Exchange Club Helps Fund Buddy Bench Project

By Deborah Gertz Husar
Staff Writer | 217-221-3379 |
QUINCY — Everybody needs a buddy, and finding one can be as simple as sitting on a bench.

Five Buddy Benches, delivered Thursday to Quincy Public Schools and destined for the five new K-5 buildings, will encourage inclusion and diversity at the elementary level – thanks to some help from Quincy High School students.

Students in Karissa Ham’s anatomy and physiology classes collected 400,000 bottle caps to recycle into the blue benches designed to promote friendship and curb loneliness on the playground.
When a child feels lonely or left out, or needs a friend to play with, he or she can sit on the bench. When other students see someone sitting on the bench, the idea is they will come and say do you want to talk or want to play.

“Every kid should be loved no matter who they are,” said QHS senior Jaeden Smith, who helped collect, clean and count the caps. “Having the benches can be very helpful. They can make new friendships to last a lifetime.”

Ham said the project started as a way to provide a prosthetic limb for a young boy. After collecting the caps, the boy no longer needed them, “so we wanted to do something for the community,” she said. “We came up with the idea of Buddy Benches, a big thing now in lots of school districts, but Quincy didn’t have them.”
Along with collecting the caps, the students had to raise about $700 to provide the benches. A GoFund-Me campaign brought in $240, and the Quincy Exchange Club covered the rest. McNay Trucking partnered with the project to deliver the caps to Indiana and pick up the benches.

Dennis Koch, a member of the Quincy Exchange Club and Region 3 vice president for the national organization, said the club looks forward to working with other schools on similar projects. “They did all the heavy lifting, collecting all the caps. We had the easy part. We wrote a check,” he said. “It’s a credit to the high school kids. Collecting that many caps had to take a while, a lot of perseverance.”

Smith said students collected as many caps as they could and were pleased to get involved with the bench project. Ham said the project helps her students work for the greater good. “Something as small as picking up a bottle cap can have a big impact on what a child takes away from their time at school,” she said. “We hear too many stories about bullying and how it affects kids for the rest of their life. If we have a part in lessening that, making sure kids are not feeling that, that’s awesome.”

Club Recognizes Wentura and Greenwell

On Friday, June 22, the Quincy Exchange Club wrapped up its fiscal year for 2017-2018. During their meeting a special guest made an appearance. It was the Chief Executive Officer of the National Exchange Club Tracey Edwards from Ohio. She was there to swear-in the new and existing officers and board members for the upcoming year which she did eloquently.  She was also there to witness the presentation of the prestigious John Tripp Distinguished Service Award to one of Quincy’s all-time best in Dick Wentura. It is the annual award that the Exchange Club presents to the person who has, over the years, contributed to the betterment of the Club and the community it serves. He couldn’t be more deserving and I couldn’t be happier for him as it was Dick Wentura who convinced me to join the Exchange Club some 28 years ago.

Dick has been a member for 47 years and has been active all 47 and I am not surprised. He’s also involved in so many other activities in the area including the Soap Box Derby put on by the Optimist Club of Quincy.  If you are a basketball fan, you have probably seen him running the scoreboard clock for years at games at Quincy Senior High School and Quincy University plus keeping score during Gus Macker games.

Dick, a long time refurbished car buff, was in the car business for years and owned Dick Wentura Volkswagon before selling the business and “retiring”.  You will notice I put “retiring” in quotes. In retirement, he really hasn’t slowed down even after a heart attack suffered several years ago. As a matter of fact, when they jump started his heart, I think it jump started him all over again.

The Quincy Exchange Club also selected one of it’s 90 members to receive the Bill Hagemann Exchangite of The Year Award. It is an award that honors the person the Club feels has demonstrated great character and willingness to be apart of the yearly activities the Club is a part of.  This year’s winner is Doug Greenwell.  Doug has continuously shown an ability to be a “go-to” man to get things done and has been a part of most of the Exchange Club’s activities throughout the entire year. Greenwell, who works for Country Companies Insurance, is dedicated to any project that he is a part of ranging from Gus Macker to the Field of Honor and Flags of Honor projects.

Doug is always willing to serve wherever needed. His desire to serve the Exchange Club and the community made him an easy choice to receive the prestigious Exchangite of the Year Award. Doug is definitely one of the area’s best. Congratulations!

Steinkamps become 66th recipients of Golden Deeds Award

Kevin and Pat Steinkamp are applauded after being named the 2018 Golden Deeds Award winners April 16 during a Special Olympics soccer practice at the Paul Dennis Soccer Complex. The Quincy Exchange Club presented the Steinkamps with the award Friday. | H-W File Photo/Michael Kipley

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: May. 11, 2018 10:10 pm Updated: May. 11, 2018 11:13 pm

QUINCY — Kevin and Pat Steinkamp joined a pair of exclusive clubs Friday.

The husband-and-wife tandem was the recipient of the 66th Golden Deeds Award presented by the Quincy Exchange Club for service to the community.

The Steinkamps are also just the second husband and wife honored, joining Isabelle and Bernie Willer, who were selected in 1995.

The Steinkamps were singled out for their contributions to the Special Olympics at a noon gathering at the Elks Club. They have served the Special Olympics in numerous areas for more than three decades. Their involvement has seen them work with participants as young as 9 and as old as 74.

“It is their singular (interest),” Exchange Club member Jared Haugh said. “The lives they have touched are many.”

Kevin Steinkamp was humbled by the adulation.

“It’s just something we’ve always done and enjoyed,” he said. “It’s all about helping the athletes.”

Pat Steinkamp echoed her husband’s sentiments.

“It’s just what we do, and we’d do it all over again,” she said.

The Steinkamps became involved with Special Olympics through their daughter, Jessica, who is an athlete with special needs. The couple’s duties with the Special Olympics have covered coaching, refereeing, transportation of athletes, office work, and numerous other details connected with various activities.

The Steinkamps plan on assisting the Special Olympics for three more years before settling into retirement.

“Kevin and Pat know, at some time, the baton will be passed,” Haugh said.

The Steinkamps said they are hoping at some point during the next few years that another couple or person will come forward and assume some or all of their duties with Special Olympics.

Cullan Duke was chairman of the Golden Deeds selection committee, which also included Rick Gengenbacher, David Adam, Gary Farha, Bruce Broemmel and Awerkamp.

Exchange Club honors trooper with law enforcement award, Tri-Township firefighter with firefighter award

Tri-Township firefighter Kyle Dixon gets a hug from his 5-year-old son, Cooper, after Dixon was named Firefighter of the Year by the Quincy Exchange Club during a ceremony Friday at the Elks Club. At left is Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Feb. 23, 2018 9:30 pm Updated: Feb. 23, 2018 11:26 pm

QUINCY — Both Tri-Township firefighter Kyle Dixon and Illinois State Police Trooper Cory Fox love their jobs and aren’t in it for the accolades.

But accolades were in order Friday, when the Quincy Exchange Club named Fox as Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and Dixon as Firefighter of the Year.

Both gave short acceptance speeches after they learned they were being recognized at Friday’s Exchange Club’s Public Safety Officer Appreciation Luncheon at the Elks Club.

Adams County Sheriff Brian VonderHaar said Fox, who works in District 14 based in Macomb, responded to a domestic disturbance in Oquawka in March along with a Henderson County sheriff’s deputy. The man involved was holding a knife in his fist as if he intended to use it.

Despite the use of Tasers, the man tackled both Fox and the deputy and initiated a ground fight, eventually pinning the deputy. Fox fought with the suspect, who tried to grab the trooper’s firearm, and was able to subdue him.

“It is District 14’s command opinion that Trooper Fox saved the life of the deputy and possibly the life of the domestic battery victim,” VonderHaar said.

He said Fox also has been recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for his enforcement of laws against drunken driving and has mentored new law enforcement officers.

Fox thanked the command staff for the nomination and lauded other law enforcement officers he has met at the Exchange Club’s annual awards ceremony.

“It’s a great honor every year to listen to the stories,” Fox said. “I’ve trained with some of the guys that have gotten it before, and it’s just really nice that the Exchange Club does this.”

Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning presented the Firefighter of the Year award to Dixon. He noted that Dixon showed his love for the profession when he became a member of the Quincy Fire Department’s Explorer program as a teen.

Dixon has been an on-call firefighter with the Tri-Township Fire Department since 2006, and he is the department’s emergency medical service officer. He is also a captain with the Adams County Ambulance Service.

“In the words of his chief, ‘He sets the bar high, consistently being one of the firefighters with the highest percentage of off-duty responses full- or part-time,’ ” Henning said.

Dixon was surprised and humbled that he received the award. He said he looks forward to working in public safety every day.

“Firefighting and public safety in general was something I identified early on, and that was my focus coming out of high school,” Dixon said.

Also honored Friday were Cindy Vancil-Haxel and Frank Haxel, who shared the Citizen of the Year award for their work with We Back the Blue campaign in Quincy, which rallied public support for local law enforcement, and Six String Heroes, which provides guitar lessons for military veterans.

“It just takes a little bit of work to make a big difference, and I’m just very honored (to receive) the award,” Vancil-Haxel said.

Haxel and Vancil-Haxel accepted the award in honor of law enforcement officers and first responders.

“You guys are the guys who get up every day, you put on the uniforms, you strap on the belts, you pin on that badge, and you guys go out and do the heavy lifting,” Haxel said.


Quincy Exchange Club Honored by Daughters of the American Revolution

At the January 26, 2018 meeting, our Club was presented a national award from the Daughters of the American Revolution by local D.A.R. Regent Patricia Smith.

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. The D.A.R., founded in 1890, is made up of 940-thousand members throughout the nation. The local Dorothy Chapter submitted our Club to be the recipient of their National Distinguish Service Award for service to the area. In her presentation of a plague to President Cory Watson, Miss Smith recognized many of the Club’s attributes over the years as well as today. Thanks to the Dorothy Chapter of the American Revolution for considering us for the honor and for their presentation to the Club. Jeff Dorsey provided the introduction of Miss Smith for the presentation of the award. Miss Smith also provided her letter of recomendation.


Looking back at Christmas 1948 & wonderland in Washington Park

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 25, 2017 12:01 am

Each week we pride ourselves in finding the answers for our readers’ questions, but this week we would like to explore a couple Christmas-themed topics. First, we will look at the Christmas of 1948.

The Retails Merchants Association announced that it would sponsor a “gigantic Christmas party” for the whole city on Dec. 6, 1948.

Quincy historian Carl Landrum said in a Dec. 24, 1989, column that J.M. Riffe, executive secretary of the chamber of commerce, announced the parade would feature rubber, inflated figures, similar to those seen in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It took seven hours to fill the figures on the Irving School grounds. The inflatables included balloon horses pulling a wagon.

The parade — led by a motorcycle escort and the color guard of the American Legion — traversed downtown Quincy, with an estimated 50,000 people lining the parade route. Eleven bands marched in the parade.

Most surprising that Christmas season was the arrival of Santa Claus in Washington Park.

Landrum wrote that the Quincy Exchange Club sponsored a party in Washington Park where Santa handed out more than 10,000 gifts.

With the permission of the Quincy City Council, Santa would arrive by helicopter at the intersection of Fifth and Maine on Dec. 18, 1948.

Bitter winds and clouds didn’t keep crowds away that day, and around 9:30 a.m., the helicopter arrived, circling the park before landing at the intersection.

“The children shouted and cheered as a little fat man, all dressed in red, with white chin whiskers, was seen sitting alongside the pilot, waving to them,” Landrum wrote. Santa told The Herald-Whig that flying in the helicopter was new for him, “as he was used to traveling by reindeer and sleigh, but business was rushing, and Donner and Blitzen weren’t as young as they used to be.”


Washington Park is well lit this holiday season. Many of the lights are recent additions, as the District has made an effort to make the park more festive. However, the park was regularly covered in lights 50 years ago.

In 1966, more than 2,000 people attended the lighting of the Christmas wonderland in Washington Park. More than 80,000 lights decorated the trees and displays in Washington Park, according to the Nov. 26, 1966, article in The Herald-Whig.

Plans for the decorations started in May, as the Greater Downtown Quincy committee researched and “conferred with commercial decorating firms, city and park officials, civic organizations and business and labor councils.”

Volunteers provided the manpower to install the decorations.

Later articles on tree-lighting ceremonies noted that lights twinkling in Washington Park ended in the 1960s, as costs were prohibitive, and vandals damaged some of the displays.

In 1984, Uptown Quincy estimated it would cost between $25,000 and $30,000 to illuminate the 114 trees in Washington Park if it were done without volunteers.

How can my question be answered? Just ask. We’ll quiz community leaders, business officials, historians, educators — whoever can tell us what you want to know. Submit questions to or mail them to Answers, The Herald-Whig, P.O. Box 909, Quincy, IL 62306. Provide a name and phone number so we can respond or clarify information. Questions dealing with personal or legal disputes will not be accepted.

Quincy a ‘model community’ for Gus Macker

Posted: Oct. 25, 2017 3:05 pm

THE future of the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament in downtown Quincy is uncertain after the Exchange Club announced last week that its involvement will end after the 2020 event.

Exchange Club officials said a three-year contract extension has been signed with the Macker organization to take the partnership through its 30th year and allow Michigan-based Macker coordinator Scott McNeal time to try to find a new service club or other organization to be a partner and keep the event alive in Quincy.

“I can’t say enough good things about the Exchange Club and the city of Quincy,” McNeal told The Herald-Whig. “We’ll be talking to people. We definitely don’t want to leave the Quincy community. Quincy has been a model community.”

Equally important, the tournament has been good for a basketball hotbed like Quincy.

The first Gus Macker tournament in Quincy drew 200 four-player teams, and entries more than doubled to 500 the second year. The number of teams continued to grow, reaching a peak of 1,400 in 1997.

Organizers in the late 1990s and early 2000s estimated there were between 15,000 and 20,000 people in downtown Quincy over the Memorial Day weekend when courts stretched from Fourth to Sixth streets, York to Vermont.

Quincy was billed as the second-largest Gus Macker tournament in the country at the time. It flourished, in part, because of the downtown location. While many tournaments are played on parking lots without shade or scenery, Washington Park offers the shade of 100-year-old trees and a true street basketball environment.

Even with numbers hovering around 400 teams in recent years, the economic impact of the tournament has been pegged at about $500,000 annually.

Members of the Exchange Club, along with a host of corporate partners, should be commended for their long, strong support of this event. Members donated thousands of hours of their time to organize and make the event a success, while raising funds for the charitable causes the club supports in the community.

The Exchange Club now plans to focus fundraising efforts on its American Flag program.

For $30 a year, it will put a flag in a participant’s front yard four times a year — Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day. The club is also sponsoring a Field of Honor at Madison Park, where 1,000 American flags will be displayed on Veterans Day.

Both are worthwhile projects.

The Exchange Club, Gus Macker and Quincy have formed a good partnership for nearly three decades. Our hope is the tournament will live on as a Quincy tradition.

Quincyan receives National Exchange Club highest honor

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Oct. 21, 2017 10:35 pm Updated: Oct. 21, 2017 11:20 pm

QUINCY — Quincy Exchange Club member Dennis Koch has been inducted into the National Exchange Club Court of Honor.

Koch is the first Quincyan and one of only a handful of Illinoisans to receive the honor — the highest recognition an Exchange Club member may achieve. Koch and fellow inductee, Joe Nickels, were the 108th and 109th members to enter the Court of Honor in the Exchange Club’s 106-year history.

“I’ve been attending these ceremonies for a while,” Koch said, “but I never thought my name would be up there.”

Koch’s sons, Jason and Joel, spent almost a year compiling an extensive nomination for their father. Having nominated others in the past, Koch was “blown away” to be included in the “exclusive club.”

Koch has been an Exchange Club member for 25 years, first joining in 1980 when he was 21. After briefly stepping away from the club, he returned and has been a member for the past 21 years. He has held positions at the local, district and national levels. Koch has served for the last five years on the National Foundation Board and is currently the Region 3 vice president, serving Exchange Clubs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. He has served once as vice president and twice as president of the Exchange Club National Foundation Board.

Koch’s name was inscribed on one of the seven granite monuments in the Exchange Club’s Court of Honor courtyard in Toledo, Ohio, where the induction ceremony was held Oct. 14. Among the other names on the stone is Charles Berkey, Exchange Club founder.

“You look at the list of people on there,” Koch said, “and I’m still not sure I deserve to be up there with them.”

Koch credits his mother and father, who were both active in civic groups and service clubs, with fueling his interest in community service. Early on, an Exchange Club speaker changed the way he looked at life. By defining the difference between being innocent and not guilty, the speaker encouraged listeners to take an active approach to life.

“Instead of looking at what I can do to get by, look at what I can do to help,” Koch said. “It’s made me a better person.”

Exchange Club seeking nominations for Golden Deeds award

Posted: Mar. 12, 2017 12:01 am
Quincy Exchange Club is giving people an opportunity to recognize someone who has
been a selfless volunteer or has worked tirelessly on behalf of the community.
The club will present its 65th annual Golden Deeds award during a luncheon May 12 at the Elk’s Club. The club is accepting nominations through April 7.
The Book of Golden Deeds is the most distinguished award the Exchange Club presents each year.
Jack Mackenzie was the recipient of the Golden Deeds award last year. Since he stepped aside as the
men’s soccer coach at Quincy University in 2012, Mackenzie has been active in helping coach soccer
with the local Special Olympics group. He has volunteered his time with the Quincy Spirit group at
Blessed Sacrament Parish and has helped deliver meals to those in need as a member of the St. Vincent
DePaul Society.
Past recipients have made a positive impact in various ways on the lives of many people in Quincy. The
award is called the Book of Golden Deeds because letters, written on behalf of the recipient by those who
have firsthand knowledge of their efforts, are placed in a book and forever documented.
“The Book of Golden Deeds is my favorite Exchange Club program, because there is something special
about saying thank you to someone who never requires a thank you and is honestly humbled by the
recognition we honor them with,” Exchange Club member Rick Gengenbacher said.
Committee Chairman Cullan Duke says the nomination process is important because people who earn
the award are typically so humble they downplay their own activities.
“This is our opportunity to honor some of the area’s most giving people who continue to do good deeds
on a daily basis,” Duke said. “Recognition is not why the recipients of this award do what they do, but
they certainly deserve some recognition.”
Nominees may be anyone who has made Quincy a better place to work and live. They may be the
individuals who lead a worthy cause, or they may quietly go about their volunteer efforts behind the
Nominations may be made by visiting and clicking on either the Home link or the
Community link at the top of the home page, then click on the Golden Deeds link. Nominations also
may be made by letter sent to Golden Deeds Award, P.O. Box 1163, Quincy, IL 62306, or by email to
Duke at Include your name and the name of the nominee along with the deed or
deeds on which the nomination is based. For more information, visit

Sheriff’s deputy surprised by Exchange Club’s annual officer honor

By Matt Hopf Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 24, 2017 10:15 pm Updated: Feb. 24, 2017 11:46 pm
Tommy Pickett was at a loss for words.
In front of a standing ovation Friday at the Quincy Elks Club, the 23year
veteran of the Adams County
Sheriff’s Department accepted the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award from the Quincy
Exchange Club. This is the 51st year the club has given the award out.
“I didn’t realize this was going on,” said Pickett, who is currently assigned to the West Central Illinois
Task Force. “This is awesome. I love my job, and I love going to work.”
He thanked his wife, Michele, and their two kids, Thomas Jr. and Hannah, who attended Friday’s
“If I didn’t have my wife, I couldn’t do the job I do,” Pickett said. “I work all kinds of hours, but I love it.
I love working with all the guys and gals here. They deserve it just as much as I do.”
He was happy to see the task force recognized because much of its work is behind the scenes.
Pickett joined the Sheriff’s Department in 1994 as a correctional officer. He became a deputy in 2000,
and since 2005, he has served as an inspector with the task force and an investigator at the Sheriff’s
Sheriff Brian VonderHaar said that in 2016 alone, Pickett opened more than 50 felony drug cases and
has made more than 30 arrests involving drug activity. He is regularly known to work after hours and
late into the evening to work with confidential informants and investigate cases.
“His work has not only resulted in dangerous drug arrests, his work has also been important in
identifying dangerous or neglectful living environments for the children who live in the households with
those struggling with dangerous drug addiction,” VonderHaar said.
Looking forward, Pickett said the investigations will continue.
“Meth is still the biggest problem we have,” he said. “Since New Year’s, it’s been nonstop.”
Also awarded Friday was the Citizen of the Year award, which went to Rhonda Murry.
Murry was lauded for her work with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, where she
administers support programs in five counties to improve outcomes for children. She and her husband,
Rocky, lead the Quincy Neighborhood Federation, which operates three neighborhood youth centers.
The organization is funded solely by private funds.
“I alone do not deserve this award,” Murry said. “We have a fantastic board for Quincy Area Project,
which supports us financially for the last 30 years.”
She also thanked her “sidekick,” Rocky.