Local volunteers wrap 6,000 gifts for 3,000 kids
Adam Sadek and Ben Lambert wrap presents Saturday at Guerin Prep High School. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:30AM
RIVER GROVE — For the past 24 years, giving less-fortunate children something to look forward to on Christmas Day has been the goal of Adopt-A-Kid.
The program started in the late 1980s providing gifts for 24 children; this year, that’s grown to about 3,000.
On Saturday, hundreds of volunteers were busy wrapping gifts at Guerin Prep High School to be picked up that evening.
Roseanne Eiternick, president of Adopt-A-Kid Inc., explained that the effort focuses on providing gifts for low-income children who otherwise wouldn’t get anything for Christmas. That can mean children who are homeless, or in foster care, or in single-parent homes. She said they start collecting donations in the spring.
Volunteers check the gifts to make sure they are appropriate for the recipient’s age. Eiternick said each child gets two gifts; something fun, like a game; and something practical, like gloves or a scarf.
That meant on Saturday, about 6,000 gifts had to wrapped and packaged. That’s where the volunteers came in.
Monica Medina has volunteered for Adopt-A-Kid for the past six years and says although she will not be there on Christmas Day she knows what she is doing will put a smile on a child’s face.
“We work all year fundraising to get this stuff,” she said.
First-time volunteer Rocco Lepore, 16, who lives in Elmwood Park, said he decided to help after hearing about it at his school. His job was to wrap and make sure each recipient had the appropriate gift.
He hopes to bring a little happiness in a child’s life. “I imagine how the children are going to feel when they receive their gift,” he said.
Valerie Banks of Oak Park has volunteered for the past three years. Some of the gifts will go to the church she attends, where they will be passed out to 100 children.
“I help wherever they (Adopt-A-Kid) need help,” she said. “It’s exciting seeing all the teenagers getting things prepared. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Eiternick, a 1969 graduate Guerin Prep, said over time she’s helped the operations run smoothly, with groups of gifts being color-coded and tagged to ensure it ends up with the proper agency, caseworker, church or service organization. She said she always has gifts left over and often gets calls from different groups on Christmas Eve seeking more gifts.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” she said.
She said since she started the program she takes pride in seeing people who volunteered returning as adults and bringing their children to help. She believes it’s all about conveying the message to people about thinking of others first.
“When I grew up my mother was a widow with six kids,” she said. “On Christmas Eve when we went to midnight Mass friends would break in (to their home) and leave Christmas presents.”
Her later involvement as a youth minister in Catholic parishes brought about the idea of Adopt-A-Kid. Some of the youth cared more about themselves, but all they really needed was a little push to help others.
“It’s not that kids don’t care,” she said. “They are not aware.”
The Adopt-A-Kid program was a big reminder that some children don’t have the comforts others take for granted.
“It’s nice to know somebody is thinking about you,” she said.