Free pie and pizza among efforts in Elgin to ramp up for Census count

Households across the country will begin receiving invitations next week to participate in the 2020 Census, and efforts to make sure everyone is counted have ramped up in Elgin.

A "Census Pi(e) Day Celebration" for families with free pizza and pie is scheduled for 11 a.m.-1 p.m. March 14 at the Edward Schock Centre of Elgin, with the goal of encouraging people to participate in the census count, said Denise Raleigh, chairwoman of the Elgin Complete Count initiative.

Census participation is crucial because it will determine how much federal money - $1,500 per person, according to some estimates - will be disbursed in Elgin, Raleigh told the Elgin City Council on Wednesday. "A miss is very costly, especially when the next census won't be for 10 years."

Elgin Complete Count is a partnership among local leaders and organizations that has obtained more than $180,000 in grant money to fund a comprehensive informational campaign. That includes outreach to segments of the population that historically have had less census participation, such as families with young children and the Latino and Lao communities, Raleigh said.

Starting March 12, households will receive official U.S. Census Bureau mail with information about how to participate online, by phone or by mail. Census takers will begin visiting college campuses and senior centers in April, and from May to June, they will visit homes that haven't responded to the Census.

The Elgin committee's grant money is funding two English-Spanish bilingual workers who have been informing residents about the census. One is stationed during high-traffic times at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, and the other works with the nonprofit Centro de Information, with churches and at community events, such as high school basketball games.

Volunteer Ket Herena said about 50 Lao leaders will gather Saturday in Elgin with a representative of the U.S. Census Bureau. More activities will take place in April, when the Lao New Year falls, and May, which is Asian American Heritage Month.

It's important to persuade people to trust that the U.S. Census Bureau won't share information with anyone, including other government agencies, and equip individuals, particularly seniors, to recognize potential census scammers, Raleigh said.

There will be several "portable access centers" in Elgin that will allow people who don't have internet access at home to submit census questionnaires online, Raleigh said. Those will be at the YWCA, the Eastside Recreation Center, the Elgin Community College library, Centro de Informacion and all three Gail Borden Public Library locations.

The grant money also is funding billboards, signage, ads on radio and local cable TV, and a 17-foot "world's largest Census tablet" (not real) that travels across town. A social media campaign will kick off shortly, Raleigh said.

The initiative also has enlisted the help of educators from child care centers, schools and a variety of other educational institutions across town, said Karla Jimenez, co-chairwoman of the education subcommittee.

"We are using all of our communications channels that we can," Raleigh said.

To sign up for a census newsletter or get more information, visit

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