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updated: 7/31/2011 5:26 PM

Joanie's Closet hosts school supply drive in Lake Zurich

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By Danielle Gensburg

Founded on behalf of a beloved school nurse, the nonprofit Joanie's Closet is hosting a school supply drive to help Lake Zurich Unit District 95 families in need.

"You know, some families in this economic climate find themselves in a very difficult situation," said District 95 spokeswoman Jean Malek said. "The goal is to help families in need at all eight schools in the District 95 area."

The drive began in mid-July and runs until Aug. 26. Items needed include Crayola crayons, markers, and colored pencils, ballpoint pens, backpacks, rulers, glue sticks, scissors and much more; Collection bins have been set up at Culver's, Ela Area Public Library, Curves, and New Age Transportation, all in Lake Zurich.

Joanie's Closet was born in 2005 thanks to the generosity and kindness of Joanie Bednarz, a longtime May Whitney Elementary School nurse who died in August of that year.

Having gone above and beyond her job, Joanie helped kids and families both during and outside school hours, even cooking and delivering Thanksgiving dinners one year to families in need.

"Joanie was incredibly generous. She just took care of kids," Malek said. "If she knew a family was hurting, she would stick food in the kid's backpack and send it home with them. She was an amazing person and it was really a loss when we lost her."

Struggling families can make requests for assistance to a school staff member, such as a teacher, nurse, or social worker, who relays the information to members of the organization.

"We're not aware of any of the individuals that we're helping," Malek said. "Parent volunteers working with Joanie's Closet do not know. It's strictly anonymous."

Funded by private donations, Joanie's Closet receives help from staff, students and community members.

"The Hawthorn Woods Women's Center has been very generous with us, this year and in past years," Malek said. "We've also had donations from different groups, including Girl Scouts."