CHAMPAIGN — The McKinley Presbyterian Foundation has selected Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners to honor as the community organization winner of this year's Social Justice Awards.
The awards were presented earlier this month at a dinner and reception.
Each year, the foundation honors two individuals and two organizations that have worked to help raise awareness of injustice issues and made significant strides to improve life for those who have received unfair treatment.
This year, five $500 awards were made because there were so many excellent student organizations, and McKinley Presbyterian Church chose to sponsor an extra award, said Jane Cain, a development committee member.
Other honorees this year include two student organizations: Engineers Without Borders and Education Justice Project, both at the University of Illinois.
The two individuals honored were Frank Migliarese, a UI junior, and Aaron O. Ammons, a founding member of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice.
The cash awards go to the organizations, and individuals winning the awards donate them to the organizations of their choices, Cain said.
UC Books to Prisoners is an Urbana organization that gets free books to prisoners throughout the state and to those in jail in Champaign County.
It developed libraries in the Champaign County downtown and satellite jails, both of which are stocked and staffed by volunteers, according to the McKinley Foundation.
Some volunteers have established a "sister" organization called Reading Reduces Recidivism, or 3Rs, to lobby at the state level to improve libraries in state prisons, according to the McKinley Foundation.
Cain said the organization has applied three times for the award.
"We've seen their growth and their expansion and influence in the community," she said.
Engineers Without Borders at UIUC, connected to the national organization, has been working consistently on three international projects in Cameroon, Nigeria and Guatemala focused on creating the infrastructure for a safe water supply to each selected region. Because the work is done with local citizens, the projects are considered partnerships, the McKinley Foundation says.
Education Justice Project of UIUC provides education programs to students incarcerated at Danville Correctional Center and hosts activities for their family members in Chicago.
This organization "shows exceptional dedication by volunteers in advancing the interests of incarcerated people, their families and their communities in Illinois and in the nation at large," according to McKinley Foundation.
The graduate student volunteers go to Danville to volunteer their time as tutors, offer science workshops and teach courses, and the undergraduate members conduct fundraiser and host events to help the work of the organization.
Migliarese, who is majoring in molecular and cellular biology at the UI, raised more than $1,000 for research and scholarship for the Chicago Children's Hospital by running a marathon, counseled at a summer camp for the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association and participates and encourages others to participate in association activities, Cain said.
"Frank's commitment to social justice manifests itself in helping people with physical disabilities and working to educate the public toward greater sensitivity, less stereotyping and more inclusive and accessible environments for all people," the foundation said in a statement.
Ammons, of Urbana, is a pre-law student in a dual program with Eastern Illinois University and the UI, Cain said.
"He has been tireless in his efforts for workers' rights, for better treatment for poor people in the court system, around issues of poverty, political enfranchisement, mass-incarceration, housing rights and environmental justice," the foundation said in a statement. "Aaron Ammons, in effect, is a strong voice in this community in working for justice for all."