Glencoe Official Finds Gathering Critters Good Practice for Annual Food & Toy Drive
As a Glencoe community service officer, Katie Sweeney’s job is to round-up wayward critters throughout the village. But when the Thanksgiving season begins, the animal control specialist turns her efforts toward gathering something else: food and toys for the area’s less fortunate.
On Thanksgiving eve for the past two decades, Sweeney has stood in front of The Grand Food Center, 341 Hazel Ave., asking shoppers for non-perishable food donations for the village’s annual food and toy drive. So familiar are local customers with Sweeney’s efforts, that she barely has to say a word anymore.
With her cadre of young volunteers, Sweeney hands out lists of needed items—cans of vegetables, dried pasta, rice, peanut butter, powdered mixes and cooking oil, among many other items. She also asks for disposable, paper products, like paper plates, napkins and paper towels.
Many shoppers emerge from the grocery store, also known as DJ Foods, with these items in hand. It’s not uncommon, either, for an occasional shopper to give her a $5 or $10 bill. When this happens, Sweeney immediately dispatches a young volunteer or two to head back into the store, and spend the money as wisely as possible.
“It provides a good learning lesson for them,” she says.
Little do they know, however, that Sweeney has already canvassed the store aisles earlier in the day, placing little “Glencoe Food & Toy Drive” stickers on selected items. The wise ones pick up on this hint right away.
“I tell them to look for the items we want, compare prices, and then make their purchases based on the best value,” Sweeney adds. “For many, it’s their first time doing the grocery shopping.”
This Thanksgiving eve will be no different. Sweeney’s recipients include seniors, shut-ins and special needs children from area child agencies, senior centers, churches and temples. Sweeney also gets input from social workers throughout New Trier Township, Northfield Township, and Glencoe Family Services. Last year, she says, the village-wide effort served 74 area families.
Says Sweeney: “Many of these families received four, five or six boxes of groceries.”
She’s also quick to credit Grand Food Center store employee Michael Mensching with helping her gather and fill empty boxes, and make deliveries. “I’ve known Michael even before he was born,” the Northfield resident grins.
“He’s my go-to guy.”
Given the economy and the great need for these items, it’s no wonder her phone has been ringing for weeks. But it’s surprising to hear who’s on the other end.
“I’ve been getting calls already,” Sweeney explains, “and most are from those who want to volunteer.”
She adds that parents occasionally call to “volunteer” their son or daughter. Previous groups who have assisted Sweeney include the Winnetka Hockey Club, the local girl and boy scouts, Central Middle School students, and the New Trier Hockey Club.
“I can never have enough volunteers,” she says.
The ongoing food and toy drive will continue through Dec. 23, when the items are delivered. For those interested in donating toys, a collection bin has been placed in the Glencoe Village Hall.
For more information, visit the Village of Glencoe at www.villageofglencoe.org, or by calling 847-835-4111, ext 1148.