Residents fill door steps with food, warmth, care

Pre-teen friends coordinate donation drive in Sugar Grove
by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove—After a weekend of collecting food, coats, mittens and hats, as well as pet food and supplies, a pair of 12-year-old friends surveyed the pile of coats that their neighbors donated through their Fill Your Door Step collection during the past two weekends. The pile reached almost to the ceiling of their Sugar Grove garage.

The friends, Sugar Grove resident Madison Taylor and Elburn resident Jessica Cucera, as well as Madison’s sister Danielle, came up with the idea in 2008 to collect items from their neighbors after being challenged by the Taylor’s mom, Melisa. Her challenge was for the girls to do something productive with their Thanksgiving time off. They thought of three major areas in people’s lives where they needed the most help: food, staying warm and caring for their pets.

The girls, assisted by a number of friends and parents, passed out flyers asking for residents to leave items on their doorsteps the following weekend. The effort was so successful last year that their friends began asking the girls weeks ago if they were going to do it again this year.

This year, the girls were joined by approximately 45 of their fellow students as they collected items from 500 households in every subdivision from the southern border of Sugar Grove north to Interstate 88.

Volunteers drove 11 vehicles full of food to the newly established Between Friends Food Pantry of Sugar Grove, another brainchild of the Taylors. The food pantry opened earlier this month, and serves people in the Sugar Grove and Prestbury neighborhoods.

The coats, hats and mittens will be distributed through the Kaneland School District, where social workers have identified those students who would benefit from the outerwear. Greenacre Cleaners in Sugar Grove offered to dry clean for free the gently used coats people donated prior to their distribution.

“I haven’t strong-armed anyone,” said Melisa, who also serves on the Sugar Grove Village Board. “People and businesses in the area just came forward and offered help. It’s that small-world stuff.”

The pet food and other supplies will be given to people visiting the food pantry through a questionnaire that Madison developed, asking people about the number and size of their pets.

Madison and Danielle were honored last week by being chosen as Kids of the Week by WGN radio. They were interviewed by Steve Cochran on his show last Wednesday.

But the graciousness of their neighbors makes them just as happy.

“People wrote notes on the bundles, saying, ‘God bless you all,’” Melisa said. “There was a huge amount of gratitude.”

Photo: Friends Jessica Kucera and Madison Taylor smile in front of the mound of coats the 12-year-olds collected from their neighbors in the 2nd annual Fill Your Door Step collection in Sugar Grove. The coats will be distributed to Kaneland students in need of them. Photo by Susan O’Neill