Ribfest celebrates success with $600,000 in donations
If seemingly every Naperville-area nonprofit and social service agency is together in one place, chances are it's the annual Ribfest allocation lunch sponsored by the Exchange Club of Naperville.
The club plays host to a meal each year to celebrate the donation of funds raised from the previous summer's Ribfest on the July 4 weekend.
Last year's festival allowed the club to donate $600,000 spread among 45 organizations that aim to end child abuse and domestic violence.
The money distributed Friday contributed to a total of $14.5 million festival organizers have donated in the past 28 years.
"All the people are coming together to say 'thank you,'" said Barry Greenberg, an Exchange Club member who is co-chairman of the allocations committee, which makes donation decisions.
Representatives of 40 of this year's recipients gathered at the lunch to make speeches of appreciation and share stories of the work they do.
"The money to support these social agencies is so important to this community," Mayor Steve Chirico said.
Longtime grant recipient Evangelical Child and Family Agency told of a teen who came to its doors pregnant with her second child who now has a GED, an apartment, a used car and a job after getting help from programs supported with Ribfest money. Jennie Tietjen, development and volunteer coordinator, said the Wheaton-based agency has received between $70,000 and $80,000 from the Exchange Club since the late 1990s.
First-time grant recipient Naperbridge at the Alive Center promoted a new mentoring program pairing high school leaders with middle school students and efforts to get kids on the autism spectrum involved with their typically developing peers. Executive Director Kandice Henning said the Naperbridge teen center even is discussing plans to create a branch of the Excel club, which is the Exchange Club's high school-level affiliate.
While Ribfest funds are best known for working to end child abuse and domestic violence, club President Dan DeBoo said the group also supports youth, community service and Americanism.
Allocation day, DeBoo said, is a "fulfilling event" to highlight the energy and effort that goes into each year's Ribfest. This year's festival is scheduled for July 1 through 4 at Knoch Park near downtown Naperville.
Roughly 4,000 volunteers will be needed to staff the festival of food, music and fireworks, and club members made their pitch for helpers to start signing up now at ribfest.net.
"Our success from Ribfest doesn't come easy," DeBoo said.