Improving the lives of children -- especially poor children -- was one of the dominant themes of a round-table community discussion Monday night in Lake County.
Health, nutrition and education were of particular concern for the 10 people who gathered at Dover Straits restaurant in Mundelein for the two-hour chat.
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The gathering, facilitated by the Daily Herald Media Group, was part of a regional program called On The Table that was launched by the Chicago Community Trust, a charitable organization. More than 1,000 discussions were planned for Monday, involving some 10,000 people.
The aim was for local leaders and residents to have a conversation over a meal and identify community-based problems and possible solutions.
Dr. Les Raff, a former Stevenson High School board member, said he'd like to see health fairs and health-screening clinics operate in underserved areas.
"(That) could improve the health of our community," he said.
Raff's idea quickly drew support from Bruce Johnson, the CEO of the Nicasa behavioral health agency. Some communities are "deserts" when it comes to available health care services, Johnson said.
Round Lake resident Debbie Jones talked about the gulf between rich and poor in Lake County -- the haves and have-nots, as she put it.
Jones said that economic discrepancy means teens at poorer high schools -- and she cited Round Lake High as an example -- aren't going to fare as well in life as those who attend schools that are better funded and are in wealthier communities.
"There has to be a way of leveling the playing field and moving resources," Jones said.
After discussing the problems Lake County residents face, the group talked about possible programs to help.
Raff suggested asking schools that have strong volunteer programs cross district boundaries to mentor students in poorer districts.
"Why can't those districts work with those in need?" Raff said. "I think that's a real possibility."
Former state Rep. Kathy Ryg talked of the need to raise people's awareness of problems outside their own towns.
Her idea was taken a step further by Cynthia Trujillo-Vargas, the spokeswoman for the Lake County state's attorney's office. She suggested meeting with struggling students and parents and telling them about the people in the area who want to help.
Looking at nutrition, Mundelein Trustee Holly Kim suggested community gardens and food forests as potentially helpful projects.
The Daily Herald Media Group held five On the Table sessions Monday. The others were in Schaumburg, Downers Grove and Elgin, where two events were staged.
Reports will be drafted and sent to the Chicago Community Trust for review.