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Dave Van Geest: Community minded

Volunteering has been man’s way of life since childhood

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 10:51 a.m. CST
Caption
(Christine Nikolich – cnikolich@shawmedia.com)
Dave Van Geest volunteers at the Hoffman Estates-based Fellowship Housing, a service group for single mothers and homeless women. Van Geest works as a one-man IT department for the group. Van Geest helped revamp the group’s website and services client’s personal computers when they need repairs. Van Geest devotes about 150 volunteer hours a year to the group.

Volunteerism has been Dave Van Geest’s way of life since he was a kid in Minneapolis clearing driveways and mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors.

Van Geest’s second nature instantly drew him years later to the Hoffman Estates-based Fellowship Housing, an organization that strives to get single moms and homeless women back on their feet.

The Lake in the Hills resident has been contributing his time and information technology expertise to the organization each week since 2010, after he learned about the group’s mission from his employer at the time.

“These women come from broken marriages, and they’ve been dragged through the dirt,” Van Geest said. “It takes a great deal of determination on the mother’s part, but those who go through [Fellowship Housing], those who stick with it, to see them as entirely different is about the most heartwarming thing I’ve ever seen.”

For the past 20 years, Fellowship Housing has assisted more than 600 moms stabilize their family life by helping them with budgeting, problem-solving and goal-setting.

The group’s two-year program provides single moms with debt repayment, housing assistance, life skills and educational training.

Van Geest first began volunteering there as the group’s IT director. He has helped redesign the group’s website and digitize case management files. He currently is helping the organization convert to cloud computing, so that workers can access the group’s servers from anywhere.

But Van Geest quickly evolved his role at Fellowship House to become the group’s personal, one-man computer repair shop.

Without being asked, Van Geest has helped the moms at Fellowship Housing upgrade their personal computers, clear viruses and install new software.

“For me, it’s just little things, but it means a lot to them,” Van Geest said. “It gets them back on the computer. It gets them back on the Internet, and it’s just good to see that.”

Van Geest’s giving spirit is the reason why Amanda Woods, the communications and operations manager at Fellowship, nominated him as an Everyday Hero.

She said he constantly comes into the group’s office to ask for more work. He also has made the group’s technological capabilities sustainable for the future, she said.

“He goes above and beyond everything that is asked of him,” Woods said. “He never says no.”

That community mindedness has been ingrained into Van Geest since growing up in Minnesota. He said that volunteerism was a driving part of the culture when he was a kid.

And that culture has stayed with him.

Van Geest has served on the Minneapolis Rotary Club board, and he was alderman and mayor of Wood Dale.

He also has served three years in the Army, and he was a member of the DuPage County Mayors and Managers Conference.

He moved to Illinois as an adult, first living in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, and then in Wood Dale, before settling in Lake in the Hills.

Van Geest said he plans to keep volunteering at the Fellowship Housing as long as they need his help.

“We should all be of service,” Van Geest said. “That’s what makes us a society. In being able to help each other, we help ourselves. We make society stronger. We make it a better place.”

The Van Geest lowdown

Hometown: Minneapolis

Family: Married to Donna, has five children and six grandchildren

Employer: Chiro One Wellness Center in Oak Brook, as applications development manager

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