DIXON – Jim Sarver worked 18 years on the government end of mental health.
It was not until he worked with Sinnissippi Centers, Sauk Valley's largest mental health provider, that he found his niche.
Tuesday, he became the 31st recipient of the Dixon Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Telegraph's Citizen of the Year Award for his work and volunteerism.
"I believe community is what it's about," said Sarver, 69, president and CEO who will retire this year after 25 years at Sinnissippi. "It's a fun thing to do, to make the city a better place to live in."
Sarver's message of working together was echoed throughout the Elks Club banquet room Thursday as Josh Albrecht, executive director of Dixon Main Street, received the Future Leaders Award with the same resounding message.
"I don't like working to make Josh Albrecht better, I like working to make Dixon better," said Albrecht, who was instrumental in bringing the internationally acclaimed band Mumford & Sons to Dixon in August.
The Dixon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 540 was honored as the organization of the year and KSB Hospital was named business of the year, but the evening centered around Sarver, who was surprised to win.
"There are so many deserving people in this room," said Sarver, who received a host of hugs and congratulations after the announcement. "It's a pleasure to be in the company of those who have won."
Sinnissippi Centers provides services to the "sickest and poorest," Sarver said. Its mission is to deliver comprehensive, responsive and coordinated mental health and substance abuse services to those who otherwise could not afford it.
When called up to receive his award, Sarver gave a heartfelt thanks to his wife, Inger, who attended the banquet with him, and to his two children and four grandchildren.
"They help me put a smile on my face every day," Sarver said.
John Thompson, chamber president and CEO, said Sarver is just the type of guy a community needs to keep moving forward. He has been on the Dixon Main Street board, is active with Dixon Rotary, has served on the finance committee for the school district and played a role in the development of Heritage Square nursing home.
"He's a community leader," Thompson said. "He's involved in so many projects, causes and commitments across the city.
"He's the one who says 'Yes,' when he's asked to do something and he isn't afraid to participate. That's the kind of individual who gets things done."