Arlington Heights elected officials, business and community leaders gathered on Thursday morning to discuss faith and the importance of service at the Mayor's 27th Annual Community Prayer Breakfast.
Leaders and members of many different religions gathered at the DoubleTree Hilton Chicago-Arlington Heights on Thursday to hear scripture and messages surrounding the topic of giving back to the community.
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"I'm very proud of the long history of this event and all that it says about our community of varied, but strong, faith," said Mayor Tom Hayes who was hosting his first prayer breakfast as village president.
Hayes said that when he was elected last April, he was asked if he wanted to continue the tradition of the prayer breakfast and he answered that not only does he want to see if continue, but he wants to see it grow and become a cornerstone on the annual village calendar.
The main speech of the morning came from Will Beiersdorf, founder of Salute Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides financial support for military members and their families through a variety of fundraising activities.
Beiersdorf was a member of the U.S. Navy Reserves on 9/11 and said that was the day everything changed for him.
"I learned that I was a part of something bigger than myself," he said.
Days later, Beiersdorf was deployed to Guantanamo Bay for a year, during which time he said it was difficult for his family at home to manage without him. His wife, Mary Beth, reached out to people in the community for support and from that, Salute Inc. was born.
In the past 12 years Salute Inc. has helped more than 2,000 people and given away nearly $2 million, Beiersdorf said.
He encouraged people to look past the boundaries of faith to help one another.
"Whether you are Christian, Jewish or Muslim, it doesn't matter because we are working for the same God," he sad. Beiersdorf encouraged others to embrace new experiences and continue to give back.
"It's really up to each of us to step outside that comfort zone and use the talents we have to give back," Beiersdorf said. "Ask yourselves, 'If not me, then who?'"
Rev. Rex Piercy of the Congregational United Church of Christ welcomed six new pastors who have joined the Arlington Heights community in the past year including Rev. Matt Foley of St. James Catholic Church, Rev. Elizabeth Jameson of St. Simon's Episcopal Church, Rev. Ouk-Yean Kim Jueng of First United Methodist Church, Rev. Alex Lang of First Presbyterian Church, Rev. Jonathan Vierkant of Lutheran Home and Pastor Ed Taylor of Quest Church.