Jefferson Awards: For Leaving A Legacy

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He's a seasoned weatherman, curious journalist, teacher, senator, and broadcaster. Mostly though:

"Don was an innovator," said Doug Tschopp, Executive Director of the The Genesius Guild.

Don Wooten has spent his entire life simply serving.

"If you involved yourself, you begin to understand more and more about the world," explained Don.

And in the 1950s, Don brought a new world to the Quad Cities - The Genesius Guild Theatre Foundation.

"I saw that circle of Greek columns and I thought - Greek play," Don recalled. "I had never read one, but I thought it called for one. So, I found a great translation of Antigone and we did it and as a publicity stunt we did them in mask."

Six decades and more than 2,000 volunteer participants later, The Genesius Guild is celebrating its 60th season of offering free shows in Rock Island's Lincoln Park to anyone and everyone.

"He did it, because it was going to be fun," said Doug. You do theater, because it's fun. However, to do it in a park and make it so there's no admission and free - It becomes about other people really fast. It becomes about service to community and it's just really really clear that really what's the essence of Don Wooten is - that it's all about community."

That's also why Don began WVIK Radio in 1980 and continues to host several shows even in retirement.

"He started an NPR station, because he thought we needed one," added Doug. "It's service to community. We didn't have that service."

That service is why Doug is nominating Don for the Jefferson Award - a recognition Don says he wants to share with others.

"Anyone can have a good idea, but it takes others to make the idea work," said Don. "It's really the best kind of recreation. Recreation. Re-create. You re-create yourself by doing something different. Working hard at it. Doing it well. There's a deep joy in that."

Don knows that for him, the curtain is about to close.

"I have slowed down as I think nature intended me to," he explained.

But in nature - with little light, no cameras, and lots of action - Don says he's satisfied with what he's started and the legacy he's leaving behind.

"I've always left people with this - do good, avoid evil, pay cash," concluded Don.

The Jefferson Awards

It's all about the people who are changing our community. For the third season, WQAD News 8 and Genesis Health System are bringing you eight local nominees of the Jefferson Award. The Jefferson Awards Foundation is a prestigious national recognition system honoring community and public volunteerism in America, or as well call them, "unsung heroes." On the last Tuesday of every month, WQAD News 8 will announce one nominee. Then, in Spring 2017, one of the eight will represent the Quad Cities in Washington, D.C. at the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony.