Earlier this year, I wrote about how the planning was getting underway for this year's New Lenox ShareFest, a giant community service event that attracts volunteers from throughout the area. Just over three and a half months later, with just over three and a half months left until the big event, there have been several developments.
The fifth-annual event, started in the late '90s by a group of religious leaders in central Arkansas, brings together the needs of the community and those wishing to serve those needs. This year's event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10 (have you marked your calendar yet?). Among the planned activities are a number of service projects for individual residents as well as public spaces, food collections for the needy and a book exchange to promote literacy and environmentalism (resuse as oppossed to dropping unwanted books in the garbage and, eventually, landfills).
Local organizer Gary Cheney accomplishes this by “finding the needs of the community and then bringing the people together to fullfill those needs.” How is that done? “Becoming aware of your surroundings in the community (and then) coming together, as proud Americans to meet the needs of the community.”
Cheney feels he is once again achieving this, but not on his own by any means. He speaks with great enthusiasm about “a group of people with passion to help their community” that he humbly insists are doing all the work. And as he told me about all the programs that are developing for this year's events, he is just as eager to talk about the people that are making those things happen:
Thanks to help from Marta Keane with the Will County Land Use Department's Reuse Recycle and Energy Division, Cheney is excited to announce that a hazardous waste collection at Spencer Trail School will be part of ShareFest. These collections are only held a few times each year throughout the entire southwest suburban area because of cost and the number of permits required. Additionally, latex-based paints are currently excluded from the list but efforts continue to accommodate this material as well as including the collection of scrap metal as part of the event.
Kristi Kelley from the University of St. Francis and Randall Loman, the Economic Development Director with the Village of New Lenox, are organizing a job fair.
Dan Martin, Public Safety Division Chief and a “regular” of this column, is organizing a health fair. Having previously organized the Health and Saftey Expo held in conjunction with the Weather Spotter class earlier this year at Lincoln-Way Central High School, Cheney expects Martin to use his considerable reach in the health, saftey and preparedness communities to offer more opportunities for actual testing and consultations during the ShareFest health fair event.
New Lenox Township is partnering for the collection of unwanted computers and other electronics in conjunction with the township's on-going efforts. Additionally, the township will have their rain barrels and compost bins for sale at ShareFest.
Renee Gauchat from the Will County Forest Preserve District is the ShareFest partner for beautification projects or “whatever the forest preserve district needs,” as Cheney put it.
Local Girl Scout Troop 15 and Reading Tree are in charge of the book drive/exchange. “We count that as being an environmental impact issue,” Cheney said, because they will collect and then redistribute books that would otherwise go in landfills. Distribution includes nursing homes as well as soldiers on active duty “It's reusing books and it's promoting literacy."
All this in addition to continuing last year's activities that include clothing/home goods collection drive, food drive, new toy drive, service projects and collections for Angela's Mission (toiletries and other personal items for hospitalized active-duty soldiers).
One last announcement from Cheney is the expansion of ShareFest from the second Saturday in September to the entire month leading up to that. While there will be further announcements about specific, planned events over that time period—with the culmination and bulk of activities still occuring on Sept. 10—Cheney hopes that individuals will take it upon themselves during the entire month leading up to the actual ShareFest event and on their own give something of themselves to a neighbor or other member of the community that they see in need.
This is what Cheney calls a “noble deed," but what I call simply being a good citizen with Helping Hands.
To get involved
Contact Gary Cheney at 815-717-2614 or email@example.com. The public is welcome to attend month planning meeting, held at noon on the last Tuesday of every month in the Community Room at New Lenox Village Hall.