Jim Evans, recipient of the 2007 Good Neighbor Award

July 30, 2007

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Dr. Jim Evans is the recipient of this year’s Good Neighbor Award. The club guidelines for the award read:

“Nominees for Rotary’s Good Neighbor Award will be considered for having given expression to the Rotary motto, ‘service above self,’ by performing selfless acts of kindness or service that contribute to a stronger, more cohesive community. They must be a resident of the Northfield School District. Rotary members and their family members are not eligible.”

Here’s the text of the speech that was given at the July 19 luncheon by Keith Covey:

Being a good neighbor is about being an active contributor to the quality of our life as a community. If creating a community is an intentional act, being a good neighbor is a series of intentional actions.

In a minute, I’ll review just some of the ways Jim Evans has been a good neighbor, but I’m certain it isn’t a complete list. (Since he’s such a modest person, one would probably have to grill Shirley to get the whole picture.)

I am grateful to Josh Hinnencamp, Scott Richardson, Zach Pruitt, Jim Blaha, Nancy Ludescher and Angie Koch for their help in assembling this information. Josh, Nancy, Angie and Jim are here today. Scott and Zach had unavoidable conflicts. This group’s presence is important because the Good Neighbor recognition also honors the organizations and many other good neighbors – like these people – with whom Jim has worked over the years.

As I understand it, the timeline for the past 25 years goes something like this:

In the 1980s, as he completed a Bush Foundation Fellowship in adolescent health, Jim joined other parents, school officials, social service professionals and concerned citizens in addressing a growing concern about use and abuse of alcohol and drugs among our youth. They formed the Chemical Health Task Force (CHTF), which, today, continues to play an important role in addressing this issue.

In the early 1990s, he was a founding member of the board of Healthy Community Initiative, which focuses on developing the abilities of local youth. He served on that board until 2003-04. Scott Richardson, its first executive director, said, “Jim’s interest in adolescent health and strategic thinking have shaped the community conversation about (risk-taking behavior among our youth) and kept it in front of people. His personal commitment brought credibility to HCI and the Chemical Health Task Force. “

In the mid-1990’s, when the Northfield Union of Youth, and its youth center, The Key, were founded, Jim became a member of its adult advisory board, a position he continues to hold. (The Key serves hundreds of middle and high school age youth every year in a strictly drug and alcohol free environment.) Zach Pruitt, an early Key employee, described Jim’s role as “a mentor and advisor at the Key.” Josh Hinnencamp, its current director, says Jim stands out as consistently being among their top adult leaders. He is a regular presence, listening and relating to youth leaders and members, always following the organization’s philosophy for adults of guiding without directing. His stature in the community also makes him invaluable in representing the Union of Youth in the wider community.

Early in this decade, health care for our uninsured residents, including the growing Latino population, was identified as one of a number of urgent community service needs. According to Jim Blaha, Dr. Evans had long advocated for a free community clinic. Scott Richardson added that Jim “has campaigned for getting more well-baby checks for new mothers and for creating a current, online directory of community (health) resources.” Dr. Evans and Nancy Ludescher, Parish nurse at St. Dominic’s Church, were members of that Church’s Health Ministry Committee, which investigated the issue and developed a proposal that led to the opening of Healthfinders Clinic at little Prairie Church in 2005. Since it opened, Dr. Evans has been a regular volunteer physician there. Clinic director Angie Koch reports that he has also been a “one stop shop” for resolving medical service problems, clinic operational issues and community resource needs.

Scott Richardson concluded, “He has really committed himself on many levels to creating a healthier climate for youth, and he has made a difference on those many levels.”

Considering Rotary’s worldwide commitment to health and youth, how could there be a more appropriate person than Dr. Jim Evans for us to honor as our 2007 Good Neighbor?