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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published Nov. 22, 2018

Supplies flood in for hurricane victims

By Ken Knutson

  The Clarendon Hills Middle School gymnasium was transformed into an assembly line of altruism last week, as volunteers packed supplies for schoolchildren in North Carolina impacted by Hurricane Florence.
  The Care for Carolina outreach was a collaboration of Community Consolidated Elementary District 181, the District 181 Foundation and the Rotary Club of Hinsdale, resulting in 1,000 book bags of supplies bound for schools in Robeson County, N.C., among the hardest hit communities in the September storm.
Each of the district’s nine schools was assigned items to collect over the last several weeks. The foundation provided grants to purchase them, and the Rotary Club furnished book bags in which they were packed. On Nov. 15 dozens of students, parents and school staff gathered at CHMS after school to stuff the bags full of pencils, rulers, folders, markers, colored pencils and more for their counterparts and fellow Americans in need.
  District 181 Superintendent Hector Garcia, who conceived of the project shortly after the devastation wreaked by Florence had become clear, was delighted at the response.
  “It’s amazing how well we work together as a team, and how we’re able to come together over a focus on lending a helping hand to a school district that they’ve never seen before,” Garcia said. “I was thrilled to see that.”
Meg Cooper, foundation president, said the three-way partnership was a natural connection, having all worked together in last month’s Rotary Run Charity Classic. Cooper liked the districtwide nature of the project.
  “(Dr. Garcia) was looking for a way that brought the whole district together and some key people in the community,” she said. “It really took all of the resources of all of the different organizations to make it happen.”
  Tom Norton of Hinsdale Rotary said he was able to make contact with the head of the school district in Lumberton, N.C., who said the need for supplies was great after so much damage and five weeks of shutdown to clean up.
  “She told me, ‘What we really need is for everyone to feel safe and that they’ve got their supplies’,” Norton relayed. “ ‘They may not be OK at home, but they’re going to be OK at school.’ “
  The biggest hurdle, however, was finding a means of delivery.
  “We could get the kids, we could get rolling, but we didn’t have a truck,” Norton said.
  He turned to the Rotary Club of Naperville, whose rolls include Cadence Premier Logistics owners Laima and Tom Maciulis of Hinsdale and company President/CEO Rocky Caylor.
  “(Cadence) partnered with us to get all these boxes down there,” Norton related.
Caylor said his firm was happy to help and praised the well-mobilized packing operation involving dozens of volunteers that he witnessed at CHMS.
  “We’ve done other (charitable shipments) and a lot of people are organized, but not like this. This is impressive,” Caylor said.
  Laima Maciulis, who lives in the Oak School area, was gratified to see her company and her neighborhood participate in the joint effort.
  “It’s nice to find a way to give back to the community,” she said.
Oak Principal Martha Henrikson said her school was in charge of amassing all the pencils, a task eased by the foundation’s $150 grant. She hopes more all-district projects lie ahead.
  “I know individual schools are doing amazing things, but I think this could be really powerful,” Henrikson said.
  On side tables, children wrote notes of support to include in each bag, penning messages like, “Hope you have a fabulous year!” and “Enjoy your supplies — we’re thinking of you.”
  John Munch, District 181 assistant superintendent of human resources and coordinator of the event, said the spirit of Thanksgiving was evident.
  “The turnout speaks for itself. We talk about wanting to provide our kids with a well-rounded education and the opportunity to see beyond the walls of their school,” Munch said. “It brings a context to all the things we have to be thankful for and put some of what we have at our disposal to help people who are in need of it.”
  Manning the colored pencils station were Jackie Lynch and son Charlie, a seventh-grader at CHMS. Charlie appreciated the opportunity to extend assistance.
  “It feels really good to help people out,” Charlie said.
  The bags of supplies were expected to be delivered before Thanksgiving.
Garcia said the impact is profound when giving is done collectively and intentionally.
  “We tried to get as many involved and to contribute, rather than just writing a check,” Garcia said. “We can all do something to help.”


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