All across west suburban communities, we are finding organizations and individuals who are demonstrating acts of kindness and gratitude during COVID-19 and other worldwide initiatives. This week, we are featuring organizations who inspire hope throughout our communities—and helping to strengthen communities even in the most difficult of times. Each week, a group of west suburban organizations dedicated to business, health, government and community will share these stories online and with the public. We will continue to take nominations until June 30. Who do you know?
“As we move through the phases of Restore Illinois, these Regional Rock Stars continue to shine,” said Eva Field, President & CEO, Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce. “The organizations this week have pulled their time and efforts together to make a real, impactful difference in our communities.”
St. John’s Lutheran Church. When the classroom moved to e-learning and teachers were no longer able to see students and families face-to-face, they wanted to ensure that over 100 families had food. That’s how it started. They now pack food for BEDS Plus, shop for groceries for the at-risk population, put together baskets for first responders, make hundreds of masks, provide a comfort dog for people to see when picking up their meals, provide flowers and encouraging notes, and more. To date, they have provided over 2,000 servings of food. “In March, a high school choir from Ft. Wayne was coming to St. John’s Lutheran to be involved in a Wednesday Lenten Service,” says Sue Kunz who has been involved for years. “We were planning on housing and feeding them. When COVID-19 struck, the choir was unable to travel, and we were sitting on 50 pounds of beef. Katie Pece, our 2nd grade teacher, discussed the possibility of using that meat to provide meals for congregation members, school families and neighbors who might be affected by the shelter-in-place order.” The volunteer group of five grew to 50 in three months and, financially, they have become self sufficient due to donations. “God has blessed this program,” Kunz continues. “Kindness is contagious and giving of our time and energy is the very least that can be done to help others.”
Not Your Father’s Foundation. NYFF hosted a “Give Back Week” to help supply meals to first responders, choosing a local restaurant, Via Bella, in Countryside. NYFF pledged the first $1000 and asked for donations after that. Give Back Week turned into more than $3,000 and many more weeks. “Our summer event was postponed due to the stay-at-home order,” says Dan O’Malley, president of NYFF. “We decided to use the extra funds we had saved for this event to help support people that had to take a tremendous risk going into work every day. Donating meals was the least we could do for the bravery that essential workers have exemplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.” He explains that the initiative shows the power of what a community can do if they come together as one. “We were able to donate over 200 meals to essential workers,” O’Malley goes on. “Without support from people in our community, our give back week would not have extended into a give back month. When delivering the meals you could see the appreciation in the essential workers’ eyes. It showed the level of support our community has for the people going to work every day, and inspired hope that we would get through this together.”
SueAnn Capizzi, Volunteer at Aspire. SueAnn, as a volunteer, has always helped bring Aspire’s mission of inclusion to life, and the COVID-19 outbreak did not keep her from providing the support needed to keep adults with disabilities happy and healthy. In the past month, SueAnn helped her team generate creative ideas and encouraged volunteers to donate items to residents in 24 community homes (movies, board games, puzzles). Keeping residents safe and calm was a challenge and SueAnn had the ideas to meet the challenge. “I quickly realized that ramping up such activities would take some time so I reached out to my own network of friends and family for immediate help,” she says. “The response was so overwhelming we were then able to customize additional packages for the special needs of many of the homes, and purchase Chromebooks for homes that did not have internet connectivity.” She explains that she misses “seeing the residents, and always get more than I give when volunteering. I think that’s what inspires me about this work — the feeling that I’m helping to make Aspire’s vision, “To create a community where people of all abilities live, learn and grow together,” a reality.”
The Regional Rock Stars is a collaborative effort by AMITA Health, Community Memorial Foundation, Hinsdale Chamber of Commerce, West Central Municipal Conference and the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce & Industry. We invite you to share more stories of the individuals who are making a difference in our community so that we can recognize them and be inspired by the ways they are bringing the entire region together. Use this simple form to let us know who you know and who deserves to be recognized. Nominations will be taken through June 30, 2020. Individuals will be recognized at a community celebration at the end of the year.