This year’s Community Service Leadership Award recipient, Jacquie Mace, has positively impacted families throughout McLean County. When one of her sons was diagnosed with autism, she realized that the community needed a way for local families to connect and share their experiences of raising a child with autism. In 2002 she founded the Autism Society of McLean County, now named Autism McLean, which provides people with autism and their families with the resources to be included, participating members of the community. Jacquie’s advocacy, education, and research on autism have prompted the creation of several similar programs.
In 2003 Jacquie was recognized for her efforts to unite the community through the resource book she developed. She and three other representatives from McLean County went to Washington D.C. to receive the Communities of Excellence award, which is given through the FICC and recognizes only five communities in the United States each year.
In 2006 she helped create the McLean County Community Autism Plan with The Baby Fold, Easter Seals, Marcfirst, The Autism Program, and ISU to develop a resource center and build a place where kids can get social skills, early childhood development, and support that are all offered by The Autism Place.
Through the years she has worked at the state level to help develop and publish guides for families, including; Transition Tools for Life, Illinois Parent Guide for Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Illinois Educational Rights and Responsibilities.
Jacquie was also supportive of the creation of the Autism Friendly Community campaign. This campaign, started by Autism McLean and Marcfirst, motivates individuals, businesses, and local government to be welcoming, supportive, and inclusive of people with autism. In connection with the Autism Friendly Community campaign is the Harmony Park project, which Jacquie is also involved in, that is an initiative to build an inclusive playground that will allow children of all abilities to enjoy the space.
Jacquie Mace was nominated for this award by Craig Luchtefeld and Kari Sandhaas, who are both Autism McLean board members. Sandhaas said her role on the board allows her to witness exactly how many people Jacquie is able to help, “Jacquie Mace is someone who doesn’t seek recognition. In fact, she will tell you that she’s a behind the scenes kind of person … I have come to see how she is one of the unsung heroes and servant leaders of our local community. She has made a positive difference in McLean County and beyond, and innumerable lives have become better for her service.”
Jacquie Mace will be honored for her impact on the community at the Class of 2018 graduation, which will be held at 7 p.m. April 28th. Reservations are $50 each and can be made here.