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Macomb women honored for their efforts to improve the community

Writing Women-2022.jpg
Rich Egger
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This year’s Writing Women into History award winners are (left to right): Jill Joline Myers, Gayle Carper, Verneata Jones, and Nan Crossman.

Macomb recognizes notable local women from its past with the “Facing the Storm” statue in Chandler Park. A local group also honors present-day women who are working to make the city and county better.

That group, the Macomb Feminist Network (MFN), recognizes women’s contributions with the Writing Women into History award.

The group just handed out its latest awards. One of them went to Verneata Jones, affectionately known to many as Aunt V.

She said she felt truly blessed to be honored.

“What I do, I don’t do it for recognition. I do it because I love people,” she said.

Aunt V has helped organize and implement numerous programs for her church and community. Notable among them is the youth-oriented program PRIME, or Pride and Responsibility In My Environment.

Aunt V believes we all have to come together as one -- that we must let go of the past and move on with the future.

“We should really, really, really stop the hatred. There is so much hate in the world today,” she said.

“If everybody could turn that hate around to love, I really believe that it would make a big difference because God is love.”

Aunt V said love makes the world go ‘round, and that she pours her love into the community.

Gayle Carper is another honoree who pours her heart into the community.

Carper said she was surprised to be honored because she nominated someone else for the award.

She said her biggest inspiration is her husband, Tom Carper, who served as Macomb mayor for 12 years

“When I first met him a hundred years ago or so – he’s been so involved in every kind of volunteer activity. And it just kind was of a natural thing. All the people I hang around with are involved in stuff so it’s just part of life and I like doing it,” Carper said, adding that she likes to help other people if she can.

“Most of the things that I have done have been to try to help other people that haven’t had the advantages that I’ve had. And I think that’s really important.”

Among other things, Carper has served as a public defender, a city council member, and as the first president of the Good Food Collaborative.

Carper said it’s good for the community and good for your soul to use your privilege to help somebody else.

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Courtesy photo collage
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Carper is close friends with Nan Crossman, who was also honored this year.

Crossman has been involved with the Macomb Community Theater and the Performing Arts Society. She’s also the long-time executive director of the Macomb Arts Center. It’s an unpaid position that requires her to handle just about every responsibility you can think of to keep the all-volunteer organization going.

Crossman said she does it because she loves the community and the arts.

“I want our community to thrive and I want the arts to thrive in our community,” she said.

Crossman is especially involved in developing arts programming for kids.

“I think that by having the kids involved with the arts, it will grow a love for the arts and they will continue in that,” Crossman said.

She said they’re also working to develop more arts programs for families.

Crossman said Macomb needs people to get involved in any way they can to keep the community alive and thriving.

The other honoree this year is Jill Joline Myers. She worked on behalf of abused and neglected children and other crime victims in Baltimore.

She then came to Macomb and is now director of the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration program at Western Illinois University. She is also president of the Macomb school board and is involved with numerous other groups and activities.

Myers said she got involved in the community to meet people when she moved here.

“The community kind of forces you, engages you, thrusts you into the activities. And it was well worth it because you get ten-fold back for every moment you spend with it,” she said, citing the scholastic bowl as an example. She said seeing how much the students know assures her the future is bright.

Like the other women, Myers said there are many opportunities to get involved.

“I tell everybody to get involved because it makes the community better but I actually think it makes you a better person as well,” Myers said.

She recommends finding something you’re passionate about and jumping in to help out.

You can read more about this year’s honorees on the MFN website.

The MFN started the Writing Women into History award in 2010. Including this year’s honorees, 43 women have received the award.

The MFN said honorees through the years have excelled as role models and community leaders.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.