On Christmas morning, 86 children in the Minooka and Channahon areas will wake up to a bag full of presents under their tree, all due to the donations of the community through the Chanooka Wish Foundation Adopt-a-Family program.
“I want our family tradition of gift giving to be lessons to our children. I hope it teaches them empathy, compassion and kindness. As a foster child, I was on the receiving end of generosity and I believe in paying it forward now that we are in a situation to do so,” Channahon resident and gift donor Christine Costabile said.
On Dec. 17, Costabile dropped off gifts for children in the Adopt-a-Family program with her three daughters, Isabella, Emilia and Alena.
Isabella said gift giving “feels good, because I am helping kids.” Her younger sister Alena said, “Generosity is fun,” something Christine has taught her children.
Ten years ago, Chanooka Wish Foundation founder Carolyn Koranda was involved with another charitable organization which had to fold, and she knew that she could not stop helping the children in the community in which she lived and raised her own four children.
She created Chanooka Wish Foundation with the purpose of giving support and assistance to underprivileged families in Channahon and Minooka.
The Adopt-a-Family program was only one facet of the nonprofit organization. Throughout the year, Chanooka Wish Foundation helps with food assistance, clothing assistance, Easter baskets and food baskets, new school supplies, coats for winter, Thanksgiving baskets and relief efforts.
Like Costabile, Koranda grew up in circumstances where Christmas gifts and food were hard to afford. Her mother was single and raised five daughters. Koranda held up a picture of herself as a child at Christmas taking a banana out of her stocking – she said sometimes it was only a toothbrush or toothpaste.
“My sister told the church we didn’t have food, so we began getting food from our church, and then we got heavily involved with our church. We also got assistance from local places; at the time my mom was divorced and it was a very trying time,” Koranda said.
This year, 86 children in the Minooka and Channahon areas were adopted through the Christmas program. Koranda asks that each child receive $100 in gifts. Those who take a child shop, wrap and deliver gifts to Koranda. She then bags them up by family and invites the families to come and pick up the gifts the week before Christmas.
Koranda said this year she ended up taking gifts to her home instead of her designated Chanooka Wish Foundation space, so she had bags upon bags in her living room, family room and hallways, all ready to be checked twice and handed off to the deserving families.
Parents or guardians filled out applications in October in order for their children to receive gifts. The family must qualify as low-income, very low-income or poverty level in order to be accepted. This year, Koranda said the organization also helped a family who lost a mother and three families who had a family member with cancer.
Dollar General and Dock Rotz Tavern in Minooka had boxes out for the public to donate gifts, which serve as fill-ins when a gift was not returned or another child in the family has more gifts than other siblings.
She also said that the Channahon Beta club made 3-D snowflakes to decorate the bags, the Good Vibe Tribe at Minooka Intermediate School wrapped some of the boxes and made paper snowflakes, and the national honor society groups helped get donations of toys for the kids.
“They all amaze me each year,” Koranda said.
Koranda said she always had a goal to see Chanooka Wish Foundation come full circle in the way of community service. She hopes that those she helps can in turn help someone else when they are able. This year marked the first time a Chanooka Wish Foundation recipient came to her to help others.
She said a young man who is now in college called her over Thanksgiving break to see if she needed help. She said she had some families who were sick and could not pick up their turkey for the holiday. He came over and they loaded his truck with turkeys and drove around Channahon and Minooka and delivered turkeys.
“After, he told me that was one of his most favorite things, going door-to-door to deliver and help others. He went full circle, and that’s the first family who turned around and helped us,” Koranda said.