The Kiwanis Club of Aurora voted Tuesday to make a donation of more than $100,000 to the Aurora Public Library Foundation by naming the Children's Services department in The Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora.
It is believed to be the largest donation by a service organization in the city. The library also received the largest known private donation ($3 million), as well as a $10.8 million construction grant from the state and a $100,000 donation along with a $40,000 challenge grant from the Parker Family to build a memory garden at the new library.
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Kiwanis Clubs International's main focus is to serve children while supporting the community through donations and volunteering. According to its mission statement, "Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing our world one child and one community at a time."
The donation, which begins with a $100,000 pledge, will grow as members are given the opportunity to name specific items in Children's Services, creating not only a beautiful area for children, but also a beautiful partnership that will flourish for years to come, Kiwanis Club President Larry Frieders said.
"The mission of Kiwanis is to serve children, so it is important for the club to not only leave a legacy for children of the future, but to serve the children of Aurora right now by providing them with state-of-the-art features in the new library," Frieders said.
"We've always known that libraries are a place for children to read and explore and learn to express themselves," he said. "We want the children of Aurora to be able to start that whole process right in their own backyard. And we want them to know that the community supports them."
Aurora Public Library Foundation President Todd Drafall said he is thrilled with the donation.
"The new library, which seemed like a nebulous dream just a year ago, is taking shape in both concrete and intangible ways," he said. "Each time I hear of another donation -- whether it is enough to name a bookshelf or a whole department -- I think of how thankful I am to live in a community that is so invested in our children."
Library board President John Savage said he also is thankful for the donation and is proud of the community for pulling together to make the Richard and Gina Santori Library the amazing facility it is becoming.
"I could say 'thank you' over and over a thousand times, and it wouldn't be enough," Savage said. "Members of the Kiwanis Club are to be commended for not only their donation to the library, but for hours and hours of volunteerism and the many dollars they give to the community as well."
In the past year, the Kiwanis Club of Aurora has supported a long list of community initiatives and organizations, including the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry, Mutual Ground, Aurora baseball programs, Feed My Starving Children, higher learning scholarships, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts of America, school supplies and school playground equipment, Rebuilding Together Aurora, Heritage YMCA Learn to Swim Program, Kane County CASA, Two Rivers Head Start, Hadley School for the Blind and the Trinity Episcopal Church Soup Kitchen, among many others.
Members of the Aurora club also donated 47 hours to bell-ringing for the Salvation Army at Christmas; donated 21 pints of blood; participated in the Association for Individual Development telethon; donated 1,392 service hours to cleaning Indian Creek; sorted food for the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry; installed a long-jump pit at Hall Elementary School for Special Olympics; handed out 1,800 books at Aurora's Back to School Fair; and collected items to be sent to troops in Afghanistan, among other efforts. Most recently the club made possible the library's June 7 Summer Reading Program Kickoff, "Fizz, Boom, Read!"
Aurora Public Library Children's Services Coordinator Diane Christian, who has worked with the children of Aurora for decades, said she is "very grateful for the generous donation from the Kiwanis Club of Aurora for the children's area of the new Santori Library.
"It will help to provide Aurora children, along with their parents and caregivers, an inviting, interactive library to explore and enjoy," she said.
Library Director Eva Luckinbill echoed Christian's thoughts.
"I watch parents and children coming through the doors of the Main Library every day to spend time reading and learning together," Luckinbill said. "I can't help but envision how exciting it will be for these same parents and their children to walk through the doors of the new Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora in less than a year. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. I am so thankful that the Kiwanis Club of Aurora also shares the priceless vision of children learning in functional, beautiful and state-of-the-art surroundings."
The Aurora Kiwanis Club, chartered with 52 members on Nov. 24, 1916, was the first club in the Illinois-Eastern Iowa District and the 21st club chartered in the world. Since that time, Kiwanis has grown to more than 8,500 clubs and membership in excess of 320,000. Kiwanis is in more than 90 nations or geographic areas. The Aurora Kiwanis Club currently has roughly 75 members.