The welfare of children is at the heart of everything done by the Woodfield Area Children's Organization, an all-volunteer group that helps hundreds of people in the suburbs each year with a multitude of events. Here's a closer look at this organization from Bill Benedict, president of WACO:
Q: What is your organization's mission?
Woodfield Area Children's OrganizationKey factsBudget: About $55,000
Funding sources: Donations, grants, membership fees, various fundraisers
Paid staff: None
Volunteers: Peak of about 1,000 total for two Christmas shopping tours in December (one for each child)
Donation wish list: 1. A printing business willing to occasionally donate services. 2. A cargo van to pick up the collection boxes from our food, children's books, coat, school supplies and toy drives. 3. A business to pay for postage for one of our occasional mailings. 4. Businesses and schools to help collect items for our various drives.
Donation contact: Linda McGill, email@example.com or (847) 209-5513
Donation mailing address: WACO, 725 E. Schaumburg Road, Schaumburg, IL 60194
Online donations: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr? cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=4ZRRNN7YQM8BE
To volunteer: (630) 999-1270 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information: email@example.com or www.waco4kids.org
A: The Woodfield Area Children's Organization is dedicated to helping children living at or below poverty level in Chicago's Northwest and West suburbs. WACO works to give less fortunate children positive memories of their childhood. We believe these memories help shape our view of the adult world and give us confidence in the future.
Q: How do you work toward accomplishing that goal?
A: During the year, WACO holds food, coat, book, school supplies and toy drives. We also host a summer reading program. Each fall we provide hundreds of new coats, hats and mittens to children living at or below poverty level. At the holidays, we take approximately 500 preschoolers shopping so that they and their families have something to open Christmas morning. We believe it's important to nourish a child's heart along with providing for his/her basic needs.
Q: Who do you serve?
A: All the children come to us through various agencies such as: school District 54's CAFE (Children and Family Education) program, the Children's Home + Aid Society's Child + Family Daycare Center in Schaumburg (which WACO was highly instrumental in building), Early Childhood Development Enrichment Center and FIND PI (Family Involvement Nurturing Development & Prevention Initiative) in Palatine, and Two Rivers Head Start in Elgin.
Q: When and why did the organization start? How has it grown?
A: The seeds of WACO were planted in 1979 when 10 business friends decided to each bring a toy to their Christmas lunch -- pooling their resources to help needy kids in the Schaumburg area. However, they quickly realized there were a lot more suburban children that needed help than they could provide for.
Over the years, they grew the lunch to include several hundred people, but learned the need for help was growing faster than they could keep up. They also realized they wanted to do more than collect toys. In 1993, WACO incorporated and expanded services. Initially, the focus was only on the Schaumburg area, but it has grown to include many Northwest and West suburbs.
Q: What kind of successes have you had?
A: WACO started a children's book drive last year, and in two years we have collected and distributed more than 4,000 books. We are particularly proud of this because studies have shown the children of families that own books, regardless of race, ethnicity or income level, are much more likely to succeed than those that don't own books.
More than 100 children completed WACO's Read to Succeed Summer Reading Program in 2015. Recently, WACO Secretary Linda McGill single-handedly delivered more than 400 coats as part of our annual New Coats for Kids program. We could not do the things we do without the help of our volunteers and the business community, in particular Identiti Resources, Weber Grill, the Patrick Group and Rotary International's Operation Warm.
Connections we have made through the Schaumburg Business Association have also proved invaluable.
Q: What challenges does the organization currently face?
A: I'll mention three. 1. WACO always needs more volunteers and committee members. While we find it fairly easy to get people to come out for our annual Christmas Shopping Tours, we sure would love to see more people volunteer to help with our fundraising events.
2. Like many nonprofit organizations, we have found it challenging to attract younger people. We are making strides however, and are pleased to be able say we have added three Millennials to our board this year and hope to add a fourth in early 2016. We have a few spots open on our board and are looking for talented people, regardless of their age, to fill them.
3. Lastly, a longtime challenge has been getting people to pronounce WACO correctly: It's whack-o, not way-ko.
Q: What do you wish the community at-large knew about the organization? (OR, What would surprise most people if they spent a week with the organization?)
A: Although we've been around for 37 years, a lot of people are not familiar with WACO. Our best-kept secret is our Wingfest fundraiser. For the past 15 years, we've held Wingfest at Drink in Schaumburg. Area restaurants provide all the wings you can eat. Wingfest is a ton of fun, with live music and a bags tournament. It's always on the last Sunday in July, so mark your calendars. We hold it out on the deck and, so far, we've had great weather 15 years running.
Q: How can readers get involved?
A: Contact our vice president, Geri McCall-Barrath, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (630) 999-1270. Volunteer coordinator is just one of the many hats she wears for us.
Q: What events do you have coming up?
A: We have three things coming up. WACO's 36th Annual Toys for Tots Dinner takes place 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, at Chandler's Banquets in Schaumburg. Tickets are $50 till Nov. 27 and $55 thereafter. All guests are asked to bring two unwrapped toys. Tickets are at wacot4t2015.thundertix.com/events.
To volunteer, or donate a raffle prize, contact Jess Richard at email@example.com or (815) 973-2868.
Funds raised will be used to take more than 500 preschoolers shopping for themselves and their families. Each child will arrive via school bus with his or her wish list at 7 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Wal-Mart, 901 S. Meacham Road, Elk Grove Village. About 500 volunteers help us take the children shopping.
WACO allots $75 per child. We shop, wrap everything. This way they'll have something to open Christmas morning.
Then, on Dec. 12, we do it all again at Wal-Mart at 1100 S. Randall Road in Elgin.
For information or to make a donation, go to www.waco4kids.org or contact Art Trevino, (847) 436-9697 or firstname.lastname@example.org.