Volunteers rally to help Little City residents

Instead of selling homes Monday, a group Schaumburg real estate agents renovated them.

About 30 employees from the real estate company Koenig & Strey helped paint and landscape two Schaumburg homes where 16 developmentally disabled men live.

The homes are supported and maintained by Palatine-based Little City, an organization that helps create living and working opportunities for adults and children with developmental disabilities like autism.

The effort was part of the company’s inaugural “Kindness Week,” in which all 16 Koenig & Strey offices will participate in charity work, said Joe Stacy, managing broker and head of the company’s fundraising arm, the Koenig & Strey Foundation.

The company helped raise about $3,000 in May to fund Monday’s makeovers, which included painting, new furniture, new kitchen supplies, plants, fertilizer, new floors and minor decorations, like art.

But Stacy said that would not have been enough if other companies didn’t donate their services and supplies.

Workers from $99PerRoom, a painting company, helped paint the homes for free. That company’s partnership with Sherwin-Williams paints helped secure close to $1,800 worth of paint for the project, said Chris McCarthy, owner of $99PerRoom and a real estate agent at Koenig & Strey.

“I didn’t even think about it,” McCarthy said, when asked why $99PerRoom participated Monday. “We want to give back as much as we can.”

For Little City, the donation of time and money helped fill a funding gap, said Executive Director Shawn Jeffers.

Federal sequester budget cuts, which went in to effect in March, will reduce assistance from government agencies like Department of Human Services, which heavily funds Little City.

Jeffers said the group gets $1.7 million a month from the state, but that gets absorbed by costs related to the 15 houses the group supports, like residents’ food, clothing, utilities and safety-related updates.

Funds also are used to pay Little City’s staff and support other programs, leaving little money to beautify homes like the two in Schaumburg.

“This does so much to enhance the morale,” Jeffers said.

While the renovations were taking place Monday, the homes’ residents spent the day learning skills and working at Little City’s main facility in Palatine, said Catarina Johnson, the group’s volunteering manager. They returned to their newly upgraded homes about 3 p.m.

Among the Koenig and Strey volunteers Monday was Annette Berry, who spent the day planting flowers outside one of the Schaumburg homes.

“It’s important to give back,” she said.

Stacy said the company initially approached Little City about volunteering after buying artwork for their Schaumburg office through the organization’s art program. He and other employees thought Little City would be perfect for the “Kindness Week” event because of their shared interest: houses.

“Kindness Week” was established as Koenig & Strey Foundation’s first large charity event. The foundation was created after the company president and CEO Doug Ayers died of cancer exactly two years ago on June 10. Stacy said Ayers strongly believed in giving back, and the company wanted to keep his memory alive.

Despite Monday’s daylong effort, work on the homes isn’t quite finished. They’ll get new flooring next week, and Koenig & Strey plans to continue working with Little City during future Kindness Weeks.

“This is a long-term relationship,” said Stacy, who said the homes also could use new kitchen countertops. “We’ll come back next year.”

  Darlene Dambrowski of Elk Grove Village helps paint a Schaumburg group home that Little City operates for eight developmentally disabled men. The volunteer effort was part of the real estate firm Koenig & Strey’s first Kindness Week. Reema Amin/
  About 30 volunteers helped renovate two Schaumburg group homes Monday operated by Palatine-based Little City. The effort was part of the real estate firm Koenig & Strey’s first Kindness Week. Reema Amin/
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