Joann Ozog Honored With Polish Spirit Award
CHICAGO, IL – Each year, the Polish Museum of America (PMA) in Chicago, IL, awards the prestigious “Polish Spirit Award” to a person who embodies pride in their Polish heritage and has taken action to help the PMA promote and preserve Polish history, culture and traditions. This year, the person chosen for this honor is Joann S. Ozog, a resident of Warren, MI. The award was presented by PMA Chairman of the Board/PRCUA President Joseph A. Drobot, Jr. at the 34th Annual Summer Ball – the Museum’s primary fund raiser – held on Friday, June 6, at Chicago’s Galleria Marchetti.
In photo (L-R) Wallace Ozog, proud of his wife, Joann Ozog, who received the Polish Spirit Award from Joseph A. Drobot, Jr., PMA Chairman and PRCUA President.
Joann Ozog is the daughter of the late John and Victoria Kushel and the wife of Wallace Ozog, President Emeritus of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA). They have three sons: Michael, Mark, and Christopher, and two grandchildren Ryan and Grace.
From 1998 to 2010, when Mrs. Ozog was First Lady of the PRCUA, she volunteered at the Polish Museum, which is housed in the PRCUA headquarters. Often devoting a 40-hour week to the PMA, she graciously served as its Membership Chair, Events Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator. When she first arrived, the PMA was little known outside of Chicago’s Polonia. Mrs. Ozog spent much time and energy sending press releases across the nation to make the PMA better known. She also re-established the newsletter, bringing news of the PMA to members and encouraging them to recruit new members. In 1999, a Nationwide Membership Campaign was launched that raised $500,000 for much-needed renovations, maintenance of exhibits, and new materials and equipment.
Mrs. Ozog also concentrated on making the PMA more proactive by initiating seven workshops including Polish Christmas Ornaments, Palm Weaving, Pisanki Making, Easter Egg Painting, Wycinanki, Polish Genealogy and Pierogi Making. Pol-Ams were very grateful for these hands-on educational opportunities which were not offered by other institutions.
As a former teacher, Joann also established programs to help youngsters increase their awareness about their Polish heritage such as art contests, concerts, and “October – Polish American Heritage Month” cultural programs. She noticed that students seemed bored as they toured the PMA, so she created an interactive workbook that challenged students to find certain objects and complete puzzles. This made the experience more enjoyable as well as educational. Mrs. Ozog also authored seven booklets, distributed by the PMA to visitors, on Polish history, heroes, culture and customs.
She initiated the PMA’s “Save the Book” project and raised $20,000 that repaired over 200 rare, old books. She also raised $40,000 for a new “Photo Restoration” project to scan, catalogue and preserve the PMA’s photograph collection. Joann’s “Michigan Friends of the PMA” group donated over $35,000, which was used to renovate the Archives and Library, and purchase computers, printers, a copier and other necessary equipment. Over the 12 years when she volunteered at the PMA, she brought in $1 million in donations to the institution.
When Mrs. Ozog was informed that she would be this year’s honoree, she did what she does best: she launched another nationwide campaign to raise money to restore books in the PMA Library’s Rare Book Collection. At the Ball, she presented PMA Head Librarian Malgorzata Kot with a donation of $12,650 that was raised from generous donors in six states who responded to her appeal.
With a record like this, it is no wonder that Joann Ozog was chosen for this well-deserved honor! Upon receiving the award, Mrs. Ozog graciously thanked the PMA, and especially all of the volunteers and donors, who helped her dreams for the PMA to come true. “I hope that you continue to support this ‘Treasure of Polonia,’ especially for future generations,” she said, “It is OUR museum, filled with OUR history and the traditions of OUR Polish heritage.”
Polonia owes Mrs. Ozog a huge debt of gratitude for invigorating the Museum with her contagious enthusiasm and inspiring others to recognize what a valuable and vital resource the PMA is to everyone of Polish heritage in America. Bravo and Bóg Zapłac, Mrs. Joann Ozog.
By Kathryn Rosypal
and PRCUA’s Narod Polski