Allendale, community find a way to give residents a happy Easter

It's not easy caring for abused and traumatized children in the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. Just ask the Allendale Association in Lake Villa.

Although its day school and counseling center are closed, in accordance with Illinois' shutdown, nearly 99 kids continue to call the Allendale campus home. Thanks to the staff, community and a surprise visit from the Easter Bunny, these young survivors continue to heal and develop, even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

The kids - and staff - have had to adapt to changes brought on by COVID-19. For example, social distancing measures have been put in place, along with rigorous health screenings and cottage cleaning protocols.

Now the youth - who live in cottages of 10-12 people, along with round-the-clock staff - are using outdoor recreation areas on a rotating basis so they're only exposed to their housemates. Instead of home visits, they're videoconferencing with their families.

And although school is closed, the staff has developed educational enrichment activities for campus residents and youth living in Allendale's off-campus group homes.

Members of the community - local businesses, families, and fellow not-for-profits - have made extraordinary efforts to keep the kids happy, active and engaged during the shutdown. Allendale has received multiple donations of arts and craft supplies, board games and recreational gear.

Other donations include pizza parties, courtesy of local pizza parlors, and other themed weekend meals. One local Girl Scout unit donated 50 boxes of cookies.

Both youth and staff also have received handmade fabric face masks to wear as protective gear. No coronavirus cases have been reported on campus, to date.

"We are incredibly grateful for all these thoughtful donations," Allendale President Jason Keeler said. "You can't imagine the difference it makes to our kids."

Allendale's Easter holiday was special, too. In addition to a visit from E. Bunny, the kids received Easter baskets, participated in egg hunts, and enjoyed a special Easter dinner.

"My husband and I have been volunteering with Allendale for years," said Cynthia Leman, who, with her husband Jim, leads students in bimonthly Bible study.

"We love giving back to Allendale and witnessing the residents' growth and healing. We wanted to send Easter reminders to all not to be sad during this challenging time."

The Lemans donated Easter candy and Christian-themed DVDs.

As the shutdown continues, Allendale will continue to find new ways to serve the children in their care.

"While these times are filled with uncertainty, what is not uncertain is the strength of Allendale," Keeler said. "Allendale was established upon the promise of community, and it's this belief in community that has sustained us for more than 120 years."

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Allendale students received Easter baskets, searched for eggs, visited with the Easter Bunny and had a special Easter dinner. Courtesy of Lekas & Levine PR
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