By Andrew Chesney

I’ve been known to attract some online criticism from time to time. However, one of the more perplexing reasons I have caught grief while serving in elected office is the reaction I often receive when mentioning a term I talk about a lot -- "Northwest Illinois Values."

We don’t talk about values enough as a society, in my humble opinion. We talk about it so little, in fact, that my use of the term has often brought forth a fear that my values may not match your values and that is a reason to distrust that we can have shared values.

Instead, I insist that there is a set of shared values upon which our entire region not only agrees, but we live those values through our daily routines and habits.

Never have those shared #NWILValues been on display better than our region’s ability to come together to help our neighbors in times of need. I am immensely proud of what I have seen from the people in our region in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout the region, everyday citizens are answering the call to pick up groceries for senior neighbors through programs run by the United Way of Northwest Illinois, are dropping off meals for their friends and neighbors, and are putting hearts and teddy bears in their windows to share their love with passersby.

Sewing circles are putting skills we used to teach in home economics class to great use in making face masks for front-line health care heroes. The Blaum Brothers are putting their Galena distillery to the task of making hand sanitizer instead of craft spirits. The sanitizer already is being donated to first responders throughout Northwest Illinois in order to protect those protecting us.

Deininger Floral Shop in Freeport delivered more than 500 flowers to senior-living facilities throughout the region, brightening the day for countless seniors missing visitors and in need of a little lift in spirits. Alber Towing & Recovery in Freeport is holding "towing parade" streetside celebrations for celebrants abiding by Illinois’ stay-at-home order who are commemorating special occasions like a birthday, in quarantine. Blood donations are needed at the American Red Cross, Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center and Rock River Valley Blood Center and Northwest Illinoisans are answering the call in droves.

Throughout Northwest Illinois, neighbors are answering the call to service and are helping those in need throughout the state. We are all going a little more "back to basics."

We are spending more time with family, even if electronically. We’re having more friendly conversations with neighbors from a safe social distance. We continue to pray to God, even if our houses of worship are closed. We are ordering more carryout and delivery from our local restaurants, knowing they are struggling to get through these tough times.

We continue to keep our essential employees and front-line health care heroes in our prayers as they risk their health to keep our communities safe. Please continue to be respectful of the grocery clerk, the police officer, the health care professional, the truck drivers, the farmers and the many others who are keeping us safe, healthy, and keeping critical services moving during this difficult time.

I am incredibly proud of the way our neighbors are being "vessels of good deeds" to each other. I am proud that our values allow us to come together and do not divide us apart.

I am proud to be born and raised in Northwest Illinois. I am proud to call this my home. Northwest Illinois values are a beacon of hope, especially in our darkest hours. Our people, undoubtedly, make it so.

Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, represents the 89th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.