteers."
Then came March when the virus reached the Quad-City area, and “all at once: BAM. It was done,” Wallace said. “I decided we better come to a screeching halt.”
As far as the programs went, “I just put the kibosh on it,” she said. “I was proactive.”
On the other hand, “I was in a pretty good financial position, thanks to donors” and initiatives such as Birdies for Charity, she said.
But there were no more school visits — classes were only held online. She couldn’t take the animals to nursing homes anymore, they restricted visitors. The critters couldn’t go to libraries where children read to them, those too, were closed by the pandemic.
“Those were my top three things,” she said. “I did a lot of praying. It all came down to COVID-19.”
Then Yeller, a fixture at the sanctuary and Wallace’s special canine companion, died.
With the advent of COVID-19 and the demise of Yeller, “The death of the old Down By the Creek had happened.”
It wasn’t time for Down By the Creek to come to an end, though.
Wallace decided to “just briefly let go, and let God. If this ship runs aground, that’s what it’ll do.”
A new normal emerged. Volunteers, now wearing face coverings, still came to help. Support from folks in the North Scott County and Quad-City area continued. Donations of food and money came in.
It was still Down By the Creek — just in a different format.
Wallace set up hand-washing stations, and signs about social-distancing and proper hand-washing. Hand sanitizer became part of the environment.
“Instead of us going places, folks are coming here,” she said. They walk dogs, clean up and feed other animals. The animals, including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, tortoises and turtles, aren’t loved on quite as much these days. “When I’m doing programs, outside the home, they all got petted a lot,” she said. “They deserve more pets than I can give them.”
COVID-19 is a reason to reinvent Down By the Creek, she said: “We have to focus on positivity in order to save ourselves."
"Even though you think you feel safe, you need to get used to this new world," she said. "It’s working out quite well.”
While Down by the Creek needs and appreciates cash donations, other items — such as food — are needed, too. Before you donate, Wallace would appreciate a call or an email so pick-up or drop-off can be scheduled: 563-340-6943 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Every dollar goes to the care and feeding of the animals that live in the sanctuary.
To visit or volunteer, call 563-340-6943 (do not expect an immediate answer, because Wallace generally is caring for the animals.) You also can reach Wallace at email@example.com or www.downbythecreek.net or facebook.com/downbythecreek
QUAD-CITIZEN AWARD: Genesis doctor was key to COVID-19 response
It was around Jan. 20 when Dr. Bharat Motwani, infectious diseases specialist at Genesis Health System, Davenport, grasped the immensity of what could develop from a new coronavirus that had popped up in China.
As more information flowed in, Motwani became increasingly alarmed, as did his superior, Dr. Nidal Harb, chief medical officer at Genesis, Davenport.
"I sent him a text. 'Look at this,'" Motwani, of Bettendorf, said in an interview last week. "We need to pay more attention to this, the possible implications and start preparing."
From that moment in mid-January, through today, and continuing into the foreseeable future, Motwani has been involved in every aspect of Genesis' response to the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes.
Whether it was planning for a surge of patients, making decisions on the use (and reuse) of personal protective equipment, training staff, protecting the health of employees, communicating messages throughout the system or providing actual hands-on patient care that has included convalescent plasma transfusions, Motwani has been involved in it all.
"He is the man with the expertise," said Kate Murphy, manager of corporate communication and marketing for Genesis.
His "trusted voice has been crucial to every decision made at Genesis as it executes its plan to care for patients during the pandemic. We are a stronger and more prepared community, thanks to the clinical leadership of Dr. Motwani. His efforts should not go unnoticed," she said.
For these reasons, Murphy nominated Motwani for April's Quad-Citizen Award, a partnership of Quad-City Times and IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union to honor outstanding Quad-City area residents.
Understanding the challenges
Motwani knew right away in January that fear of the unknown would be a big challenge; that people — both the public and Genesis employees — would be worried, anxious and fearful.
That fear would have to be addressed by communicating the message that "we are preparing, that we are taking all the steps to protect employees and patients," he said.
How does Motwani, who has been at Genesis for 15 years, keep himself calm in the face of this unprecedented crisis?
The native of Yavatmal, India, refers back to his residency days at what was Finch University of Health and Science/The Chicago Medical School, now Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science.
There would be a "code blue" on the floor and a mad scramble to start a central line and do CPR, and he realized that if he was to be effective, he had to keep a clear mind.
"If my mind is in chaos, I can't think," he said. To keep his mind clear, he draws on his innate positive outlook.
"I'm an optimistic guy," he said. "You need to look on the bright side."
He recalled a time in school when a teacher held up a piece of paper with a hole in it and asked the students what they saw. "Some saw the black hole. I saw the paper," he said.
His work on the coronavirus has meant many hours into the night and on weekends, away from his wife and two children, ages 8 and 11.
But it's all been executed, as Murphy wrote, with "unique knowledge, compassion and calm leadership."
His "confident and gentle manner makes it easy for his patients and our teams to feel comfortable. He is able to explain complex medical problems in a way everyone can understand."
Dr. Louis Katz, who held Motwani's position at Genesis before moving on to become chief medical officer for America's Blood Centers in Washington, D.C., said he delayed his move to D.C. until he found "somebody to take care of my patients."
At the time, Katz also was treating literally hundreds of AIDS and HIV patients in a private practice, and he had been treating many of them for years.
"I trusted him to take care of my patients," said Katz, who has now returned to the Quad-Cities and is chief medical officer for the Scott County Health Department and the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.
"Bharat was the guy. Clearly. What else can I say?"
Interest in infectious disease; mystery of coronavirus
Motwani decided to become a doctor because his grandmother died of ovarian cancer before he was born. After attending medical school in India, he came to the United States with the intention of becoming an oncologist, or cancer specialist.
He even did research at Rockefeller University in neuro-oncology. But after doing oncology rotations, he decided that's not what he wanted because he couldn't cure patients.
"Microbiology was my strong pursuit and infectious diseases appealed to me," he said. "So here I am."
"I am fascinated by challenges the field of infectious disease presents as it continues to evolve and changes frequently."
For example, why do some people who contract the new coronavirus show no symptoms and don't even know they have it while others die?
That's the mystery. And Motwani is fascinated by it — "how people with the same disease have different clinical presentations."
Some people with the virus develop blood clots. "We still don't know why that happens," he said. "We just don't know right now. There's a lot of things we don't know.
"What are we dealing with? It's very difficult to interpret the data."
Treatments; 'we'll get through this'
As for treatment, Genesis is participating in an experimental trial with Mayo Hospitals and Clinics in Rochester, Minnesota, to infuse convalescent plasma into patients. That is, take the plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 and presumably developed antibodies and infuse it into people still fighting the disease.
The two patients who received the plasma are doing "much better," Motwani said. He called the results "encouraging."
He also would like to start Genesis' own clinical trial on some types of medications.
"We don't know which will work and which will not work."
While he and other health care professionals around the world experiment with possible treatments and a vaccine, Motwani worries that shelter at home restrictions will be lifted too soon and that there will be a resurgence of cases.
But he also realizes that "we are social animals by heart" and "that's not going away."
"It's a difficult balance to find."
He is optimistic that a vaccine will be found, but it could take one to two years. "But we'll get there," he said.
"You need to look at the bright side. We've been through plagues, world wars. We'll get through this. It may be one year or two, but we'll get through it.
"I'm a big believer in humanity. We challenge ourselves and we rise to the occasion."
QUAD-CITIZEN: John Lavelle honors veterans at their funerals. The Quad-Citizen award honors him for that work.
Even in retirement, John Lavelle keeps busy.
Vietnam veteran Lavelle, 72, retired from Bettendorf High School in 2003, where he taught English and coached everything from football to girls track to golf. Since then, much of his time has been dedicated to volunteering at funerals and parades as part of an honor guard detail. He’s part of the Vietnam Veterans of America; last year, the three chapters in the Quad-Cities and the Mexican America Veterans Association came together for around 130 funerals.
Lavelle was nominated for the Quad-Citizen Award, a partnership of Quad-City Times and IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union to honor outstanding Quad-City area residents.
“We look upon these people as our brothers and sisters. They deserve the honor. We’re called the honor guard, but it’s not so much our honor,” Lavelle said.
Things are changing with his health though. Last year, Lavelle decided that he couldn’t march in parades anymore, after blockages in his legs stalled him three blocks in. Now, with the COVID-19 emergency limiting access, he can’t do funerals at Rock Island National Cemetery on Arsenal Island, though he’s still showing up to funeral homes.
“At first I said, hey, that’s discrimination. But they’re just looking out for us,” he said. “I hit the trifecta for the COVID — age, diabetes, heart problems.”
A lot of the veterans are strangers, but Lavelle said he’s done funerals for people he knew and knew well, including his old head coach at Bettendorf.
“I presented the flag. It was tough. I’ve known some of the people that I’ve done funerals for,” he said. “When my wife died — it’ll be four years in April — there were five or six members of my honor guard who showed up in uniforms, and it meant a lot.”
Every Sunday, Lavelle gets breakfast at Hy-Vee with Bruce Fosdyck, who he coached as a high school quarterback. Fosdyck nominated Lavelle because he figured it was his turn for attention. “He gives it to everyone else,” he said. As a coach, Fosdyck said Lavelle “was a hard-nosed guy. He taught good life lessons: Things I learned around him, you can apply to your whole life.”
“I’m proud to have (Lavelle) as a friend because of all the time he puts in,” Fosdyck said. “His spare time is all devoted to other people, it seems like.”
When Lavelle graduated from Western Illinois University in 1972, there was a record-high number of physical education majors, like him. He said that “luckily,” he minored in English, and taught in several districts in Iowa and Illinois before settling in Bettendorf. There were years when he coached a sport in every season, year round.
“It’s the kids. One of the things the last few years that I coached is to see them grow and change,” he said. “To see them change so much from their junior year to their senior year when they show up for football. … Seeing that was always a lot of fun and a pleasure. You almost take pride in it, because you think maybe you had something to do with it.”
In his later years as a coach, Lavelle turned to girls track and golf.
“I found out I should have coached golf my entire life,” he said “All you have to know is how to drive a van and know where the golf course is. They pay you for it.”
Lavelle is not paid to be at funerals, but he said “you know who’s going to show up,” and he considers some of his fellow veterans to be like “work friends.”
“We all respect each other and know what we can do, and take a lot of pride in what we do,” he said. They’re especially proud when their firing salute sounds like three clear shots, instead of “like a machine gun.”
“It’s kind of bizarre. I look at these guys who do the funerals today, and we’re running out of them. There’s an age gap,” said Fosdyck, a veteran himself. “I admire anyone that can devote their extra time to other people. Well, for him it’s it’s not even his spare time — it’s his whole life.”
Lavelle doesn’t plan to give up his service any time soon.
“I’m going to try to keep doing it until they do mine,” he said.
Quad-Citizen Award: Jayashree Karnam helps inspire wellness
Jayashree Karnam was honored and surprised when she learned she'd been nominated for a Quad-Citizen of the Year Award.
As president of non-profit Spurthi the Inspire, Karnam helps promote healthy living through focusing on physical, mental and social wellbeing.
"We think that wellbeing is holistic, so you need to have a healthy outlook," Karnam said in a recent interview. "So with Spurthi's events, we try to focus on all these aspects. A healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit."
While unexpected, Karnam is ecstatic being nominated.
"I think getting recognized here is not just a recognition of me but as a recognition of what we as a team do," she said. "It's a great recognition of Spurthi, and it should help us make ourselves known and make a wider impact."
Spurthi's main fundraiser, Race to Inspire, raises funding for donations to worthy organizations. Last year, the organization contributed to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); this year, the proceeds will go to Family Resources.
"I got to meet the Spurthi organization last year when they supported NAMI, and I was just really touched by their sincerity, their willingness to work with us. They're very much interested in doing outreach in the community," NAMI executive director Angela Gallagher said in a recent interview. Gallagher nominated Karnam for the Quad-Citizen of the Year Award, a partnership between the Quad-City Times and 1H Mississippi Valley Credit Union to honor outstanding Quad-City area residents.
Gallagher was especially touched by a gesture Spurthi made after their race. "I asked about the one dollar, and they said 'In our culture, that's a sign of respect.' And I gotta tell you, I cried all the way home," she said. "I think they are very much interested in reaching out to the community."
Karnam said part of Spurthi's focus on physical fitness is rooted in her own journey to fitness as an adult. "I think the fitness takes a backseat with family, and work and all those things," she said. "So when I took that as a goal to lose weight and get into an active lifestyle, it was transformational for me... So I thought this was something we need to promote."
"Spurthi" means energize, and the organization chose to have a 5K as its primary fundraiser to help energize and inspire people to be more physically active. They want to ensure it's economically viable and give an ethnic flavor to the race as well; warmups are done with a Bollywood bhangra dance, and various Indian savories are available at the end of the race.
"We truly believe in inspiring people to wellbeing," Karnam says. "We are able to promote wellbeing and fitness into the community, and then with the funds we raise through this race, we are able to empower a local cause. So it helps achieve our mission from all aspects."
Karnam's focus on philanthropy extends to her work at John Deere; she helped in bringing a voluntary tax assistance program, where John Deere employees volunteer in helping prepare taxes.
"Our parents always encouraged us to give back and help people, so I think as we are adults now and working and look at our community, you always want to make sure the people around you are well taken care of," Karnam says. "I think we have a moral obligation to make sure we give back to our community and to help our community along."
Quad-Citizen Award: Penny Hazen finds a soul is fed with needle and thread
On the right side, just above the fold of her leather cut (vest), rests the name "Stitchezz.''
If ever there was a word to describe Penny Hazen, it's something sewing related, though you had better find time for "kind,'' "considerate,'' "caring'' and "hard-driving" when it comes to the betterment and welfare of those around her.
Because of her amazing spirit and tireless effort, Hazen has been nominated and named Quad-Citizen for the month of May. The Quad-Citizen Award is a partnership between the Quad-City Times and IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union to honor outstanding Q-C area residents who go above and beyond for their community.
On one side of her give-back world, Hazen, a Davenport-based single mother of two, is her work for BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse.
According to its website, BACA is a worldwide organization existing to create a safer environment for abused children, to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. Hazen volunteers to create a cut (club vest) for every young person BACA reaches in our community.
Hazen strips the sleeves from a jacket, washes it, preps it and sews the BACA patch to its back and stitches a provided nickname — as to not expose the child's real name — to the cut. It is to signify that youngster is in great standing with the club.
On the flip side of her extensive give-back world, is Hazen's protective cover-making skills.
When the coronavirus forced a statewide shutdown of bars, restaurant and a variety of business entities in Iowa, Hazen found herself on the outside of two jobs.
After creating 20 masks as a favor to a friend who works at the Cancer Center at Genesis Health System, word leaked regarding Hazen's off-the-charts sewing skills. She then posted her work on nationwide bartender's page and withing 45 minutes had 1,200 likes and four comments about her work.
In three months, Hazen traced, cut and brought to life over 1,500 (it's where she stopped counting) face coverings for people in places like New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Seattle, Wash., Iowa and Illinois. Some were sold, some were shared as gifts.
Her masks, made with shoe strings around the ears to adjust to the person being fitted, even earned her a 500-batch sale to an out-of-state company for its workers.
"There were 250 to one company about an hour from here and 250 to another in Indiana,'' Hazen said while lauding the assistance of her 12-year-old son and his friends during many marathon mask-making sessions.
"That was a lot of work. you have to get the fabric, wash and iron it. I would lay it on my table, trace it and cut it in big chunks down to little pieces and put it together. If you just do one, it takes from 30 to 45 minutes to finish.''
Modest to a fault, Hazen says face covering-making is a labor of love even though some days she was at her trusty sewing machine for 20 hours. No cover-making day was ever less than 10 hours for the big-hearted dynamo. She estimates she spent $1,900 on fabric alone.
"I have a small TV in one spot so I could have an adult voice in the background so I didn't lose my mind,'' Hazen said, describing when she is in mask-making mode. "I have a table, a window where I look out and see the world.
"When I was rolling and I was filling orders for people who needed them, I was busy and I was feeling good and doing something that was making a difference,'' added Hazen. "What was cool was I had a neighbor who would see my light on at 4:30 a.m. and would have his wife call me to check on me to see if I was OK.''
Though back to work at Davenport's Gypsy Highway, Hazen, a skilled and avid motorcycle rider, says the face covering part of her life will always be there, just like time with her '96 Harley, 1340 cc Softail.
"I have three orders of eight to finish,'' Hazen said while debating a long bike ride or sitting down at the sewing machine to carve out the final 24 on her to-do list. "It's been a great experience.''
Quad-Citizen Award: From costuming to mentoring, Cathy Marsoun is a tireless volunteer
Cathy Marsoun may have two children of her own, but in her 45-odd years with the Quad City Music Guild, she has become a mother figure for hundreds more.
“When you’re talking about your mom, everyone’s mom is the best mom around,” said her daughter, Beth Marsoun, of Davenport. “But you know, she has been that mom to so many other people. … When you’re an actor or an artist, you’re putting yourself out there, and sometimes (you) need someone there.”
And no matter who needs her or when, Cathy Marsoun is there.
In her time with the Guild, she has served two years as president and seven years on the board, and has answered questions, helped in the box office, mentored everyone from crew to board members, chaired the Music Guild's Costume Shoppe, and of course, designed and created costumes.
Because of the Rock Island woman’s tireless work behind the scenes at Music Guild, Marsoun has been nominated and named Quad-Citizen for the month of May. The Quad-Citizen Award is a partnership between the Quad-City Times and IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union to honor outstanding Q-C area residents who go above and beyond for their community.
And like so many “mothers of Music Guild” before her, Marsoun has no qualms about helping people dress, tuck in shirts, comb hair, talk out anxieties and nervousness, and celebrate after jobs well done, and more.
It’s a "nice surprise and a nice honor,” Marsoun said of the award. “I certainly don’t mind being one of the mothers of Music Guild.”
Growing up at the Guild
Marsoun started helping with costumes and props at Music Guild in 1975 after her drama teacher at United Township High School encouraged kids to volunteer there.
“(I’ve) mostly done costumes ever since,” she said.
Marsoun and about 10 other women work on costumes, now, she said, taking pieces home or sewing in the dressing rooms while actors rehearse on stage.
“It becomes a teamwork thing,” she said.
She also is in charge of the 25,000-piece costume shop, which also rents costumes to schools and theaters in the region. “It’s insane,” Beth said.
Marsoun said she and some other folks at the Guild had joked that when they started there, they were the youngsters coming to work with the older people. “Now, we’re the old people,” she said, with a laugh.
But that just means she’s had more time to foster friendships.
'She's a magician'
Over the years, so many costumes have become her favorites, including some from shows such as “Shrek,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.”
“They had fun and unusual things to make,” she said, adding that she particularly enjoyed the challenge of making Sebastian the crab’s costume for “The Little Mermaid.”
“How do you make a grown man look like a crab on stage?”
Whether there are challenges, mishaps or wardrobe malfunctions, the audience is none the wiser. “Her role is tremendously important in what costumes add to a production,” said Sarah Lounsberry, of Rock Island, who has worked with Marsoun since she started at Music Guild in 2002.
“If there are mishaps,” Lounsberry said, Marsoun is there to fix them, such as a costume that catches on a prop and tears on stage. The folks in the audience “don’t notice because she handles it like a pro,” she said.
She also makes sure costume changes move smoothly and that everyone looks their best.
"She's a magician," Lounsberry said.
And her skills do not start and stop with costuming. “What’s interesting about Cathy is not only her involvement with costumes, but she knows the ins and outs of the organization in its entirety,” said Music Guild President Troy Stark, of Rock Island, who served as vice president for the organization when Marsoun was president.
“She anticipates the needs of the organization, which is always incredible.”
'She's everywhere, and she does everything'
Working with Music Guild is fun, Marsoun said, but it’s also work. Thankfully, "everybody’s creative and doing their best and working hard, but still having fun at the same time,” she said.
No matter the situation, Marsoun is always smiling and welcoming, Lounsberry said. “If you’ve done one show at Guild, you know Cathy Marsoun,” she said. “She’s everywhere, and she does everything.”
And she does it because she cares. “I think what’s so special about Cathy is her passion for the organization and the projects she's involved in,” Lounsberry said. She is an inspiration to others, which has “created this army of volunteers ... who are able to follow her example, and that really creates a good organization.”
Stark said he met Cathy when he joined the Guild in 1999. “If you needed something," he said, "she was just around.”
When she was president and he was vice president, “she really helped me understand and learn how the organization worked and gave me the courage and the ability to be a good leader and president.”
Marsoun nurtured Stark’s mother, Angie Stark, of Rock Island, in the same way. Angie had helped on the stage crew and with props for a while until she started costuming about three years ago.
Marsoun is “very level and steady,” Angie said. “Not too many things rattle her, you know? She just takes everything in stride and she’s just got a lot of moving parts all the time.”
Angie said Marsoun was “instrumental” in helping her and her son’s partner, Matt Stoefen, costume for “The Little Mermaid.”
“We really relied on Cathy a lot,” she said.
Angie said Marsoun was great at training newbies, too.
“If anybody wanted to step into (costuming),” Angie said, “they need to be working under her.”
Beth said her mother met her father, Bill, at the Guild, and “my brother (Rich) and I were essentially raised there,” by their parents and by the “village” of Guild members, as many families with the Guild often are. Marsoun said she loved watching kids and families come back to the Guild, year after year, bringing friends and growing into bigger roles.
“That’s one of the things I love most is when I see young people fall in love with the place like I did,” she said.
Everyone’s hearts, Marsoun's included, were broken when the Guild canceled its 2020 season because of COVID-19. But even before that decision was made, Marsoun had sprung into action and rallied volunteers to craft face coverings to donate to area hospitals, nursing homes and more.
“We’ve made nearly 3,000,” Marsoun said.
Beth said she was blessed to have Marsoun as a stay-at-home mom, which also lent Marsoun the opportunity to volunteer more with the Guild as well as other organizations.
“I don’t think she knows how many people that she has affected with her kindness and stability.”