By Lauren Barry | on May 05, 2020
Journal & Topics
Volunteers from Maine West High School in Des Plaines and the village of Rosemont gathered at the Barry Rec Center in Rosemont last Friday (May 1) to help local families in need.
According to Maine Township High School Dist. 207, 98 families were expected to receive $100 Target gift cards during the event from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Funding for the cards came from various Rosemont Helping Hand fundraisers held throughout the year, said organization President Rick Drehobl. Usually, the funds would go toward charity efforts during the holiday season, such as providing Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents to those in need.
Crista Adams, the community liaison for Maine West, said the school plans to work with Rosemont Helping Hand to raise funds and keep those holiday programs going this year.
“I reached out to some very generous people,” she said. “They have been nothing but amazing.”
Adams decided to reach out to Rosemont Helping Hand because school staff realized many Rosemont students were struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related “stay-at-home” order. She said organizers of the gift card project decided to purchase Target gift cards because the Rosemont store is easily accessible by most of the recipients.
“Our families are hurting. Many of them have lost their jobs,” said Maine West Assistant Principal Claudia Rueda-Alvarez. She said many parents of students in the area work in the service industry and have been finding it hard to find food while out of work as a result of the statewide order, which includes a prohibition on bars and restaurant dining rooms.
Shamoon Ebrahim, a counselor at Maine West, said some of the students he works with have had to take on 40-hour workweeks at fast-food drive-throughs to help their families get by. Some have even reached out to counselors because they are concerned about being able to complete their school work.
“We know, just by working with them hand-in-hand every day, that a lot of our families in this area really struggle for a multitude of reasons,” that include both social-emotional and financial factors, Ebrahim told the Journal & Topics. “If we could just help them not worry about planning their meals for a day or two, it can go a long way to try to heal.”
“It’s unfortunate that so many people think, ‘oh, Helping Hand, what do you need that for in Rosemont?’ but there are pockets of folks that need help and that’s why we have to do this kind of stuff,” said Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens during the card distribution event.
“I get emotional,” said Drehobl, who credited the mayor’s fundraising efforts for making the program possible. “I just think it’s amazing.”
Going forward, Drehobl said Rosemont Helping Hand plans to give out Target gift cards every week this month to families in need. Next week, he said they plan to hold a similar event for Des Plaines Elementary School Dist. 62 families from the village.
“As public servants, it’s what we’re supposed to do,” said Stephens.
Apart from this program, Dist. 207 distributes meals to all local families in need on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has raised over $76,000 for a separate gift card program benefiting families in need.