From the war-torn mountains of Central America to creating a welcoming community for people on the autism spectrum, Kari Sandhaas, MCLP class of 2012, is this year’s recipient of Illinois State University Grabill-Homan Community Peace Prize.
Sandhaas will receive the award during the ISU Spring Dean’s Address and Awards Ceremony 3:30 pm on Thursday, April 18 in the Old Main Room of the Illinois State University Bone Student Center.
For four decades, Kari has worked for social justice and human dignity. As an ISU undergrad student, she became deeply engaged in peace and human rights work. She helped organize student trips to work in low-income African-American communities in the South, and worked closely with impoverished farm workers through Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers.
She traveled to Nicaragua during the 1980’s Contra War with an international peace delegation that stood in witness to the violence when U.S. financed troops attempted to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. She later traveled to Guatemala to support women’s art cooperatives in the barrios. Closer to home, she supported the efforts of women farm workers in Onarga, Illinois, to find their voices, as they organized to bring their communities out of poverty.
Kari organized a local women’s book club – Women Reading Women — that connected women into a decades long women’s group. She used her artistic skills to help start Bloomington-Normal Citizens for Peace and Justice and to document local labor history in a mural at the Laborers Hall. She has served on the board and as chair of both the Ecology Action Center and the MCLP board.
Having a daughter on the autism spectrum sparked Kari into advocacy for people with autism. Kari has served over a decade on the Autism McLean board, and founded the Autism Friendly Community, a partnership of nonprofits working to broaden community-wide awareness and inclusion for people with autism.
Kari works at COUNTRY Financial as a Senior Agency Training Designer, where she designs the leadership and diversity/inclusion curricula for field managers. Her designations include Certified Diversity Professional and Chartered Leadership Fellow.
“We are so proud of Kari,” said MCLP Executive Director Linda Bollivar. “She helped bring the MCLP board through an important organizational transition, spearheaded our strategic planning efforts, and led the revision of our mission and vision. She has been incredibly generous with her time for our participants and programs. I have sometimes heard it said that individuals often are faced with the choice between engagement that is a mile wide and an inch deep, or that which is a mile deep and an inch wide. Kari exemplifies the type of service and leadership that, across the decades, has proven to be both a mile wide and a mile deep. In all that she does, Kari exhibits an extraordinary commitment to continuous improvement, a deep sense of caring, and a spirit of peaceful collaboration.”
The Grabill-Homan Community Peace Prize recognizes individual achievements in peacemaking, leadership, community service, and activism. The award recipient will be presented with a plaque in the spring of 2019. The award is named for Joseph L. Grabill and the late Gerlof D. Homan, Illinois State University emeritus professors of history who helped establish the interdisciplinary Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies Program.
To be eligible for the award, a nominee must be a resident of Bloomington or Normal and be at least 21 years of age. Eligible individuals must have a record of participation in peacemaking activities in the community. Examples include activities in the areas of civil rights, cross-cultural understanding, economic and social justice, environmental protection, as well as activities that help advance peace and human dignity.
Nominees should have a record of peaceful conflict resolution, leadership, integrity, and compassion, and demonstrate respect for all individuals. Nominees may demonstrate these personal attributes and a record of peacemaking activities in any area, including the workplace, family life, or volunteer work.