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Every so often on WGLT, we'll bring you the story of an unsung community servant who's making Bloomington-Normal a better place. Suggest a story by contacting news@wglt.org.

More Of That, Please: Normal Praises Unsung Community Role Model

Dodie Dunson and his family and friends
Mary Cullen
Dodie Dunson Sr., center, stands alongside his Boys & Girls Club coworkers after being named this year's Normal Citizen of the Year on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Every week or so on WGLT's The Leadoff podcast, we'll bring you the story of an unsung community servant who's making Bloomington-Normal a better place. It's a feature we call More of That, PleaseSubscribe to The Leadoff on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also suggest local people we should feature.

For some people, hard work is all about the reward. For Dodie Dunson Sr., that’s just not his style.

Even after being named Normal’s Citizen of the Year, Dunson wasn’t interested in basking in the spotlight. He took one look at the crowd of reporters and said, simply, “I have a passion for what I do.”

Dunson has worked in the community for 44 years and is now the director of family engagement with the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos, who selected Dunson for the award, said Dunson does so much more than his title lets on.

“The number of people that I talked to that said, ‘Oh yeah, when I was growing up, Dodie was right there helping me,’” Koos said.

But even after impacting so many lives, Dunson was still surprised to receive the award.

“I had no idea. My wife and the Club, my coworkers kept me off guard,” Dunson laughed, still in shock.

The Boys and Girls Club team was all invited, but Koos decided it was Dunson’s turn to get some recognition.

Koos said Dunson is the reason many Bloomington-Normal youth escaped troubled upbringings and became community leaders.

Dunson said he used to be one of those kids. He grew up in Bloomington Public Housing and overcame his past.

“I had a mother that was my rock that taught me right from wrong," he said. "And I try to instill in the kids, there’s a better way of doing things, and let’s not repeat a certain cycle within their families.”

He said he works with youth in the community that, sometimes, no one else wants to work with.

“Every kid that comes in that building, I can tell you something unique about them. Not many people can do that,” Dunson admitted.

He said after so many years, the job becomes second nature.

But  Koos argued that’s not it. He said Dunson is special.

“When I look for citizens of the year, sometimes it’s hard to find people and then all of a sudden they’re right under your nose. And Dodie is one of those people," Koos said. "He doesn’t want any recognition for what he does, but he does a lot in this community.”

He said the point of the citizen of the year award is to recognize that silent community member, making a difference where, seemingly, no one is watching.

Well, it turns out people were watching Dunson. And his wife Jaci couldn’t be more proud.

“He is very humble," Jaci Dunson explained. "He doesn’t like a lot of attention. I tell him, sometimes you need to step out. Let people know about the things that you do.”

So for at least one night, Dunson was put in the spotlight, getting the recognition he truly deserves. And we’d like to see More Of That, Please.

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