The world moves swiftly in the 21st century and while this falls in line with rapidly advancing technology and current lifestyle trends, it also tends to isolate individuals. In this isolation many people wish for a quieter time when friends were abundant and the pace of life a bit slower. Some individuals wish for even less: the ability to get around, stay warm during Elgin’s cold winters, or a home to go to.
Local organizations recognize that there are individuals who have fallen behind in their quest for the American dream. These individuals need various types of assistance, guidance and a shoulder to help carry their burdens through this world. Some organizations such as Holy Trinity Lutheran Church are faith-based in their service while others such as the Fox River Valley Center have no religious affiliation.
Pastor Olin Sletto speaks fondly of his congregation at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. The combined efforts of congregation and staff contribute to numerous service-based activities throughout the year. The calendar of events kept by the church is full and continuously offers individuals and organizations the opportunity to get involved and give back to the community and those in need.
“What we do as a church is very prevalent to our Statement of Welcome. We see that Elgin has bigger issues — issues of economics and well-being. We focus on the lesson of the Good Samaritan but instead of asking ‘who is our neighbor?’ we ask ‘who is not our neighbor?’ Then we try to reach out and touch the lives of those in need,” stated Pastor Sletto.
In their service, the members of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church exemplify the idea that actions speak louder than words. Although words have the power to change the world, it is often the human touch that truly stands out when someone needs a hand. Homeless and hungry, a person is more likely to welcome a hug accompanied by some food and a place to sleep than the unsought-after advice of a stranger.
Sidne Bakker (financial administrator and operations manager) and Sandy Simonson (executive assistant and program coordinator) are key players when it comes to organizing, scheduling and executing the numerous programs that comprise the church’s service programs.
Programs include: a one month commitment to hosting PADS every winter; soup kettles every Friday night; monthly visits to the Maplewood Nursing Home; the annual blood drive hosted in the spring; and the annual coat collection for Elgin’s needy children.
The coat collection helps provide coats and other winter essentials to area children. According to Pastor Sletto, “there are cases where parents carry their children to school in blankets and then return at the end of the day to take them home.” The need for coats is great and one congregation member brings brand new coats with matching hats and gloves to the coat drive every year.
Trinity also opens its facilities to several outside organizations including the Golden Kiwanis, Alcoholics Anonymous, and the East Side Neighborhood Association. With so much going on, it’s truly impressive that the church continues to look for ways to help individuals and families carry their burdens through the difficult times they encounter.
This is also true of a smaller yet equally important organization that works to help disabled individuals maintain their dignity and independence in a world where disabilities are feared and people who have them are often ignored or avoided.
The Fox River Valley Center’s mission is to act as an advocate for individuals with disabilities. This mission includes everything from helping a recently disabled individual stay in their home by assisting with needed modifications to teaching life skills such as budgeting and how to navigate the public transportation
Fox River works with individuals of all ages and all kinds of disabilities. “We are very consumer driven. When someone comes to us for help, they decide what they want to do and then we create a timeline and help them accomplish their goals,” stated Marci Savage, executive director.
“We don’t just tell people what’s available. We help them get the services and information they need,” said Savage. Fox River can help individuals locate the services they need and then help them navigate the often confusing paperwork that frequently stops people in their tracks. They will work with individuals as they apply for social security and other forms of government assistance.
“One issue that is especially prevalent at the moment is transportation. Kane County has very limited transportation choices. This often makes it very difficult for individuals who cannot drive to find work, visit the doctor, or complete necessary tasks such as grocery shopping.”
“Fifty-one percent of disabled individuals are unemployed. This is due, in part, to the lack of transportation available in Kane County,” Savage stated. This lack of transportation affects businesses and disabled individuals alike. Businesses are losing out on quality employees and the potential business these individuals represent, while disabled individuals are missing out on the opportunity to work and the ability to utilize the services and products different businesses have to offer.
Fox Valley is working hard to change the transportation available to disabled individuals throughout Kane County. Any success they have in improving what’s available is beneficial to all. In the end, the goal is to help individuals live a fully satisfying life regardless of what disability they may have.
“Whatever we can do to keep people as independent as possible and have a satisfying life on top of that, we are going to do,” said Savage.
The YWCA of Elgin
Empowering Women and Families One Day at a Time
Worldwide, the Young Women’s Christian Association, better known as the YWCA, encompasses over 25 million members in more than 120 countries. Within that statistic, 2.6 million reside in the United States in 300 local associations spanning the nation. Women and families seek the aid of the YWCA for a number of reasons — to seek counseling, job training, childcare, wellness through fitness and many more. Each association provides different resources to the community, with the YWCA of Elgin offering a number of significant services, reiterating its local mission of “Creating Community Opportunities for Women and Families.”
Located at 220 East Chicago Street in downtown Elgin, the YWCA offers the area a host of programs to support local women and families, from childcare services and literacy programs to several annual events. Local programs include:
• School Age Child Care (SACC) – an after school child care program for children between the ages of 5-12. This program was implemented to provide a safe site for children while low-income working parents transition into the workforce.
• English as a Second Language (ESL) – more than 600 adults are enrolled each semester in this program. The classes contain information on implementing life skills, getting through the community and English grammar, helping students assimilate into the new culture in America.
• Community Wellness – within the facility in Elgin is a swimming pool used for water exercise and Red Cross lifeguard training.
• Youth Services – programs include the YWCA Teen REACH, offering tutoring and mentoring to youth ages 11 to 17; the Southeast Asian Youth Program, providing a number of recreational activities available to refugee youth ages 10-21; and the Crime Prevention and Family Community Outreach services.
Demand for these services and programs continues to rise each year, with the waiting list growing daily. The organization looks toward its membership and fundraising efforts, including the annual Y Walk, for support. Due to the increasing demand at the YWCA Elgin, the facility is packed to the brim. The organization aims to eventually offer a larger facility to accommodate those waiting to participate and utilize its services. This is not possible without the contributions of the community. The YWCA encourages you to “Give a voice to your concern for equality and justice for all people.” To learn more about the YWCA and its movement to provide a better life for women and their families, please visit them online at www.ywcaelgin.org.