EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Central Illinois is celebrating the philanthropic efforts of local “giving” leaders and their contributions to transforming the community.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals hosted the 38th annual National Philanthropy Awards ceremony in East Peoria Wednesday.

The organization recognized eight community leaders and groups for their fundraising and service work.

Ashley Aeschleman is the chair of the National Philanthropy Day committee. She said they’re trying to open the windows and let people see the great work that’s helping to change the community.

“We’re celebrating people’s efforts whether they’re donors, whether they’re volunteers. whether they’re an organization that is just instilling a culture of philanthropy at they’re organization,” Aeschleman said.

Brooklin Heeren, 16, was one of the youngest recipients at the ceremony. She received the award for Outstanding Youth Philanthropy, age 5-17.

“I’m very excited, this is my first award that I’m actually receiving,” Heeren said.

Heeren is a junior at East Peoria Community High School. She was a runner-up in Best Buddies Champion of the Year after raising more than $7,000. She’s also a Chapter President of Best Buddies at her school and State Ambassador.

“I have a passion for people who help and I just love helping,” Heeren said. “And I’m a loving person, I’m caring to other people and I want to bring that out to the community.”

Other award winners were Bill Turney, John D. Morris, Sally Snyder, Waite Financial Group, Jim Baldwin, Moms Who Care: Limestone Community High School, and Pekin AMBUCS.

Aeschleman said philanthropy is one of the many backbones of Central Illinois and said there is always some way to get involved and help change the lives of others.