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Local mayors help We Care for Mayors Day

Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc and Minooka Mayor Pat Brennan carry in boxes of food Tuesday into We Care of Grundy County after picking it up locally from Jewel and Aldi.
Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc and Minooka Mayor Pat Brennan carry in boxes of food Tuesday into We Care of Grundy County after picking it up locally from Jewel and Aldi.

MORRIS – Mayors are used to serving their community – after all, that’s what they were elected to do.

Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc and Minooka Mayor Pat Brennan took the service aspect to the basic definition of service Tuesday morning, as they volunteered at We Care of Grundy County. The two picked up donated food from Jewel and Aldi and brought it back to We Care to be given to their clients.

“I like doing things like this,” Brennan said. “It was too simple. Very easy, very well-organized, it’s easy for anyone to do.”

Mayors across the country participated Tuesday in Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service to spotlight the impact of national service and thank those who serve.

Kernc said she likes to get involved with local nonprofits because she sees what an asset they are to the community.

“I like to do anything I can to help,” Kernc said. “It [picking up and delivering the food donations] was easy and fun.”

Denise Gaska, executive director of We Care, said the mayors being there to help creates awareness.

We Care offers rent, mortgage and food assistance to Grundy County residents.

“By creating awareness they show how people can volunteer,” Gaska said. “We struggle to keep volunteers who can do the food pickups and work in the pantry day to day.”

Brennan said he hopes by others seeing him volunteer they will step up and offer to help.

The Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service is led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency for national service and volunteering. CNCS engages citizens for service at more than 70,000 sites in 8,500 cities across the country.

“A coordinated day of recognition presents a unique opportunity to spotlight the key role that national service plays in solving local problems and challenges. Participating in the day will highlight the impact of citizen service, show support for nonprofit and national service groups, and inspire more residents to serve in their communities,” according to a CNCS news release.

Through programs such as AmeriCorps VISTA, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and others, CNCS leverages federal and private funds to support organizations that achieve measurable results where the need is greatest.

Locally, AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty, provides volunteers who are working with Northern Illinois Food Bank to help generate awareness about the food bank and hunger by working with their partner agencies.

Two AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers were present Tuesday at We Care volunteering with the mayors.

“Having the VISTA volunteers is like having six full-time employees for a full year,” said Donna Lake communications director with NIFB. “We couldn’t do what we do without them.”

AmeriCorps VISTA member Christie Schuessler knew when she graduated from college a few years ago she wanted to serve the community.

“I met a VISTA volunteer at a fair and it sounded like something I wanted to be doing,” Schuessler said. “They were making a difference, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Schuessler grew up in DuPage County, but she moved to Joliet when she was assigned to the NIFB and has been working closely with about a dozen partners doing everything from creating volunteer descriptions to helping create a mission statement.

She said she likes working behind the scenes of not-for-profit organizations.

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