Chapter Update

Friday, March 1

2013 NASW Illinois District Awards

Nina Nguyen, NASW Illinois Chapter Manager, Membership and Communication

Congratulations to this year's 2012 NASW Illinois District Social Work Awards! The below individuals have exemplified in their professional and personal work the basic tenets of the social work profession—giving voice to those who are without voices. Award ceremonies will be held in the corresponding district across the state. To find out more information about the award ceremonies, be sure to check out district page:


Public Citizen of the Year: Patricia Polk

Social Worker of the Year: Cini Bretzlaff-Holstein
Cini Bretzlaff-Holstein (MSW, Baylor University; LSW) is assistant professor of social work and has worked at Trinity Christian College since 2008. Before concentrating her career on social work education, Cini spent six years working in the field of social work in a variety of areas. Her areas of practice include child welfare, residential youth services, community development, and program development. She has most recently been involved in exploring sustainable food systems and the impact of nutritional food on youth and their communities.



Lifetime Achievement Award: D. Frank Elam
D. Frank Elam (MSW, University of Illinois at Chicago; LCSW) has been employed in many areas of social work since 1968 including public welfare, school, community mental health, child welfare, developmental disabilities, and domestic violence working with children and adults. He has been employed as a clinical supervisor, administrator, and consultant. He has been a field instructor for interns in the field of social work. He has taught at the college level for many years and presently teaches at Governors State University as adjunct faculty. He is also the clinical consultant at South Suburban Family Shelter, a domestic violence agency, and maintains a private practice.

Click here for details about the Calumet District awards event in Bourbonnais:



Public Citizen of the Year: Karen Lewis
Karen GJ Lewis is president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). A member of CTU since 1988, Karen taught high school chemistry in the Chicago Public Schools for twenty-two years. She received National Board Certification in 2002 and renewed in 2012. Karen is a vice president of the more than 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, and in 2010, Karen was elected executive vice president to the 70,000 member Illinois Federation of Teachers. She works tirelessly to effectuate excellence in the teaching/learning experience, guard against opportunistic self-interest groups who would eradicate public education, advocate for equal quality education for all students, and protect the rights of educators throughout the state of Illinois.

Social Worker of the Year: Ellen J. Benjamin
Ellen J. Benjamin (PhD, The University of Chicago; MSW, The University of Michigan) is associate professor emerita at DePaul University after serving as a full-time faculty member in The School for New Learning for eighteen years. For more than thirty-five years she has been involved in advocacy work on social causes, having served as an employee, co-founder, and trustee of nonprofit organizations such as The American Friends Service Committee, Planned Parenthood, and The Midwest Women's Center. She has also directed two philanthropic institutions within Chicago: the Borg-Warner Foundation and The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation. 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dan Rosenfeld

Click here for details about the Chicago District awards and CEU event in Chicago: and



Public Citizen of the Year: Mary J. Nicholls







Social Worker of the Year: Karen Haggard
Karen Haggard (MSW, University of Illinois at Chicago; LCSW) is readjustment counselor at the Rockford Vet Center, specializing in the treatment of PTSD. She has many years of progressively responsible clinical and leadership experience, providing mental health services within a variety of settings including federal, state, and community agencies. Karen has sought to provide comprehensive and holistic services to her clients in an environment promoting teamwork among her colleagues and within the community. She provides professional trainings for educators, health and mental health professionals, and family members of veterans. Karen is also a Red Cross volunteer and mental health trainer.

Click here for details about the Jane Addams District awards event in Rockford:



Social Worker of the Year: Justin Evan Tobin
Justin Evan Tobin (MSW, Washington University in St. Louis; LCSW) is owner of Justin Tobin and Associates, a group psychotherapy practice in downtown Chicago. As therapist, he helps individuals, couples, and families manage depression, anxiety, stress, and work through trauma. He has helped couples improve their communication and build trust and honesty in their relationships. Prior to working in private practice, he provided individual and group therapy in residential care facilities, drug treatment centers, and community mental health agencies. His therapeutic style is blended with empathy, sincerity, and genuineness. He truly enjoys working with clients and helping them find the answers they seek.


Lifetime Achievement Award: Nancylou M. Morgan
Nancylou M. Morgan (MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; LCSW; ACSW) has been with the Village of Mount Prospect Human Services Department since 1984 as human services director. She successfully led the department through continual growth and development, resulting in expanded nursing and social services for the village's at-risk residents of all ages. Nancy was a member of the Community Connections Center development team, a resource center located in an emerging immigrant and ethnically diverse area of town, and now oversees its operation. Nancy believes in giving back to her community. She has been active and taken a leadership role in Rotary, United Way, American Cancer Society, and other civic, educational, and social councils.

Click here for details about the Northeastern District awards and CEU event in Northbrook:



Public Citizen of the Year: Rita Winkeler
Rita Winkeler (MSEd, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; NBCT) has been a third grade teacher for the past eighteen years. The mother of three sons, her severely disabled son Mark lives at Murray Center in Centralia, IL. She is president of the Murray Parents' Association and has worked tirelessly leading 220 parents/guardians in their fight to keep Murray Center open for the special residents who call Murray Center home. She is also president of the parent/guardians' group for Community Link in Breese, where her disabled brother lives in a community integrated living arrangement (CILA). She is also his guardian. Rita is also on the Illinois League of Advocates for the Developmentally Disabled Board of Directors.

Social Worker of the Year: Carla Bauer
Carla Bauer (MSW, Washington University in St. Louis; ACSW) began her professional social work career in 1982 as mental health therapist at the Washington County Community Counseling Program in Nashville, IL. Following the addition of other duties such as substance abuse counselor, she became coordinator of counseling services. During this time she was also employed privately in a psychiatrist's practice. After twenty years with the Counseling Program, she began working for the state of Illinois at Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, IL as a social worker. She currently serves as social work administrator at Murray Center.

Click here for details about the Southern District awards event in Mt. Vernon:



Public Citizen of the Year: Ron Tyler and Aruna Mathur
Ron Tyler has worked with at-risk youth and families for twenty years in the Peoria area in a variety of settings including residential, delinquency prevention and intervention, and community and school-based programming. He has served as director of outreach for FamilyCore in Peoria, IL, for the past fourteen years. He developed and implemented unique programming, such as the Day Respite Program, to serve the needs of youth and families in the tri-county area. Ron and his wife Jonna have two children and reside in Peoria.



Aruna Mathur (MS, Agra University – India; ASCP) and her husband Ravi Mathur have lived in Springfield, IL, since 1969. They have two children and five grandchildren. Aruna worked at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine from 1976 to 2001. In 1991 Aruna started the Asian Indian Women's Organization (AIWO) with the objective of giving back to the Springfield community. Her goal was accomplished through volunteering and donating to charities locally, nationally, and internationally. The biannual fundraisers held for the local Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC), has raised over $150,000.00. She is founding and past president of AIWO and is now a board member of RMHC of central Illinois.

Social Worker of the Year: Dennis Crowell

Click here for details about the West Central District awards event in Peoria:



Social Worker of the Year: Malinda Dobyne
Malinda Dobyne (MSW, Florida State University; LCSW; QCSW; CMFSW) has always had a passion for helping people. She began her career twenty years ago working with military members and their families. Over the past eighteen years, she has worked with culturally diverse individuals experiencing an array of mental and/or behavioral health problems. Malinda has provided services in the home, hospital, and office settings. In addition to helping people directly, she has managed departments, provided clinical supervision to students, and conducted mental health trainings to the community. Malinda finds her work rewarding and will continue to serve others.

Click here for details about the Three Rivers District awards and CEU event in River Forest:



Public Citizen of the Year: Larry and Vivian Lefferts
Larry and Vivian Lefferts raised John and Eleanor in central Illinois. After John died from an aortic dissecting aneurysm on October 11, 2004, John's eyes, bones, and tissues were donated. To honor him, Larry and Vivian are tireless advocates for donation, John's story, volunteering for Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network (GOH), Illinois Eye Bank, Donate Life, and Secretary of State Jesse White's office. To honor them, GOH sponsored them on the Donate Life Float at the 2013 Rose Bowl Parade. When facing tragic loss, their message is one of hope, emphasizing the benefits of donation for donor families. They know, through donation, that life goes on!

Click here for details about the East Central District awards event in Normal:

Posted on 03/01/13 at 10:09 AM


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