Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is proposing building a community help center to provide services to needy residents and allow students to gain volunteer opportunities.
The project is part of a plan for spending $45 million in surplus reserve funds that a District 214 Capital Projects Task Force has recommended to the school board.
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If approved by the board at its Sept. 4 meeting, the district would explore purchasing the land behind Lutheran Church of the Cross, 2025 S. Goebbert Road, right next door to the district's Forest View Administration Center.
The district would then build a warehouselike facility that could be rented back to the church for its food pantry, house a community closet stocked with donations, and provide other services opportunities, said Superintendent David Schuler.
"We're still trying to formulate the specifics," Schuler said. "But this could provide a couple different things. It could be a space for members of the community who are in need to access resources and get things like food and coats. At the same time, it could provide a really wonderful service learning experience for our students. Third, it could be a place for internship opportunities for students who may be interested in business management or administration."
Schuler said the church already runs a large food pantry, which is an agency of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and could have even more space in the proposed facility.
"We view it as a win for everyone," he said.
Officials from the church were not available for comment Friday.
Schuler, who was recently elected president of the national School Superintendents Association, said he has not seen a project like this anywhere else.
"I'm really excited about the potential. This could be a great prototype for other communities," he said.
Students at District 214 do not have to fulfill a service learning requirement to graduate, but Schuler said it is something the district would consider adding if the proposed facility is built.
The community help center would be run through the district's Community Education department, which is merging with the Department of Engagement and Outreach in a few years, he said.
Schuler said that students from the district's six high schools and three alternative programs already do a lot of volunteering around the area, but this is an effort to bring it all under one roof.
"Right now it all happens in silos. We want to create an overall, district- and communitywide approach," he said. "We will continue to support our local social service organizations though."
When the project was presented to the school board earlier this month, board member Jim Perkins said he wanted more information about how such a project would fit into the district's mission.
"Anytime we can help kids learn the importance of giving back, that's a great thing," Schuler said. "One of our obligations is to share the importance of helping those in need."
Center: Superintendent says this would be district, communitywide approach to aid those in need