Nancy Maxwell Wins ‘Neighborly’ Award for Fighting Rape, Domestic Violence and Social Injustice

Dec 21, 2020

Credit Photo Provided

Carbondale, IL – Nancy Maxwell has been both a rape crisis medical/legal advocate and rape crisis counselor at The Women’s Center for almost 10 years. She ran the women’s empowerment group at the Eurma Hayes Center in Carbondale for many years with few resources. Nancy has been fighting for social justice and spearheading the anti-rape movement for over a decade in Southern Illinois.

WSIU Public Broadcasting, a service of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is pleased to announce Nancy Maxwell as a recipient of the ‘Neighborly’ award in the individual category. WSIU received four separate nominations from her coworkers at The Women’s Center.

“I’ve always been involved in the community even when I was very young, so was my mother. It’s in my blood. My mom and Coretta King Scott are first cousins. Now it’s because of my family, especially my three sons. When I got the call about winning the Neighborly Award, I just started crying. I was excited, happy, thankful and grateful. I wasn’t expecting to receive any awards for anything I’ve done over the years. So, it was a very good feeling, a good vibe,” said awardee Nancy Maxwell, who is also the recipient of the 2020 Centerstone Community Champion Award.

I've always been involved in the community even when I was very young, so was my mother. It's in my blood.

Nancy wears many hats to improve the community of Carbondale and Southern Illinois. She has worked in a variety of different occupations, including medical and law enforcement. She was the first Black female officer in Mounds, IL. Nancy sits on panels for community justice and so much more. She is the criminal justice chair for the Carbondale NAACP Branch, founding member and director for Carbondale United and a founding member of Southern Illinois Unity Coalition, and she sits on the executive board of Connect 360. Nancy is also a board member of the African-American Museum, Cairo Area Board Project and Jackson County State's Attorney Citizen Advisory Board.

Nancy has been a central figure for the Black Lives Matter events in the Carbondale area and is the founding member and director of Carbondale United, a coalition to reduce violence in the Carbondale area. Through Carbondale United, she has organized monthly Virtual Youth Summits that educate middle schoolers and high schoolers on stopping the violence, career management, domestic violence and teens, mental self-care, community action and social issues. She has also created the monthly Black Tuesday event where Black vendors can come together in the community, sell their wares and gain visibility in the community.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood when you have someone right there in the community that you can call and they answer with encouragement, assistance and resources.

Nancy Maxwell said, “Whether it be domestic violence, rape crisis, social justice or just because you don’t have Pampers for your child, or you don’t know where to get food, or you’re about to get evicted—it should not be an issue to feel ashamed of. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help. I was first hired at The Women’s Center to work in the Black community because traditionally members of the Black community do not report or request services. It took me almost eight years to actually get that program up and running successfully. The Women’s Center has very graciously allowed me to march and to work with black entrepreneurs, under their social justice program. The Women’s Center recently received the Healing Illinois grant, which will help us do more in the community with social justice. While Covid has provided migrating circumstances, we have not let that deter us from fighting for change. We’re going to go virtual with all events.”

Nancy trains volunteers at The Women’s Center to help sexual assault survivors and creates T-shirts for community members who lose their loved ones to gun violence. She also gives talks on domestic violence and how to help survivors. She meets sexual abuse survivors at the hospital and counsels sexual abuse survivors and their families. Nancy organizes community events and hosts a support group for women survivors.

Expressing her views on being a good neighbor and what it means to her, Maxwell said, “It was based on the Mister Rogers television show, which I watched as a child. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood when you have someone right there in the community that you can call and they answer with encouragement, assistance and resources. I got involved in the community when I was around 12 years old. I got people together to apply for jobs, participated in the youth program and had a dance group that performed block parties in the community. Some of that upbringing affected how I want to be and the things I do in the community right now.”

Nancy has devoted countless hours and dedicated all of her energy to raise awareness and fight for social justice causes to make our community a safer and more supportive environment for all.

For example, Nancy has hosted domestic violence awareness art exhibits at the African-American Museum, started a women’s empowerment group at the Eurma Hayes Center, hosted several events highlighting Black-owned businesses, participated in town halls to address community policing reforms and serves survivors of sexual assault in her community day in and day out,” said nominator Virginia Golz Schrum.

“We have a lot of hardworking activists in our community, but I have never met anyone who works as tirelessly as Nancy. This summer, she organized several events and demonstrations in our local movement for Black lives. Earlier this spring, she created and successfully ran the new (virtual) Annual Youth Summit during the Covid pandemic to combat gun violence among youth in our community. That’s just the beginning of her accomplishments! And she does all of this community work on top of providing excellent counseling and advocacy services to survivors of violence and sitting on several committees and boards,” said nominator Jasmine Creek.

Nancy does not just point out problems that hurt her community. She also rolls up her sleeves and gets to work fixing them. She brings her neighbors together while she is doing it.

“Nancy is the most passionate and hardworking person I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She is always working on a project and will not hesitate to help you if there is anything you need. I often call her 'the networking queen' because she networks with so many people in our community. Nancy is definitely my go-to person with any questions on how to get resources for people in our community. She has always gone above and beyond her job duties and is such an inspiration to our community,” said nominator Emily Killen. “I nominated Nancy for this award because she does so much for our community without recognition. She does not hesitate to help someone in need. Maybe if she has a bit of the spotlight, it will inspire others to rise to the challenge of being a good neighbor. Nancy has continued to run her women’s group for years with little support. She changes the lives of people in tough situations and helps them find their true potential. She gives people a voice. We need more neighbors like Nancy.”

“Nancy does not just point out problems that hurt her community. She also rolls up her sleeves and gets to work fixing them. She brings her neighbors together while she is doing it. She has been able to bring organizations, schools, businesses and simple citizens of Carbondale together to fight all kinds of violence in the Carbondale community,” said nominator Rachel Brenningmeyer. “She amplifies the voices of those people tend to overlook. She protects anyone she sees who is suffering. She does all of this with no payment, no favors, no expectations, just because she loves her community and wants to see it change for the better. Because of this, she has more counseling clients than she can see. She is consistently requested to help guide people through healing from relationship violence. Nancy is an inspiration not just for us at The Women’s Center, but also to community members all around Southern Illinois.”

About One Region All Neighbors

Inspired by the life and legacy of Fred Rogers and in honor of his vision, WSIU’s One Region, All Neighbors initiative encourages community members to nominate those who are making positive contributions through acts of kindness, compassion and service. Winners are chosen from nominations submitted by the public in five categories— individual, youth, educator, community group, and business. WSIU recognizes these winners on its television and radio stations, website and social media.

About WSIU Public Broadcasting

WSIU Public Broadcasting is licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and is an integral part of the College of Mass Communication & Media Arts on the Carbondale campus. The WSIU stations reach more than five million people across six states and beyond through five digital public television channels, three public radio stations, a radio information service, a website, and education and outreach services. They partner with other community organizations to promote positive change and to support the academic and public service missions of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Learn more and get the latest station news online at and on WSIU's Facebook and Twitter pages.

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