Oak Park gets ready for the holidays

October 10, 2012 by  

It may only be October but Oak Park, Illinois, is getting ready to bring holiday cheer to struggling families in this Chicago suburb with its annual Holiday Food and Gift Basket Program.

The program first began in the 1970s, working with another effort called the Hunger Task Force. However, in 2009, when the Food Pantry ended its participation, the Task Force also dropped out. This leaves raising support and funds as two of the biggest challenges facing the gift basket program.

In order to keep the program going, its coordinator, Patty Henek, has been working with organizations such as the Juice Joint and the Neighborhood Giving Project to generate support and raise awareness of the program among Oak Park residents. Henek notes that anything helps, since all the little donations add up. She also announced that an anonymous donor offered to match any new donations up to $1,000, so reconnecting with Oak Park’s churches is a priority.

Henek stressed that while meeting new donors is important, it is equally vital to stay in touch with people who are already supporting the program. One supporter, Diane Maciejewski, who lives in Oak Park, has been with Gift Baskets for several years. At first, she supported several families but lately, after interacting with seniors, she has chosen to sponsor older people, seeing that many elderly citizens become isolated.

The Food and Gift Basket Program serves about 950 Oak Park households, totaling approximately 2,200 people, each year. Henek and her group could use printers to supply posters and brochures. Poster printing could be used to announce times and locations to drop off gifts, while brochure printers could help to explain the Program to Oak Park residents.