A Batavian who’s made a career of volunteering was named the 2015 Batavia Citizen of the Year today. The Batavia Chamber of Commerce will honor Joanne Spitz on Friday, Jan. 29, at the Chamber’s Inspire 2016: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us! annual awards event.
Mayor Jeffery D. Schielke describes Spitz as “a great role model,” the type of citizen who isn’t afraid to get into the “nitty-gritty; whether it involves a problem or a person in need.”
“I think that because she is one who is willing to get into the trench, she probably has a keener understanding and appreciation of the problems that many of the less fortunate people are facing,” Schielke explained. “She isn’t one to merely talk about a problem, she jumps in and helps where she sees the need, which I think sets her apart from a lot of other folks.”
A resident of Batavia since the early 1990s, Spitz began her active volunteer career with the Batavia Public School District at Louise White Elementary when her daughter, Samantha, started school. Nan Phillips, a retired Batavia Public Schools educator, called Spitz “a local treasure” in her nomination letter because of the impact she’s had, and continues to have, on the quality of life of families in need.
“Simply put, Joanne’s heart is so large that countless children, adults, and entire families’ quality of life have been changed forever,” Phillips wrote.
While her three children were in elementary school, Joanne was involved with the Parent Teacher Organizations at both Louise White and Hoover Wood. Once they entered Rotolo Middle School and Batavia High School, Spitz looked for other volunteer opportunities. This led her to the Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence, which she joined as a board member in 2007.
She is currently finishing her third, and final three-year board term at BFEE. Three of those years, she served as its chair, and co-chaired the wildly successful Bulldogs Unleashed, which benefited not only the BFEE, but also the Batavia Library Foundation and the Batavia Park District Foundation. She currently serves as vice-chairman and a founding board member of Batavia Public Schools Hall of Honor.
Although the resume of her voluntary activities is lengthy, one of her more notable achievements is to co-found CHIP IN Batavia – Community Helpers Impacting People in Need. In 2013, when she learned there were over 50 children in Batavia Public Schools who were considered homeless, she joined forces with Melinda Kintz to aid these families. Working directly with the School District, funds are raised to help pre-qualified students with food, clothing, bedding, moving and prom dresses.
Kintz, the current executive director for Batavia United Way, who also nominated Spitz for Batavia Citizen of the Year, says that Joanne is the driving force behind the success of CHIP IN.
“In the past three years, Joanne has built CHIP IN into an organization that is envied by other area school districts,” Kintz explained. “She is willing to drop everything when she learns of a need. I chuckle when I go on Facebook to reply to an inquiry only to see that it is already managed and usually under 30 minutes.
This doer and shaker shares her talents with the Friends of TriCity Family Services, chairing their Adopt A Family at Christmas time. She also serves on several committees for the group and was honored with the Judy Burgess Award in 2012 for her service and with the William D. Barth Award in 2014.
Besides logging countless hours in the social services realm, this year’s Citizen of the Year is a founding member of the Batavia Bicycle Commission. As part of the Bicycle Friendly Batavia Business program, she works to educate retailers about making their business open and friendly to bikers. Most recently, the group started Bikes for Batavia. Gently used bikes donated by the community are taken to All Spoked Up for repair and service. They are then fit for students or adults who are in need of a bicycle for transportation, but cannot afford one. More than 100 bicycles have been given out to date.
For all of these efforts, and many more, Joanne Spitz was named one of 12 Kane County Distinguished Women in 2014. Additionally, Batavia Women in Business honored her with their Women Who Inspire award in April 2015.
When asked about her reaction to being named Batavia’s Citizen of the Year, she said she thought it must be a mistake.
“It is overwhelming and frankly, makes me uncomfortable,” Spitz said.
As to how this honor rates with her previous awards, Joanne says this means, “the most to me because everything I’ve done is for Batavia. This is where I really do belong.”
Spitz credits her parents for “teaching” her how to volunteer.
“I am the youngest of three and my mom was a stay-at-home mom and volunteered a lot,” she explained. “She is 85 and still goes to her granddaughter’s school to read to the students.”
As a CPA, her father also volunteered, but concentrated his efforts within the business community, including tenure as president of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce.
Joanne and her husband, Greg, are parents of three children: Samantha, 26; Tyler, 23; and Blake, 20. In addition to her volunteer roles, she is an avid exerciser: running, biking, kickboxing and scuba diving. She laughed that those who know her well realize they don’t dare schedule a meeting early in the morning if they want her there.
Spitz also does not like to dwell on her achievements. She’d much rather talk about Batavia and its people.
“Through my volunteering, I meet the nicest people,” she commented. “I have the best friends and acquaintances because they are all doing the same thing that I’m doing. I am so lucky, because I would not know them had I not been involved.”
Schielke appropriately summed Spitz’ contributions.
“I think she was an excellent choice,” he said. “She speaks to what the Citizen of the Year and what the city of Batavia is all about — a community.”
A committee of previous recipients of the award selects the Batavia Citizen of the Year from nominations received from the community. The award is given for extraordinary contributions to the community over the course of the recipient’s lifetime.
Batavia’s Citizen of the Year is honored at the annual awards event for the Batavia Chamber of Commerce. This year’s event, Inspire 2016: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us! will be held on Jan. 29, 2016 at The Lincoln Inn, 1345 S. Batavia Ave. in Batavia. For ticket information, register online at www.BataviaChamber.org or contact the Chamber at (630) 879-7134.
About the Batavia Chamber of Commerce
A local business-centered organization, the Batavia Chamber of Commerce sponsors or is involved with several annual Batavia events including the Annual Mayor’s Breakfast, Citizen of the Year/Ole Awards Event, Chamber Legislative Breakfast and much more. The executive director is Holly Deitchman. Membership and information about upcoming Chamber and community events are available online at bataviachamber.org or by calling (630) 879-7134.
SOURCE: Batavia Chamber of Commerce news release