St. Charles parade honors community leaders

By on November 25, 2010

Elburn resident, Lazarus House founder, named parade Co-Grand Marshal
ST. CHARLES—Darlene Marcusson, Elburn resident, founder and executive director of Lazarus House, as well as Alderwoman Betsy Penny, were named by the Downtown St. Charles Partnership (DSCP) as Co-Grand Marshals for the 2010 Electric Christmas Parade. The parade takes place on Main Street in downtown St. Charles on Saturday, Nov. 27, at 5:30 p.m.

“Both women, who recently announced plans to retire from their respective positions, have made a positive and lasting impact on the St. Charles community,” said Jennifer Faivre, Executive Director of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, the group responsible for organizing the parade. “It seems very fitting that they are honored at this event, the purpose of which is to create the sense of community spirit that both women so deeply embody.”

Marcusson founded Lazarus House in 1997 in response to the need she saw for a shelter in her own community. While serving on the Board of Directors for Hesed House, she discovered that there were people from the St. Charles community travelling to either Aurora or Elgin to seek shelter during the winter months. In addition, those facilities would close in the summer, forcing people to come back to St. Charles and sleep on public benches.

At that point, Marcusson made it her mission to create a place within the community where people could seek safe shelter. At first, she wasn’t sure that she could garner the community support to make her vision a reality, but soon came to realize that her fears were unwarranted.

“I have never seen such kindness and generosity,” Marcusson said of the people of St. Charles. “This community has been amazing in embracing our mission.”

When asked about being Co-Grand Marshal with Betsy Penny, Marcusson said, “I am pleased and honored to be serving in this capacity with my dear friend Betsy Penny.”

Penny, who is no stranger to community service, met Marcusson while she was working to open Lazarus House and became a founding member. Today, Penny not only sits on the board of Lazarus House, but she volunteers several days a week providing tutoring services to individuals working toward their GED.

Penny will retire as Alderwoman at the end of her current term, a position that she has held for over 15 years. She says that she took on this role because she feels a calling to serve her community, which she does in many capacities. In addition to Lazarus House, Penny volunteers her time with St. John Neumann’s Eucharistic Ministries, Kiwanis Club and Kane County Relay for Life. Penny has also been an integral part of the Electric Christmas Parade for the last 13 years by serving on the parade committee.

“My motto is ‘Faith, Family and Friends,’” said Penny of what drives her. “I believe that people are the most important commodity in our world.”

Marcusson and Penny will ride together in the parade, the culmination of the Holiday Homecoming festivities that start at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26, with Lighting of the Lights in Lincoln Park. The events kick-off on Saturday, Nov. 27, with a free holiday movie and concert. Afternoon events include horse-drawn sleigh rides in Lincoln Park and visits with Santa at his house on the 1st Street Plaza.