Unsung Hero: Ellen Conte

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By Ashley Smith
By Josue Orellana

Ellen Conte dedicates her time, energy, and creative thoughts to spreading Christmas cheer to kids of all ages.

At the Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair "Kids Corner", little ones can do
anything from coloring or writing a letter to Santa to making a Christmas tree ornament and decorating a fluffy snowman.

"When I came in they had the train which was great but just looking at
the trees that's not that much excitement for them and Santa Claus is
great," said volunteer Ellen Conte, "But I just thought something for the kids to enjoy.. They run in here like there's no tomorrow!"

Ellen has volunteered at the Holiday Lights Fair for nine years.

Her friends and fellow volunteers say she and her husband Gene are a
vital part of the success of kids corner

"She's very dedicated," said volunteer Sharon Hemmer, "When she puts her mind to something she gets it done."

Judy Smid works at the Du Quoin Division of Tourism and admits that
without Ellen, she's not sure Kids Corner would continue.

"Do you think the kids corner would happen if it wasn't for Ellen?"

"I say it wouldn't but I think it would, I think she would keep her hand in
it," said Smid, "She's very good at what she does."

"I want everybody to volunteer in some way. That's important for your
community," said Conte.

Each year Ellen comes up with her own theme for the display and works on developing that theme all year.

This year the theme is Candyland.

She is a retired school aid and says watching the kids eyes light up
with excitement makes it all worth it.

"It's just seeing the parents work with the kids., that's what we want," said Conte.

Conte says each year she feels her age more and her volunteer duties
become harder to complete.

"In the kids corner Ellen has probably started for next year whether she
admits it or not," said Smid.

Conte says she's not sure how much longer she will be involved. But if you ask Father Christmas and his wife, they tell a different story.

"It's kinda funny because every year she says this is my last year I'm
not coming back and every year she comes back," said Hemmer.

I guess we'll have to wait and see if Ellen shows up in 2013.

If you would like to go to visit the Kids Corner at the Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair, you can go this weekend and next Friday through Sunday from 5:30-9:30.
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