Naperville has long history of giving back

Updated 4/9/2015 1:02 PM

Since the late 1840s when Naperville's namesake, Joe Naper, helped establish the Euclid Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, his example of service, charity and dedication has been passed down from one generation to the next.

The contagious energy to help others sometimes is called "the city's DNA."


I like to think it's the American pioneer spirit that traveled with Naper from Ashtabula, Ohio, a trait that continually captures our attention throughout this great nation.

Along with organizations such as the Naperville Woman's Club chartered here in 1897 that continue to thrive in the 21st century, Naperville attracts generous men, women and children as well as service clubs and volunteer organizations, aiming to respond to unmet needs here and throughout the world.

Just when you think there's nothing more to support, another initiative pops up on our radar and finds a following.

About a month ago, I received a call from Brian Andersen, past president of the Rotary Club of Darien, who later served as Rotary District 6450 governor. He reminded me that nearly a decade has passed since Aug. 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated Pass Christian, Miss., and other cities along the Gulf Coast.

We reminisced about how Naperville's three Rotary clubs answered calls for help from D.H. Short, then-president of the Rotary Club of Pass Christian.

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Andersen mentioned that Rotary Rivage 2015, a conference combining two Rotary districts in Mississippi, was planned April 9-12 in Biloxi to celebrate a decade of progress achieved in the aftermath of the horrific storm -- progress made possible, in part, by the concerted efforts of Rotary clubs from Illinois.

One of the initiatives, The Long Beach Activity-Senior Center, began with $5,000 from the Rotary Club of Darien that was followed by a long trail of matching grants to fund the multimillion facility.

Long Beach is just down the coast from Pass Christian where an initiative called Naperville Responds built 20 houses collaborating with Mennonites and the Rotary Club of Pass Christian.

My path had crossed with Andersen's while we were on our missions in Pass Christian as well as during fundraising receptions at Meson Sabika in Naperville.


He's planning to attend Rotary Rivage and wondered if I knew of anyone from Naperville who was going. I did not.

Andersen's call also triggered thoughts of folks -- way too many to name -- who helped raise money to rebuild homes in Mississippi, making friends during numerous trips to help first hand.

For several years, Mayor George Pradel and groups from police, fire, churches, schools, art leagues, libraries and Naperville Rotary clubs teamed up and met up with counterparts in the Pass to help the hurricane-ravaged city get back on its feet.

When the Naperville Responds goal was met in Pass Christian, many of its enthusiastic volunteers, including Diane and Jack Persin, lent their support to begin another nonprofit organization called Naperville Responds for Our Veterans (NRFOV), also focused on building houses, only for veterans and closer to home.

NRFOV has been highly successful in meeting home maintenance needs of veterans by way of building ramps, redesigning bathrooms and kitchens, and providing professional services for individuals who qualify.

Now under the leadership of Jack Persin, Naperville Responds for Our Veterans is celebrating in April with its annual "Strength and Honor" event. Previously a breakfast, this year the Strength and Honor Lunch will be held in order to accommodate veterans attending from the Hines VA Hospital.

Lunch is slated to begin at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 8, at the Sheraton Hotel at 3000 Warrenville Road in Lisle. Reservations are $50.

Vietnam veteran Lynn Lowder is scheduled as the keynote speaker. Lowder, who enlisted in the Marines, went on to serve as an infantry officer and later as a JAG officer. Writers have profiled his accomplishments as a decorated combat veteran as well as a post-Marine Corps civilian in several books.

Now an author himself as well as a career/life coach and motivational speaker, Lowder's story is sure to inspire.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for $500. Sponsorship includes two tickets, a name listing in the program and a chance to underwrite travel and lunch for veterans attending from the Hines.

For complete details, visit

And to connect one more thing: At 8 p.m. Saturday, May 2, One More Time, better known as OMT, will perform at Frankie's Blue Room to benefit Naperville Responds for Our Veterans.

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