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The “Light the World” award is given to a group or individuals to recognize their exemplary Christ-like service, sacrifice, and ministry in order to alleviate real struggles by reaching out to individuals one-by-one, lifting spirits, and providing hope to the lost and broken. The award is given to those who light the community of Central Illinois by making a meaningful and lasting contribution through selfless acts of service that changes lives.

Dr. Jeff & Dr. Suzanne White Ruskusky



Drs. Jeff and Suzanne are local podiatrists who were very instrumental in establishing Almost Home Kids in Peoria which is located at 5200 N. Hamilton Rd. Peoria, IL 61614. Jeff and Suzanne were the driving force behind this home being built through their dedication, their fund raising, and their loving care for children with special needs. While raising two sons (Garrett and Gabriel) with special needs they saw the need for this home to be here in Peoria not only for their sons but for other special needs children in our area.


Almost Home Kids provides a bridge from hospital to home through an innovative community-based care system for children with medical complexities. Almost Home Kids responds to the needs of families, train caregivers, offer respite care, advocate for accessibility and inclusion and educate healthcare professionals.


The Peoria Home is one of only three in the nation and is affiliated with OSF Healthcare Children's Hospital of Illinois. For more information please go to their website: Almost Home Kids



Inspired by the spirit of St. Francis and under the pastoral leadership of Sacred Heart/St. Joseph Parish, this mission is an outward expression of our Catholic/ Christian beliefs.


Volunteers make hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches daily. The rest of the menu varies day by day as God provides. Local grocery stores and restaurants donate liberally to help provide filling and nutritious food. 


Who do we serve?  Homeless  Underemployed  Unemployed  Veterans  Elderly  The Broken What do we serve?  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches  Hot soup  Vegetables  Fruits  Treats  Hope Guests at Sophia’s Kitchen are treated with dignity as we show Christ’s love. Anyone who is hungry is served. Our bag lunch may be taken to go, or guests may join us in our Spiritual Center where volunteers share their faith. All are welcome.


Sophia’s Kitchen is located next to Historic St. Joseph Church, 103 Richard Pryor Place in Peoria.  Sophia's Kitchen is staffed by a dedicated group of volunteers, who give generously of their time so that no one goes hungry.  Donations are accepted Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 3 PM.

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Claire Crone

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Dr. John Carroll



Dr. John Carroll started the Haitian Hearts Organization in the 1990’s. Haitian Hearts has brought more than 200 children and young adults to the United States for heart surgery since 1995. Dr. Carroll travels to Haiti to provide medical care to the people of this impoverished Caribbean country. While in Haiti, Dr. Carroll works in hospitals and clinics to care for the Haitian people, providing general medical care, while identifying children that would benefit from more advanced medical care in the United States. Dr. Carroll and his wife Maria work with medical systems throughout the United States to coordinate the transportation and medical care required to treat these patients – often spending months, if not years, organizing the specifics of visas, passports, transportation, housing, medical care, and medical aftercare for each patient.



Violet Heinz, 91 years old, has been a volunteer in the pre-op department at Methodist Hospital for 31 years and is just short of 10,000 hours of volunteer service.  She assembles the pre-surgery kits and mentors the summer volunteers that come to the hospital.  She joined the Methodist Women’s Service League in 2003 and has exceeded an additional 2,500 hours of volunteer service for their organization.  Since 2003 she has made an average of 35 quilts a year that are used at the annual gift show to raise funds for earmarked projects at the hospital.  Vi has also been a volunteer at the Heart of Illinois Harvest, for the past 25 years, where she spends each Friday picking up food from grocery stores and restaurants and delivering to organizations that assist the poor and hungry.

City of Washington Mayor Gary Manier

& Violet Heinz

Dr. Gregg Stoner


In 2000, Dr. Gregg Stoner was involved in a faith-based program at his parish, St. Thomas the Apostle, which had a theme of social justice. The program, called JustFaith, was a nine-month program based on scripture that immersed the participants in justice and peace ideas and efforts. At the conclusion of the program, the participants were asked to discern in what way he or she was willing to make a concrete effort on behalf of justice and peace.

As the program concluded, Dr. Stoner made the decision to leave his very successful private practice in medicine and join an emerging Health Care Clinic for the uninsured in Peoria. This clinic had been founded by a former bishop of the Catholic diocese of Peoria, and was beginning to have an impact on the Peoria area. Its mission is to provide high quality, affordable, comprehensive primary health care for those who were unable to afford it.

Dr. Stoner is now the chief medical officer for Heartland Health Clinic. The clinic has grown from one location to the present eight locations in the tri-county area to better serve the community.


For his selfless, community-minded service, Dr. Gregg Stoner was the 2018 Light the World recipient.


For excellence in Christ-like service, sacrifice, and life-changing ministry within the Peoria community, Senator Chuck Weaver presented the 2017 Light the World award to Dream Center Peoria.


“I cannot think of an organization more worthy and fitting of this award,” Phil Luciano, award nominator, said of Dream Center Peoria. “Like no other organization, Dream Center Peoria has succeeded in lifting up Peoria, especially those most vulnerable and in need of help.”


Operating since 2002, Dream Center Peoria is a faith-based, non-profit organization intent on helping individuals break out of poverty through several programs that fall under their three-pronged approach: Basic Human Needs, Youth Development and Community Outreach. From 2012-2016 alone, 122,276 nights of sleep to 1,324 individuals, of which 390 were children were achieved in the homeless shelter with thousands more being impacted through their multiplicity of programs from school backpacks filled with supplies to youth vocational training and mentoring.


“The impact of Dream Center Peoria is so evident because of the hearts of those who have consistently served this city, without fanfare, for 15 years,” Brian Uhlenhopp, Dream Center Peoria Development Director said. “Thank you to all who share in the great story of Dream Center Peoria.”

Pres. Scott Johnson, Senator Chuck Weaver, Brian Uhlenhopp, Deacon Meyers, Fr. Ciprian Sas

Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception.  From left to right - Joyce Powell, Development Director, Sister  Irene Fritch, Sister Diane Vandevoorde, Karen Johnson, Fred Johnson, Sister Paula Vasquez, Sister Jean Marie Ciuffini, Sister Mary Louise Hynd, Shelly Crespo


In recognition for their past 125 years of unfailing ministry within the Central Illinois community, the 2016 Light the World Award was presented to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception.


These Sisters have blessed thousands of lives since their 1891 inception by Mother Mary Pacifica, baptized Margaret Forrestal, when she responded to a call to staff an orphanage in Metamora, Illinois. From there, the scope and breadth of the sisterhood has continually increased to include teaching in parish schools and staffing homes for the aging. Currently, the 23 Sisters serve in volunteer capacities ranging from counseling and spiritual guidance in venues throughout the community including The Children’s Hospital of Illinois at Saint Francis Medical Center among others. Other current ministries include adult literacy and tutoring, nursing home management and service, hot meal delivery to homebound individuals, citizenship classes, vocational training, school teaching, and more.

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