The Illinois Department of Aging recognizes a few seniors each year for service to the community by inducting them into the Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame. This year, Helen Hawkins, a longtime Madison County resident, will be inducted at an award ceremony at 9 a.m. Feb. 7, at the Madison County Administrative Building, 157 N. Main St., Edwardsville.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, submitted Helen’s nomination. “Helen Hawkins has always been an outstanding citizen and consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Haine said in a press release.
About the nomination process itself, Hawkins said, “Some folks had asked me to put some things together. They said, ‘We’re going to put you in for the Hall of Fame 2017 Senior.’ I said, ‘Oh I’ll never win that.’”
When Hawkins opened the envelope with the inductees, she said she was thinking, “I’ll be writing and congratulating whoever won. I opened it and said, ‘Oh it’s me.’” Helen described the induction as an honor.
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Hawkins has served the Madison County area for four decades in a variety of ways including township clerk, a member of the Metro-East Sanitary and Levy District and as a current member of the Madison County Board. One of the actions she was lauded for is her work in the American Bottoms area.
She said she voted no on every project and business so she could prevent people from building in a flood zone. “(The American Bottoms area) was supposed to stay free of development so that if the river floods it would have some place to go,” Hawkins said.
Despite her efforts, the area was developed anyway. Now, she tries to help the warehouses, businesses and the very things she opposed to establish drainage. “Now it comes a time when I have to say, ‘No, they will not stop building.’ So, let’s provide some decent drainage as we build. It’s never too late,” Hawkins said.
She worked on a proposal to get the original drainage ditch in the American Bottoms, built in 1912, widened and supported businesses and homes with building moats around their walls to contain the water.
“You see a problem, just don’t quack and carry on and vote no. Do something about it,” Hawkins advised.
She has two adopted children, five grandchildren, one great-grandchild and one more on the way.