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.

Mayor presents State of the City at Exchange Club

By Doug Wilson Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 17, 2017 11:17 am Updated: Feb. 17, 2017 11:59 am
QUINCY — Mayor Kyle Moore told members of the Exchange Club on Friday that the city is “shining
brighter than ever before.”
Moore, 36, became mayor in 2013 and listed several improvements in city finances during his fourth
annual state of the city speech.
He said the general fund budget for fiscal 2014 when he took office had $31.8 million of planned
expenses while projecting only $30 million in revenue. He said reserves were forecast to go from $3
million at the beginning of that fiscal year to $1.2 million by the end.
In contrast, he said this year’s budget has $33.15 million in expenses and $33.2 million in revenue,
creating a $49,000 surplus.
“Our reserves are now at $5.7 million, which is 62 days worth of operating expenses,” Moore said.
Part of those savings is attributed to reforms in the city’s health insurance program. City workers now
go to an employee clinic operated under contract by Quincy Medical Group.
“Their efforts not only saved us from a $650,000 increase in our premiums for 2015, but realized a
$400,000 reduction in our health insurance costs last year,” Moore said.
Workers’ compensation costs have declined as claims have fallen. Claims in 2012 were $630,000, then
rose to $720,000 in 2013 and to $1.1 million in 2014. Claims in 2015 dropped to $445,000 and then fell
again in 2016 to $152,000.
“The result for taxpayers — today our workers’ compensation premiums are projected to be less
expensive than it was in 2014,” Moore said.
The mayor also touted a pair of spending programs as important investments in the city’s longterm
financial health.
Moore said that he announced plans in 2014 to boost infrastructure spending. The city council adopted
a fiveyear
comprehensive infrastructure plan and has updated it each year. Moore said the city spent
$6.6 million on capital projects — mostly street, sewer and sidewalk projects — from 2012 to 2014, while
the investment in capital projects has been $13 million from 2015 to 2017. Among the recent
investments was the city’s first new water pump station in more than 50 years.
Moore said the city’s $4.2 million buyin
for space in the new Adams County Jail, with construction
starting this year, is a wise investment “which provides the city significant savings from building a new
facility on our own.” He said having Quincy Police Department offices next to those of the Adams
County Sheriff’s Department also will help the law enforcement agencies work together.
In addition, Moore said “the council partnered with Chief (Rob) Copley to move more sworn officers
from behind a desk and onto the streets.”
Last year, Moore and Copley unveiled the Quincy Turn Around Partnership designed to identify people
in the community who are likely to commit violent crime and give them a chance to reform and improve
their lives or face tougher penalties if they’re caught committing a crime. The antiviolence
initiative is
modeled after Peoria’s Don’t Shoot initiative, which brings possible troublemakers in for facetoface
meetings and engagement with service agencies.
Quincy Fire Department changes also were highlighted. Moore said an automatic mutual aid agreement
with the TriTownship
Fire Department went into effect last year. Under the new system, Quincy fire
crews join TriTownship
firefighters in response to building fires confirmed in certain areas. The goal is
to have TriTownship
to help out at certain sites in the city and QFD crews to help out at sites that are
outside city limits, but closer to city fire stations than to TriTownship’s
station on 54th Street.
Fire Chief Joe Henning also is expected to report within a few months on efforts to find the best
locations for fire stations and a sustainable model for department staffing.
Moore reminded Exchange Club members of his early support for what is now known as Quincy
Promise. The privately funded program lets graduating Quincy high school students stay in town and enroll in classes or technical training for high demand local jobs.
The program is a joint effort among John Wood Community College, the Great River Economic
Development Foundation, the Community Foundation Serving Western Illinois and Northeast Missouri,
and local public and private high schools. Businesses that have supported the program include
Knapheide Manufacturing, Phibro Animal Health, Titan International, Blessing Hospital and Quincy
Medical Group.
Moore also listed business expansions and new construction projects occurring in Quincy. He linked
many of those expansions to the 2016 renewal of the QuincyAdams
County Enterprise
Zone incentive program. 

Mays, speaking to Exchange Club, says system upgrades at IDES saving state millions

By Doug Wilson Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 20, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Jan. 20, 2017 11:22 pm
Illinois state agency director said system upgrades now underway will save the state
hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Jeff Mays, a Quincy resident who heads the Illinois Department of Employment Security, told members
of the Quincy Exchange Club on Friday that modernization and computerization efforts are flagging
fraudulent unemployment claims and are projected to protect at least $120 million each year.
“This is the biggest untold story of the (Gov. Bruce) Rauner administration. This is happening in state
government, and almost nobody knows about it,” Mays said.
IDES is requiring that all employers with at least 25 workers are going to have to file monthly reports
that list their employees. Previously the reports were made quarterly and went to the U.S. Department of
Labor before they were returned to the state agency.
“We would crossreference
the names on the list, but by the time we found out someone was working
somewhere, we had already paid them unemployment insurance claims,” Mays said.
That part of the upgrade alone is expected to save $87 million a year for the unemployment trust fund.
A switch to online filing for unemployment claims also is reducing fraud because it matches up with
computer systems. It also requires that people signing up for unemployment fill out a job registration,
helping assure that filers care about getting another job. That system also can more easily spot people
filing under assumed names or with stolen identities and is expected to save $39 million a year.
About $10 million in savings is expected by streamlining the collection of unemployment insurance
payments into the Illinois Department of Revenue instead of through IDES.
“We’re going to have the best, newest, most robust” online portal with the Department of Revenue
starting in September, Mays said.
Employers who already use the Department of Revenue site to pay corporate taxes will find similar links
to allow them to pay unemployment insurance.
Mays said his agency also will replace a payroll system that has been around since 1975 with a modern
“Not only will this overhaul our payroll system, but it will overhaul accounting, budgeting and human
resources,” Mays said.
Another new website operated by IDES is specially designed to walk high school students through
decisions about their future. The Learn More Earn More site and a career info portal let students see
what different jobs pay, what it costs to live in different communities, and the cost of utilities and other
living expenses.
IDES now has a staff of about 1,100 people. Mays said that is down from about 1,800 employees just a
few years ago.
He said the smaller staff still “touches the lives” of about 600,000 unemployment claimants each year
and 350,000 employers who file quarterly reports.
Mays, a former Illinois House member, also said he is encouraged that the Illinois Senate is seeking a
solution to the state budget impasse.

Special Olympics basketball event set for Saturday at QU

By David Adam Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 3, 2016 12:01 am
teams from WestCentral
Illinois will be at the Quincy University Health and Fitness
Center on Saturday for a Special Olympics basketball tournament.
Approximately 150 athletes and 50 coaches and chaperones are expected to participate. Teams are
coming from Area 11, which consists of the most western counties in Illinois.
Games will start at 9:30 a.m., and the final game will be played at 2:30 p.m. The Exchange Club of
Quincy is the host of the event, and several club members will be volunteering as officials and
Heather Davis, Area 11 director, says teams are coming to Quincy to help qualify for district
competition. Teams must have at least three scores submitted to participate in district tournaments in
January, and the teams playing in the Quincy event are guaranteed at least two scores.
Davis says players of all ages and skills with a wide range of disabilities will be on the courts Saturday.
“When our athletes start in basketball, they’ll practice skills like shooting and dribbling, and then they
can join a team,” she said. “Some people use basketball to simply learn the rules, or maybe for social
interaction or to get used to competition.”
Teams are grouped by ability, and the groups have no age cap.
“You may see someone quite a bit older against someone younger, but their practice averages are about
the same,” Davis said.
Davis said the Quincy Public School system is developing a Special Olympics team this year. The team
practices on Monday nights at St. Boniface School.
“If you have a child who wants to play but is not part of a school system that has a team, I can put you
in touch with the nearest county team,” Davis said.
A group of Quincy University students called QU Hawks for Special Olympics will be volunteering on
Saturday as well.
“They support our events, and a lot of our athletes love it,” Davis said. “Our athletes come with so many
challenges, and they play their hearts out, and it reminds us to play our hearts out in everything we do,
“There’s a lot of inspiration that people walk away with.”