Rotary grants provide 'what's needed' to support communities

Rotary grants provide 'what's needed' to support communities

Not every good deed has to be cutting-edge.

Not every helpful act has to be fresh and new.

Some works of charity are pretty run-of-the-mill, but that doesn't make them any less critical to the people who benefit.

Rotary Club of Naperville members volunteer with the DuPage County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness during a fundraiser. NAMI DuPage is a frequent recipient of a grant from Naperville Rotary Charities, which leaders say has led members to get more involved with the mental health cause. Courtesy of Rotary Club of Naperville

In this category of common-but-vital charitable acts are the grants many suburban Rotary clubs give every year to deserving nonprofits.

These are groups that conduct humanitarian service work, helping families put food on the table or keeping seniors safe in their homes or providing the homeless a place to stay. They are supported, in part, by grants from suburban service clubs like Rotaries in Naperville, Lombard, Aurora, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove, St. Charles and many other communities.

Rotary grant recipients aren't hiding.

"They're all probably the charities that you know of and that do a lot in our communities," Rotary Club of Lombard member Jean Nolan said. "What we're really looking for is organizations that really impact the Lombard community."

DuPage PADS is one organization that often receives humanitarian service grants from groups such as Naperville Rotary Charities and Rotary Club of Lombard. Daily Herald file photo

Groups like the Tri-Town YMCA, DuPage PADS, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and literacy efforts in Lombard Elementary District 44 are among common recipients of $350 to $500 a year from the Lombard club. The group each year gives about $5,000 total.

Donating to food banks is a common aim, too.

"That's always a good thing to do," Nolan said. "It seems like there's always a need for that. As good as the economy is, some people are still having a hard time making ends meet."

Rotary Club of Naperville President Rachel Ossyra described the grants given annually since 1995 by Naperville Rotary Charities as "what's needed to help people basically sustain themselves." The program has provided more than $2.1 million in its 24 years, and this year gave $110,000 to 23 groups.

"We look at and we listen to the needs," she said.

Brian O'Malley, the Rotary Club of Naperville's president nominee and programs chairman, said many grant recipients, such as the DuPage Senior Citizens Council, work with people who are "really, really in need."

Giving out roughly $5,000 a year to humanitarian service organizations, the Lombard Rotary Club has donated to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley to support the purchase of equipment. Daily Herald file photo

Leaders of these charities appreciate the partnerships they form with Rotary members. Family Shelter Service, the DuPage branch of Metropolitan Family Services, received enough this year from its Rotary Club of Naperville grant to help two survivors of domestic violence receive shelter, counseling and support.

"Survivors of domestic violence would not be able to thrive without great partners like the Rotary Club," Lauren DeSimone, the charity's director of development, said. "Each survivor receives wraparound services to help them overcome the obstacles to a safer and healthier life."

Loaves & Fishes Community Services in Naperville is a frequent recipient of grants from Naperville Rotary Charities. Rotary clubs across the suburbs give annual grants to help charities meet humanitarian needs. Daily Herald file photo

Often, once Rotary members become familiar with the work of a nonprofit that receives a grant, they choose to get more involved as volunteers. Ossyra said that's happened with members of her club, as they've started to help the National Alliance on Mental Health's DuPage chapter and to volunteer with Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children, or CASA, of DuPage.

"We always say Rotarians are people of action," Ossyra said. "That's what we're all about."

O'Malley said these grants are the foundation and true purpose of Rotary clubs.

"Our whole purpose is to do what we can to serve the community," he said, "and to serve those in need."

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