When Steve Gavers heard his named called as the recipient of the Harold Buschkopf Community Service Award March 2, he was stunned. He had no idea he had been nominated for the annual award given out by the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He said he was surprised and very proud to be honored with what he considered the greatest award a Woodstock resident can receive.
The award – created in 1995, and named for the well-known local businessman who loved Woodstock – is given annually to a community leader, spokesman and ambassador who gives unselfishly of his or her time, energy and money. The recipient can be a company or an individual that epitomizes the character and spirit of Woodstock.
Gavers has known Buschkopf since he was a teenager and he said, “Sometimes you receive an award and you can’t connect, but I’m blessed to have known [Harold Buschkopf] personally. He wouldn’t let you be a slacker. We had a great relationship.”
Woodstock Chamber Executive Director Danielle Gulli said Gavers was chosen from a field of three excellent candidates.
“The award was so well-deserved,” said Gulli. “Steve has given back to the community for so long.”
Gavers is best known throughout the community as the founder and driving force behind Gavers Community Cancer Foundation. The annual Barndance, held in July at Emricson Park, is the organization’s primary fundraiser.
Gulli said one thing that really stood out from Gavers’ speech was when he talked about the first Gavers Barndance. His initial goal was 300 people and $10,000, but it swelled to 912 people raising $125,000. Now, 17 years later, GCCF has raised about $6.8 million.
“My life began in 2000,” said Gavers, an outspoken testicular cancer survivor who is driven to encourage people to get checked and donate to fight cancer.
In addition to the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation, Gavers serves on the Woodstock Plan Commission and is active in Leadership Greater McHenry County and Christmas Clearing House.
Gavers’ advice for anyone getting into community service is to start slow and try to do your best.
“You’ve got to want to be involved. Then you’ve got to get involved,” he said. “I work during the day and do this stuff after midnight. It’s very possible and doable. You just have to have the passion to do it.”
Gulli applauded his commitment, saying, “He continues to give back in ways that the rest of us strive for but can’t find the time for.”
Other annual chamber awards given at the annual meeting included: Entrepreneur of the Year – Tom Dougherty, Dougherty Enterprises; Leadership Award – John Stassen, Stassen Insurance; Not for Profit Excellence Award – Woodstock Fine Arts Association; Professional Service Provider – Woodstock Heating, Eric & Dawn Iversen; Retailer of the Year – Copy Express, Jim O’Leary; Volunteer of the Year -Cindi Carrigan, Carrigan Design, and Juanita Vega, Country Financial; Teamwork Award – The City of Woodstock, City Council, Promote Woodstock, Mayor Sager, city manager’s office and economic development department.