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updated: 10/22/2011 6:24 PM

Food drive makes difference in Wheaton

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  • Shannon Moran, 11, carries bags of food to be donated to People's Resource Center during the Make a Difference Day Stuff a Truck with Food drive Saturday in Wheaton.

      Shannon Moran, 11, carries bags of food to be donated to People's Resource Center during the Make a Difference Day Stuff a Truck with Food drive Saturday in Wheaton.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

  • Nicholas Sanguinetti, 5, of Wheaton, climbs the rock wall Saturday during a festival held in conjunction with Make a Difference Day.

      Nicholas Sanguinetti, 5, of Wheaton, climbs the rock wall Saturday during a festival held in conjunction with Make a Difference Day.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

 
 

Wheaton built on its award-winning Make a Difference Day events of 2010 with a food drive ending Saturday that supporters say collected even more items than last year.

Organized by Wheaton's community relations commission and the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, the drive collected 5,000 pounds of food in 2010, when the city won a national award for its efforts, said Laurie Swanson Oberhelman, event chairwoman.

"We easily doubled that this year," she said.

The award increased awareness of Make a Difference Day in Wheaton, Oberhelman said, so about 25 percent more businesses collected food throughout October for the Stuff a Truck with Food campaign.

"It's our way of giving back to our community, helping make the community just a little stronger," said Jill Seijo, president of the chamber of commerce. "It's a nice way to get our businesses involved."

The food drive concluded with a festival that businessman Rick Erickson called "laid-back" on the lawn of the former Hubble Middle School.

People could bring last-minute food donations, then visit the booths of businesses offering candy and prizes, listen to music, or conquer a 30-foot climbing wall.

"It's a big end of a charity event," Erickson said about the festival.

Food from the Stuff a Truck collection went to People's Resource Center in Wheaton. Wheaton Park District filled a few of its pickup trucks with donated food then drove it to the resource center.

Police joined the food drive effort by leading a parade from the chamber's headquarters to the former Hubble Middle School site to kick off the Saturday afternoon festival, Oberhelman said.

"The pillars of what makes Wheaton go are all involved in this event," she said.

Wheaton students such as sixth-grader Ethan Sebela also took up the cause.

Ethan said he collected $150 from family members and bought foods People's Resource Center listed as needed items, including four cakes -- the good kind with frosting, he said.

"It was a community service project for my school." Ethan said about his donation. "I chose this and it worked out."

Make a Difference Day began more than 20 years ago as a time to emphasize neighbors helping neighbors. Sponsored by USA WEEKEND Magazine and HandsOn Network, there were thousands of projects nationwide on Saturday, including many throughout DuPage County and the region.

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