PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — The City of Pekin is showing appreciation for its many volunteers with a celebration honoring their contributions to the community.

Volunteers will be recognized at the Community Picnic and Volunteer Celebration during the city’s Juneteenth Celebration.

“For years, we’ve benefitted from the achievements of the work or the product of the volunteers. Too often, thanks is a hard thing to come about. This is one major way we can say thank you to those volunteers and let them know just how much our community recognizes and appreciates their hours of volunteer services, and what they do to make this community a success,” said Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman.

Amazon is donating 300 meals for the event, which will be prepared by local businesses Coffee Connection, Maquet’s Rail House and Yesterday’s Bar and Grill, all located on Court St. in Pekin.

The Juneteenth Celebration and Community Picnic will be held on June 17 at the Court St. Pocket Park in downtown Pekin. Attendees can expect a block party vibe with tables lining the streets.

“We want to gather people around tables who maybe don’t get to meet each other all the time to tell stories and have fun together…. We’ll have games, food, activities, music, all the things you need to have that kind of energy and enthusiasm that’s transformative for a community,” said Heather Robertson, executive director of United Way of Pekin.

Robertson said she got the idea for the community picnic from Woodstock, New York, where they will be hosting their 19th annual community picnic this year.

“I was so taken with the idea of what energy it infused in their community to have people gather together around this idea of volunteerism and community, and the way it just permeated the streets…and I thought that’s exactly the kind of energy and enthusiasm and gathering that our community continues to strive toward,” she said.

Amy McCoy, executive director of Pekin Chamber of Commerce, said events like the Marigold Festival would not be possible without volunteers.

“Our mission would not be carried forward if not for the volunteers in our community. We are happy to support this event for so many reasons. It’s great for our business community, it’s great for the community in general, and it really promotes and encourages volunteerism,” she said.

Prior to the community picnic, new markers recognizing the contributions of Nance Legins-Costley, the first enslaved person freed by Abraham Lincoln in 1841 and avid community volunteer, will be unveiled at Pocket Park.

The Juneteenth celebration kicks off 10 a.m. and the community picnic will take place at 12 p.m. Attendees will receive commemorative “Pekin Appreciates its Volunteers” event buttons and the first 100 volunteers will also receive a complimentary book about Legins-Costley.

Going forward, Robertson said the third Saturday in June will be reserved for annual community volunteer picnics.

To sign up for the picnic, click here.