by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVEâ€”Sometimes people just need to be made aware of the need.
Carol Alfrey, West Towns Human Services and Conley Outreach Community Services coordinator, attended a recent Sugar Grove Chamber meeting to talk to members about the needs that residents in their community are experiencing.
â€œI saw a lot of interest immediately,â€ Chamber Executive Director Shari Baum said.
Alfrey said she used to receive one or two calls a month from people who needed help in one way or another. In the past year, the number of those calls has multiplied to one or two people a day.
â€œFor the most part, those receiving assistance are the ‘working poor,’â€unable to make ends meet despite holding down one or two jobs,â€ Alfrey said. â€œSome have experienced medical problems and do not qualify for workman’s compensation. Others are living on disability and need help with large utility bills … Others have one-time situations, such as illness, fire or loss of job for which they need assistance.â€
Conley Outreach Community Services, of Elburn, is a nonprofit organization that provides and coordinates community mental health and human service programs in rural western Kane County. The organization, while small, expands its reach through understanding community needs, creating systems of support and collaborating with other community and faith-based partners.
â€œI’m just one part-time person, trying to spread myself around,â€ Alfrey said.
Alfrey said she said she wanted to encourage each business person to think about his or her company’s unique products and services, and how those can lend themselves to helping people in a specific way.
She recounted some of the stories of people in the area who have already been helped by Sugar Grove business owners: Nick Bumba, owner of Nick’s Custom Furniture in Sugar Grove, donated brand new beds and a dresser to a woman leaving an abusive relationship; Russ Wendling, owner of Rich’s Auto Repair in Sugar Grove, finds and fixes cars that he donates to people in need of transportation; and Scarpacci’s Pizza in Sugar Grove donated dinners for a time to a family whose home had been destroyed by a fire.
Alfrey said that six or seven business people came up to her after her presentation with ideas of how they and their businesses could help. The manager of a nearby hotel with kitchenettes offered to help with temporary housing, in the case of someone being displaced from their home.
A professional fundraiser offered her expertise to Alfrey in the area of raising funds for the organization. A medical insurance broker offered to donate a percentage of his previous year’s proceeds.
All of these actions and others will be part of a Chamber Cares Program, in which the chamber, in partnership with West Towns and Conley Outreach, offers opportunities for its members to work together to take an active role in supporting the community, Baum said.