Even with a still shaky economic recovery, suburban residents and businesses are finding gratitude this Thanksgiving in their ability to help others more in need, like the East Coast victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Relief efforts collecting and shipping supplies to hard-hit areas of New York and New Jersey are at various stages this week -- a time victims will remember as just the beginning of their rebuilding.
Unlike the week or so it took the Chicago suburbs to see power fully restored after the major summer storm of 2011, East Coast residents may endure months before they can get power restored to even begin reconstruction of their badly damaged homes. So says Deacon Sal Lema, project leader of the Catholic volunteer group Hope's On the Way.
Based on his experiences in responding to Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, Lema said what people will need most when they get their electricity back are the types of cleaning supplies his group's "Buckets of Hope" effort will begin collecting throughout the Chicago Archdiocese from this Sunday through Christmas.
Even with delivery of a hoped for 500 buckets of supplies to the New York Archdiocese and the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., expected around New Year's, it will be far from too late for such help, Lema said.
In fact, it will bring hope just when needed for these East Coast residents to learn they haven't been forgotten, he added.
"They get the idea that someone in Chicago, 980 miles away, thought enough of them to go out and buy these things," Lema said. "I don't have words to describe that."
Catholic churches among the drop-off sites for Buckets of Hope include Prince of Peace at 135 S. Milwaukee Ave. in Lake Villa; St. Matthew at 1001 E. Schaumburg Road in Schaumburg; and St. Peter at 557 W. Lake St. in Antioch.
Businesses chip in
At two Barrington businesses seeking to help Sandy victims, donations of an evolving list of supplies have been going so well that they're holding off their packing date from Wednesday until Friday.
The Main Event of Barrington Ltd. and Barrington Print & Copy have been using the vacant Windfall Enterprises warehouse at 202 James St. in Barrington as their collection point from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
Eileen Dishong, owner of The Main Event of Barrington, said a donation recently came in of 1,000 diapers while the new Heinen's Fine Foods in Barrington has donated 70 cases of water and a full pallet of toilet tissue.
Meanwhile, the requests from the hurricane-struck areas have been moving away from everyday clothes to outerwear for winter and baby formula. People are also beginning to ask for new tools as they discover that the water has ruined their old tools.
Dishong, who was born and raised in New Jersey, said people in especially devastated areas are being taken by bus from the community centers to fill up one suitcase or carry-on from their homes before being taken back to the community center.
She said it breaks her heart to hear that young children, living in this communal environment, aren't even able to nap or snack when they want.
Dishong added that the spirit of Thanksgiving has truly inspired people's generosity and that their kindness is greatly appreciated.
"When people come into the warehouse, we embrace them. We give everyone a hug," Dishong said.
She and Cyndi Zurawski of Barrington Print & Copy plan to publish the names of everyone who donated.
Help in many forms
There seems no end to the variety of other donation efforts currently in progress through the suburbs.
Barrington Bank & Trust employees have collected and donated blankets on behalf of the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club's efforts to help Sandy victims. The Village Tavern & Grill in Schaumburg raised money through GoFundMe to help make and deliver pizzas to feed those in the hurricane zone.
New Age Transportation in Lake Zurich will be sending a truck off to New Jersey Friday with the supplies it's been collecting this month. And seniors at the Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach have already completed their collection of pet supplies and donations for the displaced cats and dogs of New Jersey.
Dishong said two things she knows a lot about that make her hopeful about the ongoing recovery are the resilience of New Jerseyites and the generosity of Midwesterners.