Jason Powell Wins ‘Neighborly’ Award for Going Above and Beyond to Improve Lives
Carbondale, IL – Jason Powell of Marion, Illinois is very active in the community and current Assistant Governor for Rotary 6510, a member of multiple Chambers of Commerce, Ready Nation of Illinois, Boy Scouts of America, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Caritas Family Solutions, Volunteer with Heaven’s Kitchen and Light House Shelter, Business Professional Networking, and more. WSIU Public Broadcasting, a service of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is pleased to announce Jason Powell as a recipient of the ‘Neighborly’ award in the individual category.
“I want to thank Julie Campbell for nominating me. Sometimes, it feels great getting acknowledged for being a good steward for our community and being a good neighbor. I hope when people see the things other people who have been nominated have done or the things I’ve done, it inspires them to help or even guides them by giving them an avenue to get plugged in to help,” said awardee Jason Powell.
Jason who grew up around the poverty level, found himself moved out at the age of 15, homeless and bouncing from couch to couch. With a father incarcerated for the first 12 years of his life, an abusive step-father, and a bad home environment, he bounced around school and work. Getting into the coal mine industry had a great economic impact. He was able to provide for his family, made money, bought a car, a house, and boats. In 2011, Jason got crushed underground and broke his back, hip, and pelvis. Wheelchair-bound for nine months, unsure if he would walk again, he battled depression and underwent two years of physical therapy. Instead of getting bitter with the everyday physical pain of his injuries, or feeling angry about his childhood experiences, making this world a better place became his goal in life.
"Sometimes, it feels great getting acknowledged for being a good steward for our community and being a good neighbor. I hope when people see the things other people who have been nominated have done or the things I’ve done, it inspires them to help or even guides them by giving them an avenue to get plugged in to help.”
“Some of my past experiences and things I went through in life opened my eyes to what others are going through. I’m the type of person who wonders what challenges a family is going through when driving down the highway looking over at the car next to me, or in a grocery store, or even when delivering our food baskets. We went to homes, and before you get to the door, you hear families yelling. You try to almost put yourself in their shoes and figure out what they’re dealing with and why you’re getting some of those reactions, or try to be compassionate and see things through their eyes and recognize that life may not always be perfect for everybody. You may have been brought up in a perfect family home and family life, had a perfect education and got a great job that you love to do. But that’s not always the case for people, and sometimes it’s beyond their control. Sometimes, it’s children being brought up in a bad environment. They’ve no choice, didn’t ask for it, and didn’t get to pick their parents—that’s why they’ve developed into who they are. You have to try to understand and figure out how you can change them or help them,” said Powell.
Jason serves on the Board of Directors at Caritas Family Solutions, one of the largest foster care providers in the state that covers the lower 50 counties in Illinois, for about a year and a half now. He’s the Assistant Governor for Rotary District 6510 and has been on the board of directors at the Good Samaritan Homeless Shelter previously. He just completed his second year as the Chairman of Egyptian District Boy Scouts. He is also with a group called Ready Nation and goes to Springfield every year to lobby for early childhood education funding. He has done mission work in Haiti through Cornerstone Church with Farming God’s Way that has been in Hatte Cotin for about six years now. Jason has been going there every year since the summer of 2017 and is amazed to see how much the village has grown. He found it almost overwhelming to see third-world issues of hunger and no clean water and no electricity.
"Once you give back and help somebody, there’s no better feeling in the world than that. Some people enjoy shopping or traveling; I enjoy helping people.”
One thing Powell notes is that even during a pandemic, Rotary is alive and strong here in Southern Illinois. "I am proud of all the groups in District 6510. We have a lot of projects going on with our Williamson County Heartland Rotary—an annual iPad project for autistic children that we’ve been doing for quite a few years where we raise funds, purchase iPads, and download the software for them to use. Our annual coat drive raises about 700 coats a year. We also do hygiene baskets for those in need in our community and food baskets around Thanksgiving. We get names from the schools of folks who could possibly use the extra help, put together food boxes of various items and a $25 or $50 gift card for Kroger in there and pass those out. We just finished the project here at the all-inclusive park by adding a pavilion with handicap-accessible picnic tables made out of recycled plastic. So, we’re always looking at doing different projects and giving back to our community, as well as looking for new members to join our group that meets Tuesday mornings,” said Powell.
“I think if you’re truly passionate about something, you’re going to find the time even if it’s challenging. The biggest part is delegating time, but making sure if I say yes to a certain project or an organization, I’m able to give them enough time. I’ve had to step away from a few projects and a few boards at different times because if I didn’t feel I was giving 100% of myself, hopefully there’d be somebody else who could step up and do a better job. Once you give back and help somebody, there’s no better feeling in the world than that. Some people enjoy shopping or traveling; I enjoy helping people,” said Powell.
Speaking about what being a good neighbor means to him, Jason said, “It’s giving back to people in need. Somebody might be down on their luck, need some kindness or a little bit of a helping hand. It can change their life or their outlook on life and inspire them to do something good or help somebody or make something better of themselves. That’s my whole passion now—giving back and helping. I had my great aunt in my corner who I lived with off and on who was always cheering me on and telling me, ‘You don’t have to have that life. You don’t have to live that way. You can be better. You can do better. Just keep going. Keep pushing.’ ‘Be the difference’ is my tagline on everything. If you see an issue in your neighborhood, if you see an issue in the city, if you see the issue in your state, do something about it. Don’t be someone who sits back and complains about it. If you see things going on that you think should be done differently, find a way to get plugged in and be the difference.”
"He has a tender heart for people who are struggling. Jason always says he just wants to go through life planting little seeds of hope and help for people, hoping they will eventually turn into a forest of good deeds.”
“Jason and I have been best friends since late 2017 and have worked on countless volunteer projects, home remodels, and even started a couple of businesses. To put it mildly, he is everywhere and goes above and beyond in almost every facet of community service. Jason deserves to win a Neighborly award because he’s the kind of man who does small things for everyone and not only the big attention-grabbing service projects. He will help complete strangers load their lumber at Menards, shovel snow for everyone on the block, and give the shirt off of his back to a family that is struggling. Jason coaches children and builds them up because he worries they may not get the attention they need at home. He travels to Haiti on mission trips to see ‘his kids’ every year because he has built true relationships with them over the years. He has a tender heart for people who are struggling. Jason always says he just wants to go through life planting little seeds of hope and help for people, hoping they will eventually turn into a forest of good deeds,” said nominator Julie Campbell.
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 wsiu.org and on WSIU's Facebook and Twitter pages.