The Geneva Chamber of Commerce Wood Award recipient for 2022 is Jay Womack, who serves as the City's Natural Resources Committee chair.
The Wood Community Service award is presented each year by the Chamber to an individual who has made significant community contributions in the areas of business, education, youth involvement, civic organizations, art, recreation, charity, or government. The award is named in honor of Bill and Elise Wood, and Nell and Burton Wood - four individuals who have all contributed to the growth and health of the city of Geneva.
The Chamber honored Womack at its annual awards dinner Nov. 16. A video highlighting Womack’s accomplishments was shown prior to the announcement.
Womack was born in Geneva. During grade school, he moved to Yorkville and grew up on a wooded property that backed up to a forest preserve. This began his love of nature. He and his wife, Sherre, have raised their daughter in Geneva and are now proud grandparents. Womack is a landscape architect, highly trained and skilled in his field. He is currently a senior architect of ecological design at Huff & Huff, a subsidiary of GZA.
Over time, he has contributed to many organizations such as Geneva Park District Foundation, Western Avenue School, Kane County Forest Preserve District, the City's Natural Resource Committee (NRC), Kane/DuPage Water Conservation District, Conservation Foundation of Kane County, the Rain Barrels on Parade campaign, Tree Hab USA, Friends of the Chicago River, Chicago Wilderness and the Morton Arboretum. Womack’s passion for the environment is unrelenting, as is his energy.
“His community work is about the quality of the world he wants to live in and sustain for his children and grandchildren,” states Sheavoun Lambillotte, Geneva Park District Executive Director.
Nominated by both Geneva Park District, where he serves on the foundation board, and Kane County Forest Preserve, he is a site steward for Fabyan Forest Preserve, he was honored in 2019 with Outstanding Citizen Volunteer of the Year given by the Illinois Association of Park Districts.
“Jay seems cursed with that most blessed unrest that does not simply allow him to sit by idly when he sees something amiss in the natural world around him,” Lambillotte says. “But to be one of those few among us that actually succeed in creating lasting change.”
He has been the chair of the Natural Resource Committee since 2007. During this time, has donated thousands of hours to various causes including Earth Day, Fox River Clean Up, and the Wine Cheese & Trees fundraiser, which he created and continues to chair to raise money to assist in replacing trees in Geneva that were lost to disease such as the Emerald Ash Borer.
Along the way, he has encouraged hundreds of young people to share his passion and contagious enthusiasm for the environment by hosting engaging and interactive events throughout the Fox Valley area, such as his native species removal and Battle of the Brush competition.
Geneva High School science teachers Emma Cole and Tom Anderson have worked with Womack on several events. They noted that the students who partook returned inspired and comment on how interesting and enjoyable it was.
At least 13 years ago, Womack and his wife were driving on Route 25, and he commented that something needed to be done about the buckthorn. He volunteered and rallied friends, strangers, schools, and even those passing by.
“His work to eradicate invasive buckthorn species in the Fabyan Forest preserve has allowed the wildflowers and understory plants to reestablish themselves,” says fellow NRC member Bill Doeckel.
The word that has been repeated many times about Womack is “tireless.” A selfless and tireless leader, tireless volunteer, and he has spent tireless work toward fundraising to reforest Geneva.
“Jay obviously loves Geneva, the people, and the community and is personally ensuring the betterment of the community, leaving a lasting legacy to make Geneva a better place,” states Doeckel.
Source: Geneva Chamber of Commerce News Release