Aurora leaders go to 'jail' for fundraiser
Aurora Second Ward Alderman Juany Garza was all smiles Sunday as she was handed a prisoner number, photographed and led to her spot behind bars.
No, the "jail" wasn't real. It was a raised platform at Esteban's in Naperville, the location for the first "Lock-Up" fundraiser organized by the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council.
The fundraiser, which ran from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, helped raise money for community scholarships.
"This is for a wonderful cause," Garza said from her "cell." "With the economy the way it is, organizations are short of revenue. And yet the demand for this type of assistance is rising. So I wanted to do my part to help."
Garza was one of 12 people -- the list included elected officials, city employees and other community members -- who agreed to be locked up on Sunday afternoon. Those who attended the fundraiser could donate money for an inmate's "bail," which was set at $100 to $500.
"If it takes until 6 p.m., I'm staying here," Garza said.
Mirna Lopez-Freitag, president of the Puerto Rican Cultural Council, said the council was looking for new fundraising ideas when she remembered a similar kind of event she'd seen years ago.
"It just seemed like a fun way to help us with the scholarships," Lopez-Freitag said Sunday during a short break from "booking" people.
The council's goal was to raise enough money to fund eight to 10 scholarships of up to $1,000 each, she said. The scholarships are granted to students of all ages who plan to enroll in a community college or four-year college or university in the fall.
Lopez-Freitag, who was born in Aurora, moved to Puerto Rico at the age of 5 and then returned as a teenager, said she hopes events like the "Lock-Up" fundraiser have a positive effect beyond their immediate specific cause.
"One of the things we're trying to do is unite our community here, but not so that we become isolated," she said. "We want to share our culture with the larger community of Aurora. An event like this can create some of the energy needed to do that."