There was not a particular theme in mind for this edition of SO Magazine, but it is fitting that we start a new year with some inspirational stories of people helping one another. Giving of talent and time to your neighbors, near and far, speaks to the character of our citizens. We hope you get a little bit inspired in the pages that follow.
Jerry Quick, the subject of our cover story, is not exactly living an average life. We all want comfort and calm in our lives, don't we? Quick has a nice existence in Springfield, but he hears something most of us don't - it's a calling. Every month he leaves that nice life to fly off to one of the world's most dangerous spots, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to lend a hand to his brothers and sisters in need.
Contributor Darrin Burnett tells the story of a true believer bolstered by a strong faith.
For about a decade, Quick, a member of Cherry Hills Baptist Church, has been making his frequent forays to Mexico to help make quality housing, free clinics and after-school programs a reality. His introductory trip was part of a church mission in 2000. Since then, this financial adviser by training has founded a not-for-profit group called, Amigos in Cristo.
Why risk everything for strangers so far from home? The answer is no mystery: Quick is a believer - in God, to be sure, but also in his fellow man and in miracles.
Brenda Johnson has heard a similar call. She has been executive director of Helping Hands Homeless Shelter since 2005. Homelessness and poverty aren't exclusive to distant places like Mexico; in fact, we have similar and serious challenges right here in Springfield. Writer Carol Sponagle tells us how Johnson spends her professional life in service to others.
Unfortunately, Johnson finds herself in a growth industry, but she is up to the task. Her mission is to offer food, shelter, rehabilitative services and counseling, to name a few, to her clients in trouble. Living independently is, as always, the ultimate goal.
Tracey Sims owns TurnOut Movement Arts Studio, where she teaches dance, including hip-hop, tap, jazz and ballet. She also teaches tumbling, cheer and art classes, and she's found a sweet spot for serving people with mental and physical disabilities.
Sims, who holds a graduate degree in movement and dance therapy, started out seeking a career in social work. While things might not have gone exactly the way she had envisioned, she's been able to mix her love for dance and instruction with her desire to help others in what looks to be a pretty satisfying and worthy career.
For years now she's taught a dance class tailored for kids and young adults with Down syndrome. The popular class, known as Getting Down, has taught her as much as it has her students.
Read all about it in freelance writer Dan Naumovich's piece on this compassionate teacher, coach and independent business owner.
For traveling, we go to West Africa with SJ-R staffer Mandy Bekoin. A local couple, Mike and Suellen Funk, take us along to England's University of Oxford to be students again for a few weeks. And, contributor DiAnne Crown shows us the coolest jazz clubs in Chicago. As is our custom, we dine well and learn more about good wine. We hit all your favorite social events, and we go shopping for nice jewelry just in time for your favorite valentine.
We wish you all the best in the new year and thank you, as always, for reading SO Magazine. Cheers.
Story published Friday, January 7, 2011 ( Volume 5, Number 8 )