GODFREY – A Godfrey couple whose family business has welded seamlessly for the benefit of the area helped raise $91,000 at a dinner in their honor.
Dwight and Cheryl Werts were honored May 8 as this year’s Circle of Care Award winners. The event generated the most money ever raised for Riverbend Head Start & Family Services in the event’s 21-year history.
More than 260 guests packed the Commons at Lewis and Clark Community College for the dinner and auction to recognize the Werts’ positive influence on the community through their professions, volunteerism and philanthropy.
Dwight’s parents, Robert and Verna Werts, founded Werts Welding and Tank Service, in Wood River, in 1957. Since then, it has grown to eight locations throughout the country, but it still remains a family business. Dwight is the president and CEO and Cheryl is the secretary and treasurer. Their son, Nick, is a member of the sales team and their daughter, Liz, assists with clerical duties.
The “Let Sparks Fly” theme served as a tribute to Werts Welding & Tank Service and the Werts’ commitment to the community.
“Dwight and Cheryl have been sparking brighter futures in our communities for years,” said Mark Kratschmer, emcee of the Circle of Care. “If there is a good cause, expect to see Dwight and Cheryl supporting it because it is the right thing to do.
Their efforts to strengthen their community have influenced the next generation. Their children, Nick and Liz, took to the stage to discuss how it has impacted their lives.
“Our parents are humble and help the community because that is what’s in their heart,” said Liz. “We strive to follow in their footsteps.”
The agency’s Board of Directors Chairman Brett Stawar presented the couple with a red picnic table as their award that the children at the Essic Robinson Head Start center in Alton will use as part of the outdoor classroom. They can read books and assemble puzzles while enjoying nature. It also included a plaque with a quote from Dwight’s father, “Give to your community and your community will give back.”
“This has been something that Cheryl and I believe in and we are thrilled that Nick and Liz experienced the benefits of volunteerism,” said Dwight Werts. “Volunteering allows you to strengthen your community, solve problems, improve lives and connect with others. Giving back will also transform your own life and provide life-lasting memories.”
Riverbend Head Start & Family Services, Lewis and Clark Community College, Saint Anthony’s Health Center, Marquette Catholic High School and 5 A’s Animal Shelter are among the organizations the Werts strengthened in an effort to help others.
Dwight and Cheryl believe every student should have access to education. In 2012, they established the Veteran’s Emergency Fund at Lewis and Clark. They came up with the idea after hearing a story about a veteran who was a student at the college and had no money to buy food. The emergency loan fund bridges the gap for veterans who are enrolled at the college and are waiting for reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The couple also established another scholarship at the college and at Marquette to help students with average grades pay for their educations.
“I am honored to have been asked to hand out diplomas at Lewis and Clark’s graduation ceremony. In years to come, I hope to see some of the Head Start students I have met walk across the stage as graduates of Lewis and Clark,” said Dwight Werts.
Riverbend Head Start strengthens families in Madison County, Illinois at its five child development centers located in Alton, Collinsville, Edwardsville and Granite City. The non-profit’s staff provides early childhood education, parenting education, health, nutrition, disability and social services to children between the ages of birth through five and expectant parents.
“People who have known me for a very long time know that I often say that Head Start is a family development program disguised as a child development program,” said Riverbend Head Start President Chuck Parr. “To truly make our mission a success we must engage the families who enrolled their children in our programs.”
Families qualify for the Early Head Start and Head Start programs because they live below the federal poverty line of $23,580 for a family of four, have a child with a diagnosed disability or are involved with the Department of Children and Family Services.
They voluntarily enroll in the program because they want to improve their lives and want to ensure the children are prepared for kindergarten.
Dwight and Cheryl Werts received Riverbend Head Start’s annual Circle of Care award at a dinner in their honor on May 8. The event raised more than $91,000 to support the Head Start program that serves more than 900 children and their families in Madison County. (From left: Jarrod McCormick, Liz Werts, Dwight Werts, Cheryl Werts, Nick Werts) (Photo by Christy Schaper)