McKendree Humanitarian Award Celebrates Spirit of Dr. M.L. King

Kelsey Rittenhouse, Jim Burns are the 2012 Honorees

Lebanon, Ill. — Celebrating the spirit of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, McKendree University honored a student and a staff member for their volunteerism and community service. Kelsey Rittenhouse, a senior management major from O’Fallon, and Jim Burns, a HVAC technician from Ramsey, Ill., received the university’s 2012 Humanitarian Award on Jan. 19.

Throughout her college career, Rittenhouse has volunteered hundreds of hours for the university’s Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service and coordinated the “Into the Streets” community service program for two years. She helped children with weekly craft projects at the Franklin Neighborhood Association in Belleville, and organized collection drives for the Lebanon Food Bank. She is active in the YMCA, Big Brothers and Sisters, Alpha Phi Omega, Spectrum Alliance and the Girl Scouts organization.

“Kelsey is one of the most effective leaders I’ve ever worked with. She leads by enthusiasm, passion and example,” said Dr. Lyn Huxford, sociology professor. “I have witnessed in her service a sense of humility and a great respect for people. And she makes it fun.”

Rittenhouse attributes her early interest in volunteerism to her parents and her experiences with the Girl Scouts and the YMCA, which named her its 2007 “Youth of the Year.” As an O’Fallon Township High School student, she became involved in the Saturday Social Justice Breakfast at the Cathedral in Belleville and later recruited other McKendree students to join her. After graduation in May, she hopes to work in fundraising for a local non-profit organization and continue her ties with the university.

Jim Burns, employed by Sodexo for ten years at McKendree, was recognized for the numerous ways he helps others—especially students who are very far from home. Growing up in Grafton, a community frequently beset by flooding, Burns learned early on the importance of neighbors helping each other.

Those who nominated him noted that “he tries to make everyone feel like they belong at McKendree. He is always going out of his way to help others, quick to befriend students who need help or advice, buying food for them when they are short on cash, and helping foreign students get a computer or clothes.”

Jessica Giri, a 2010 graduate who came to McKendree from Nepal, calls Burns “my American father. He is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met. He listened and cared for me as his own.” Giri said Burns taught her how to drive and helped her and other international students in countless ways.

Guest speaker Dr. Bill Haskins, a professor of speech communication who will retire in May, opened the Humanitarian Awards program by discussing “what the Dr. MLK Jr. celebration means to an ‘old southern white man’. It symbolizes love, opportunity, justice, courage, fairness and equality.”