Buffalo Grove, Wheeling Rotary Clubs Spread Holiday Cheer - Journal &Topics - Dec. 17, 2019

The Wheeling and Buffalo Grove Rotary clubs’ Thanksgiving Basket program has been going strong for nearly four decades.  The program aims to ensure in-need families in local communities can enjoy a traditional holiday meal on Thanksgiving, despite dire financial circumstances.

This year, 160 Thanksgiving baskets served families living in Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, unincorporated Deerfield, Long Grove, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Prairie View, Prospect Heights, Vernon Hills and Wheeling.

Of all the baskets, 130 were delivered to residences, while the remaining 30, along with extra food items were donated to Kingswood United Food Pantry in Buffalo Grove, and St. Mary’s Food Pantry in Waukegan.

Families in-need are referred to the program through local school district social workers. Once the list of recipients is finalized, club volunteers, along with their friends and family, get to work.

“The response to our reach out for volunteers is always amazing,” said Shawn Collins, Buffalo Grove Rotary Club past president and co-chair of the program. “We had more than 50 people handle the many tasks that are essential to make this program work. They include moving and sorting the food, packing it into boxes, and then delivering them to the homes of these families before the holiday.”

Items included in the baskets included all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, along with a gift card to purchase a turkey, Cornish hen, ham, or other meat, which were donated by Garden Fresh Buffalo Grove. Games and hand-knit hats, along with stuffed animals for the younger children, were also part of these special deliveries. 

“We have witnessed so much generosity through this program; it’s truly inspiring,” said Steve Balinski, a Buffalo Grove Rotary Club member and co-chair of the program. “From our Rotary clubs that financially sponsor it, to a community member who knits each hat to be donated, to Garden Fresh who provided 160 gift cards, to PetSmart that donated stuffed animals — all of these people, groups and efforts show that the spirit of giving is still alive, and that we are making a difference in the lives of others.” 

The Thanksgiving Basket program is just one of the many local and international efforts that Rotary Clubs sponsor.