“I hope Janie Morrison will live 1,000 years and never die,” says Miljana Furundzic of Mount Prospect, Ill. “When I met her, I thought she must be an angel.”
Miljana is a Serbian immigrant and a home health care worker in the Illinois 33rd district. A few years ago, her husband Batric became severally psychologically disabled. On behalf of the district office for Illinois State Senator Dan Kotowski, Janie Morrison ’71 helped Batric apply for Social Security Disability benefits, saved their home by doing a loan modification and helped Miljana get a job and pursue a certified nursing assistant (CNA) license.
“There are no words for my gratitude,” says Miljana. “She’s my best friend and my family member.”
Such stories and praise are commonplace for Morrison, who runs Kotowski’s office with one assistant and several interns. Their aim is to help the constituents of the 33rd district in any way they can—working on issues like food stamps, childcare, Medicare and Medicaid, counseling, veteran’s benefits and loan refinancing. “We are helping people survive in this economy,” says Morrison.
Dan Kotowski, a Democrat, is known for his efforts at reform, says Morrison. “He’s inspiring and motivating, and we all pledged our lives to him while in public office.” She keeps in daily contact to update him on the goings-on in the district office in Park Ridge, one of several towns in the district in the northwest Chicago suburbs.
Morrison first got involved in politics as executive director to the faculty union at Temple University in Philadelphia, which lobbied in presidential, state and local elections. Then, as assistant to the president for another American Federation of Teachers affiliate, she met Kotowski, who asked her to run his campaign. After their victory, she became district director for seven years and counting. Kotowski is up for re-election this November, but as district director, Morrison is not allowed to be involved or even have knowledge of the campaign.
In the office and throughout the district, Morrison works 10-12 hours a day in service of constituents—representing them in court, in disability hearings, at the Department of Children and Family Services and anywhere else she’s needed. People in the district know her reputation as a woman who can get things done—and always goes the extra mile for her community. Still, she sometimes has to say no because of budget constraints, the hardest part of her job.
“We do different things every hour of the day, which makes the days go really fast. I’m very spoiled; any other job wouldn’t be as exciting, to say the least.”
Morrison, who was a communications major at Central, sees her work as a fulfillment of the college’s mission to prepare graduates for “effective service in local, national and international communities.”
“Even though we try to keep a calendar, if we have someone come in need of drastic help, we will stay to see that through,” says Morrison.