A worldwide pandemic will be remembered forever, written about in history books, leaving lasting effects. Some of those effects are kindness and gratitude … and a greater sense of community. A collaborative group of west suburban organizations recognizes everyday people who are making good things happen. These are Regional Rock Stars, individuals and organizations who are thoughtfully making change happen. These acts of kindness are helping to inspire hope throughout our communities—and helping to strengthen communities even in the most difficult of times. They help to spread gratitude during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each week, we will share these stories online and to the public.
“These particular stories are about fitness, faith, fun and friendship. But they’re also about hope and helping others,” says Suzi Wirtz, President & CEO of the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “We are all grateful to our Regional Rock Stars for making a difference and supporting our communities.”
Adam Reyes, King-Bruwaert House. Adam is the Assistant Director of Building and Grounds in the Maintenance Department and volunteers to help families in need. An active member (and deacon) of Hope Church of La Grange, he is a leader with the church’s Convoy of Hope Response Team and has also been assisting with local disaster relief. He works with team members to collect, sort, pack and distribute groceries to those struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. The church accepts donations to support the activities that benefit individuals and families. Cash donations also support efforts. From his childhood days, Reyes worked long hours on Habitat for Humanity projects with his father and learned the importance of community service. Compassionate and caring. Dedicated and resourceful. Focused and reliable. A role model for so many. Reyes brings all these qualities and more to his commitment serving the community. “I enjoy serving God and this Response Team started as a small group and we have fed now close to 3000 families plus seniors and babies during this pandemic,” Reyes says. “It is a team effort completely. And being kind and helping during these difficult times brings hope to everyone. The people smile and cry happy tears. Everyone is so thankful the worry leaves their face. It is awesome when they know they will eat and not have to worry.”
Sandy Squillo, Clarendon Hills Cares. A jeweler by trade, Sandy does not sew. “But my gut told me that I better pull out that dusty 35-year-old sewing machine and figure out how to make a quality mask,” she explains. “When I reached out to the community for help, they pulled together.” Hundreds of volunteers gathered and donated supplies, cut fabric and helped sew. In 8 weeks, over 6,000 masks were completed and donated to those most in need … first responders, clinics, hospitals, non-profits, senior living centers, nursing homes and shelters. “We sought out and provided hundreds of masks to social service groups that help the disabled in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs,” she goes on. “We were able to raise over $4,000 by selling some of the masks to residents for charity. That money has been donated to various food pantries.” Money is still coming in that will be shared with other pantries. Humbly, she says, “This Rock Star honor belongs to the entire community of Clarendon Hills and other volunteers from surrounding towns. In times of confusion and chaos, many people do not know what to do or how they can help. This much-needed project gave so many people a sense of purpose. What an incredible feeling knowing that our efforts helped in this way. We named our group, Clarendon Hills Cares – Mask Makers. Because we truly do care. And we are still making masks.”
Karen Trayser, CrossFit Iron Flag. Karen is leading a daily gym class on her block every day of quarantine. She has four children of her own, and at 2:30 pm every day, neighbors come outside and stand on the curb in front of their own home. Each family is socially distanced far more than the recommended six feet from each other. Karen leads the group, which ranges from 2-16 years old (sometimes parents, too), through a fun and challenging workout. It has created a sense of normalcy in the midst of all of this chaos. Karen incorporates a lot of games in her class and has taught participants the importance of trying their best in athletics and being happy for teammates when they win. “I thought it would be a fun way to keep the kids happy, active, and exercising safely,” Karen says. “During any difficult time, people need to feel loved and cared for. Simple acts of kindness bring them hope because they feel connected. I know I see the world in a brighter light when others help me.”
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.
Individuals will be recognized at a community celebration at the end of the year.