Thank You, Naperville, Illinois
Big-hearted scout makes bookcases for Katrina victims
By Amy Boerema
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Thursday, June 08, 2006
Even in third and fourth grades, Jay Kamdar was known for being compassionate.
He was a quiet kid, but had a huge heart, teachers would tell his mom, Sunita.
So it’s no big surprise that Jay, now 16, decided to build six wooden bookcases to send to Pass Christian, Miss., as a service project to become an Eagle Scout.
The Gulf Coast town, which Naperville adopted as its Sister City, was almost destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Its library operates out of two trailers.
Jay, who just finished his sophomore year at Neuqua Valley High School, directed a team of about 20 fellow Troop 111 Scouts, friends and relatives in building the bookcases, which will hold children’s books. They’ll be shipped in the next month.
“Building it was hard because I had no experience, but once I learned how to do it, it got easier,” said Jay, who hopes to someday be a pediatrician.
An Eagle Scout project generally involves at least 100 hours of work. Jay’s team put in about 175.
“The very reason for it is to demonstrate leadership,” assistant Scout Master Paul Loscheider said. “They identify a project, develop a plan, make contacts and instruct the volunteers.”
Naperville’s Sister Cities Commission donated supplies for the bookcases, which are 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
Jay plans to achieve Eagle Scout status this summer before his family moves to California. And Troop 111 has given him a solid foundation for any work he continues with the Scouts out west, he said.
“I got a good feel for authority and leadership,” he said.
Pass Christian still needs your help
Editorial from the Naperville Sun, Tuesday, May 23
Naperville Responds wants to make sure residents keep the victims of Hurricane Katrina on the front burner of their minds and hearts.
The group was formed to help with reconstruction efforts of Pass Christian, Miss., a Gulf Coast town devastated by the hurricane.
The once flourishing 6,500-resident community lost most of its tax base because of the flooding in the wake of the hurricane. Stores, public buildings, houses were all demolished.
Pass Christian lost 75 percent of its homes and 99 percent of the downtown area.
Naperville Responds is an ongoing, community-wide effort to raise funds to rebuild Pass Christian.
The organization intends to raise at least $2.5 million, with the aim of rebuilding 20 homes for people of modest incomes who cannot afford to rebuild their homes.
So far, Naperville Responds has three homes under construction with a fourth to follow soon.
To fund the effort, Naperville Responds has been holding fundraisers and seeking donations.
On Sunday, a fundraiser at Heaven on Seven in downtown Naperville raised some $6,100 at an event called "Feed Me, Jimmy," with Jimmy being restaurateur Jimmy Bannos.
Similar efforts among Naperville organizations intended to raise funds for the Pass Christian effort have also been held.
But the main difference between the devastation that struck the Gulf Coast and normal fundraising and work efforts is the scope of the tragedy and the years it will take to rebuild.
As a community, we can't let this effort slip to the back of our minds.Help will be needed for a long time.
To contribute to Naperville Responds or for information, visit www.napervilleresponds.org or call Sue Banks at (630) 355-5800. Donations are tax deductible.
Gulf Coast town is seeing best of city’s organizations
by Stephanie Penick
Daily Herald, Posted Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Early in the planning stages of the Naperville Responds domestic Sister City initiative — and mindful of traditions and generous community spirit during Naperville’s 175th anniversary year — board member Nina Menis suggested 2006 offered a historic bent for the new organization.
As we celebrate the founding and development of Naperville, our community also can help rebuild hope — and up to 20 homes — in Pass Christian, Miss., in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she said.
Now with three homes in progress and a fourth about ready to begin, momentum picked up last week when the nonprofit group received a $12,000 boost from the Naperville Junior Woman’s Club. The group contributed proceeds from its “Viva Las Vegas” fundraiser held in April.
Donations of more than $7,500 also came from the Naperville Jaycees, including the final tally from the club’s Mardi Gras Silent Auction and $1,000 from its allocations committee.
Further, after Sue Omanson pitched the slogan idea of “Ten for Twenty” during the first general meeting in May, graphic artist Tom Tortorich turned it into a design.
“Ten for Twenty” is based on the challenge created by Naperville Responds founders Bill Brestal and Ron Wehrli that if every local resident donates $10, Naperville could build 20 homes in the Gulf Coast community ravaged by the storm. Details about “Ten for Twenty” are now posted on the group’s Web site, www.napervilleresponds.org, hosted and designed pro bono by Stargate.
Board member Don Welbourn of Stargate also posted on the Web site a long list of individuals, businesses and service clubs that have contributed to the cause.
In Sister City-style, many Naperville churches, schools, service clubs, libraries and the Naperville Art League have made connections with Pass Christian in recent months.
Becky Hollis of the Nichols Library connected with Pass Christian librarian Sally James about six months ago. Hollis has been coordinating delivery of audio/visual materials to the temporary library in Pass Christian ever since.
Last Wednesday, Hollis accepted 12 large boxes with approximately 1,500 videos and books collected by 65 members of Junior REACH at Washington Junior High School. When students Emily Schuler, Chelsea Malley and Ali Wojcikiewicz dropped off the boxes, they said they’d purchased 78 new books with $250 they raised at their REACH fundraiser.
Over at the Naperville Art League, 508 N. Center St., Julie Corwith began coordinating a collection of art supplies a couple months ago after she contacted Pass Christian artist Kathie Short and learned the Pass Christian art club and most of its members lost everything in the hurricane.
After last Thursday’s general meeting, Corwith said she and Rachel Bryan loaded her trunk with “four large brown grocery bags of stuff,” which will be sent to Short for distribution.
Boxes of art books, stretcher frames and frames also have been left at the gallery, she said.
Since every single penny donated to Naperville Responds goes toward building homes, funds for shipping supplies have been raised by groups such as the Naperville Exchange Club.
What’s more, early Friday morning, Naperville Responds event organizer Roxanne Lang rushed an e-mail to me and all other members of the organization.
“This is so exciting!” Lang wrote at 6:28 a.m. “For all of you who aren’t early risers, Chef Jimmy Bannos of Heaven on Seven was just on Channel 5 News promoting our ‘Feed Me, Jimmy’ event and Naperville Responds! Totally awesome!”
Sunday’s event at Heaven on Seven in downtown Naperville welcomed more than 100 patrons to a five-course New Orleans-style meal prepared by Bannos. After dessert, Bannos, who said he’s on a mission to remind people not to forget about the devastation along the Gulf Coast, presented Brestal and Wehrli with a check for Naperville Responds in the amount of $6,100.
If your group would like to participate in this domestic Sister City initiative, visit www.napervilleresponds.org and send your ideas to President Kevin Gallaher via “contact us.” Or, attend the next meeting at 9 a.m. June 6 in the council chambers at the Naperville Municipal Center.
Naperville Responds kicks Katrina aid up a notch
By Kate R. Houlihan
Naperville Sun 5/22/2006
It was a New Orleans-style party with a purpose.
Close to 110 people gathered amid the spices and photographs that act as a backdrop in the Heaven on Seven restaurant in downtown Naperville on Sunday.
But casual weekend diners these were not.
Behind the yellow, green and purple balloons, past the red Mardi Gras beads spread all over tables and worn around necks was a slide show showing pictures of a devastated Pass Christian, Miss. – which is still showing the effects nearly seven months after Hurricane Katrina.
Those pictures reminded people with each bite that the fundraising dinner prepared by Heaven on Seven's Jimmy Bannos was all for a cause – helping Naperville Responds continue in its quest to build 20 houses in Pass Christian.
"I feel after seven to nine months people are forgetting a little bit," Bannos said, pausing for a moment as he went from table to table explaining the different dishes. "People are forgetting about the (Gulf) Coast and Mississippi." Bannos doesn't intend to see that happen, and neither does the Naperville Responds leadership. Three houses are already under construction with a fourth to begin being built soon, group President Kevin Gallaher said.
A little more than $6,100 was raised at the event, called "Feed Me, Jimmy." Guests were treated to five courses, starting with gumbo, ending with chocolate brownie blasters and in between enjoying halibut on tomato salad, creole spiced chicken breast and roast beef tenderloin.
"It's a small world," said Mayor George Pradel, noting the connections different people at the event had with the Gulf Coast. "You've got people helping people in a positive way, while having fun."
And enjoying some tasty eats. For friends Barb Kossak of Westmont and Jean Sullivan of Hickory Hills, some Cajun-style cooking hit the spot.
"We're very concerned about Katrina victims," Kossak said.
For DuPage County Judge Ted Duncan and his wife, Jane, the motive behind the event hit close to home.
"My aunt lost her home in Pass Christian," Ted Duncan said. "I wanted to come here and support (the group)," he said. "I'm very proud the community turned out to support this effort."
Naperville Responds foun-der Bill Brestal was adamant about the group's goal. "We've got to get 20 (homes)," he said.
Naperville Responds has adopted a new motto, "$10 for 20," to encourage Naperville residents to give $10 to the effort and show that a donation such as that from everyone could make a big difference in the form of 20 houses.
"If people could just put 10 bucks in, we could do a lot more down there," Brestal said.
- Contact Kate Houlihan at (630) 416-5224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rotarians dig deep for Pass Christian
Posted Naperville Sun, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2006
by Columnist Tim West
Aid for rebuilding Pass Christian, Miss., got a big boost from the members of the Rotary Club of Naperville and Naperville Rotary Charities last Thursday.
A quick auction run by Rotarian Ray Kinney raised in excess of $15,000 at the club's weekly meeting, and a grant by Naperville Rotary Charities hauled in another $15,000 — making the total raised at the lunch more than $30,000.
Rotarians donated a number of interesting items — autographed baseballs, tickets to a Cubs/Sox game, dinner for 20 at such fine establishments as Meson Sabika and Raffi's, for instance — and other members, under the prodding of Kinney, generously shelled out a lot of dough to buy them.
Mayor George Pradel learned not to raise his hand during an auction when Kinney, while in the middle of auctioning an expensive item, greeted the mayor who was sitting near the door. The mayor waved his hand in response and Kinney said that Pradel had just made a bid. Fortunately for the mayor, the bids kept spiraling upward afterwards.
The money will be donated to Naperville Responds, a group that is raising funds to help rebuild Pass Christian, a Gulf town that was 85 percent destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed.
Dr. D.H. Short, a cardiac surgeon who is the current president of the Rotary Club of Pass Christian, talked about efforts to rebuild the town and described how he has been visiting Rotary clubs up north to enlist their aid.
For information about Naperville Responds and its plan to build houses in Pass Christian, visit the organization's Web site at www.napervilleresponds.org .
Other local organizations are also planning fund-raisers to benefit the efforts of Naperville Responds.
One is the Naperville Jaycees' Mardi Gras, with the proceeds from that event's silent auction going to the restoration of Pass Christian.
For information or tickets call (630) 961-9375 or long on to www.naperjaycees.org .
Naperville closer to responding
Group seeks donations in its effort to help rebuild Mississippi town hit by Katrina
By Ann Piccininni Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted Monday, December 12, 2005
Ever since Hurricane Katrina swept away most of the homes and much of the infrastructure in Pass Christian, Miss., Kenny Welch has been working 14- to 16- hour days.
Welch is a troubleshooter for Mississippi Power.
While he and his coworkers work toward restoring electrical service to the area, a nonprofit, Naperville-based group, Naperville Responds, is pulling together contributions to rebuild houses in the small, coastal town.
“Our house was completely destroyed. We all evacuated. We had 35 feet of water in the house,” Welch said Sunday, as he stood just outside Jimmy’s Grill in downtown Naperville where a group of about 100 well-wishers gathered to officially kick-off a fundraising campaign.
Joined by his wife and two of their grandchildren, Welch said the family is temporarily living in a trailer “about five minutes from where we actually live.”
A 57-year resident of Pass Christian, Welch said Katrina was even more devastating than Hurricane Camille, a 1969 storm.
Katrina wiped out 85 percent of the homes in Pass Christian, said Ron Wehrli, who heads up Naperville Responds with attorney Bill Brestal.
As the owner of Crestview Builders, that kind of destruction resonated with him, Wehrli said, prompting him and Brestal to establish Naperville Responds.
It wasn’t long before the need in Pass Christian became the organization’s focus, he said.
“We kind of narrowed it down to four or five towns where we could rebuild and people didn’t have insurance,” he said.
The town’s plight prompted Mayor George Pradel to bestow Sister City status on Pass Christian. Pradel was on hand for Sunday’s kick-off, which featured a group photo shot from atop the Barnes and Noble bookstore.
Wehrli said 20 to 30 pre-fabricated houses will be shipped to Pass Christian. He said he’s hopeful that the homes will be ready by early summer.
So far, said Brestal, about $175,000 has been raised toward a goal of $2.5 million.
A tree decorated with ornaments that represent donations will remain standing in front of Jimmy’s Grill until Feb. 15, said Patti Roberts, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance.
Large ornaments represent $1,000 donations; small ornaments represent donations of from $10 to $1,000, she said. The angel at the top of the tree represents a $25,000 donation made by Ryan Hill Realty and Marquette Companies.
All funds, Wehrli said, will go directly to the home-building effort. He said a committee of Pass Christian community members will determine which families will receive the donated homes.
The Welch family doesn’t yet know if they will be one of the lucky families to receive a house, but they are committed to rebuilding their community.
“We’re all planning on building our homes back. With the help of you people, we know it’s going to be done,” Kenny Welch said.
'We are all one big family now'
Naperville embraces sister city devastated by hurricane
By Kate R. Houlihan SUN STAFF
Kenny Welch had a happy 56th birthday.
It may sound simple, but Kenny hasn't had a lot to smile about lately. Yet as the Pass Christian, Miss., resident listened to Naperville residents and city leaders singing a heartfelt rendition of "Happy Birthday" to him in front of Jimmy's Grill on Sunday, all he could do was grin and laugh a little.
Welch and his family lost their home and everything in it when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast this summer. He worked 16- to 18-hour days for the Mississippi Power Company in the days following to help cut through debris and repair power lines for the coastal community's residents, who hoped to see some sort of normalcy sooner rather than later.
Kenny, his wife, Debra, and their grandchildren Dearius, 15, and Derriana, 10, were chosen by Pass Christian leaders to head to Illinois for Naperville Responds Day on Sunday.
Local residents and leaders gathered near Washington Street and Chicago Avenue to sign giant greeting cards for Pass Christian residents, listen to instrumental renditions of Christmas carols and hang fundraiser ornaments on the tree in front of Jimmy's Grill.
"It's overwhelming," Kenny Welch said as he looked at the crowd, many anxious to say hello and offer words of encouragement. "(Pass Christian residents) know a little about it. When we get back, they'll know a lot about it."
Welch and his family, as representatives of Naperville's new sister city, accepted a $25,000 check from Jack Persin of Ryan Hill Reality. The local business purchased the star at the top of the tree that holds all the fundraising ornaments for that amount.
"We're in the city and we believe in the city," Persin said.
He had the chance to take the Welch family to breakfast and to worship at St. Raphael Catholic Church earlier in the day.
"They were embraced by our community," Persin said. "It turned out to be a good experience."
The giant tagboard cards, decorated with a cartoonlike version of the real tree on which the Naperville Responds ornaments hang, were soon filled with messages from community members walking down the street. Some ranged from a simple "Merry Christmas" or "We're thinking of you" to "All happiness as your town is resurrected" to "We are all one big family now and will not forget you."
"I just felt in this time of need with these people we need to show that the holiday spirit is still somewhat intact," said Adam Maloof, a Naperville man who was out for a walk with his girlfriend, Celina Whittal, when they stopped to sign the cards.
A community picture was taken from the top of Barnes & Noble by photographers Rick Wagner and Jeffery Ross. After the group photo and check passing, Mayor George Pradel enthusiastically addressed the crowd.
"Thank you for being here," Pradel said. "It's wonderful. It's cold. You are the start. You're wonderful, all of you."
Debra Welch said it was difficult to deal with the loss of their house, which once stood a block from the beach. Now she and her husband sleep in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and are more concerned with making sure Dearius, Derriana and their parents have a home before they rebuild theirs.
"I feel like we're in hog heaven," Debra said as she took in the sights of everyone gathered around her family.
Kenny said when the family returns to Mississippi, Debra will make a presentation to the Pass Christian City Council about Naperville Responds and their weekend in Illinois.
Derriana, a fifth-grader who is now back in school with most of her friends, enjoyed seeing snow for the first time and didn't really know what to say about all the attention from Napervillians.
"I can't explain it," she said. "It's very nice of them."
Embracing a Sister City and a family
And Mississippi family is grateful for Naperville’s help
By Amy Boerema Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2005
Deborah Welch didn’t shed a tear when she had to evacuate her home before Hurricane Katrina hit.
And days later when she saw her house crumbled into a pile of debris, she didn’t cry then, either.
It was the kindness of strangers, the warmth she felt from people as far away as Naperville, that finally made her break down.
Welch, her husband, Kenneth, and their family will say a personal “thank you” to Naperville residents this weekend at a celebration to honor a new Sister City relationship with their hometown, Pass Christian, Miss.
Naperville leaders hope to raise $2.5 million to rebuild 20 homes in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast town of about 6,500.
So far, the group has raised about $175,000, with all funds going directly to the effort, said attorney Bill Brestal, who founded Naperville Responds. Administrative costs have been donated.
The weekend festivities begin about 3:15 p.m. Sunday on Jackson Avenue and Washington Street with a holiday sing-along.
Guests can sign greeting cards to Pass Christian residents and are encouraged to buy Sister City ornaments for a minimum donation of $10. They’ll assemble for a photo on Jackson Avenue shortly before 4 p.m.
“I just know Naperville has a big heart and that people will be there to show Pass Christian we care,” Brestal said. “(Photographers) will be on top of Barnes & Noble and we want to fill up all of Jackson street greeting our new Sister City.”
After the picture, Brestal will introduce the Welch family.
Prayer has guided her clan through this ordeal, Deborah Welch said.
They were staying with relatives in DeLisle, Miss., when the hurricane struck. The group joined hands and prayed as the water reached up to a foot high around them, she said.
When it stopped, she simply thanked God.
The family lost everything, but all of that can be rebuilt and re-bought, she said.
“I’m relieved and blessed to be alive,” she said.
The family is now staying in a trailer behind the relatives’ home. Every day, they still share moments of gratitude.
Many of those are for the donations that have poured in from people in Naperville and around the country.
“It takes faith nowadays to get to the next day,” Welch said. “I don’t know the words to use anymore. Again, the Lord is looking out for everyone and making a way.”
Gifts to 'Giving Tree' will help hurricane survivors
Posted in Positively Naperville, December Issue
In the spirit of the holiday season, join organizers of Naperville Responds for a special ceremony at 3:30 PM, Sunday, December 11, at the Giving Tree located in front of Jimmy’s Grill, Washington at Jackson.
With generous assistance from many of Naperville’s business leaders, associations and residents, Naperville Responds, a recently organized 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, is helping to rebuild the devastated community, a five-year commitment for starters.
Just prior to the brief ceremony at 4 PM, an all-community photo is scheduled, with lineup beginning at 3:30 PM organizers hope to fill Jackson Street between Washington and Main to showcase support for the hurricane survivors and community spirit. The photo will be sent to Pass Christian, Mississippi, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, to show Naperville's outpouring of support to help rebuild families, community and hope.
The Kenny Welch Family from Pass Christian will attend the event.
Festivities also will include a holiday sing-along and a chance to sign a giant Christmas card with seasonal greetings of goodwill and encouragement.
100% of all proceeds from fundraising efforts will be applied toward rebuilding the Pass Christian Community in Mississippi. The goal is to raise $2.5 million to help build 20 new homes.
The group intends to raise funds not only to rebuild homes but to rebuild lives and the community they once enjoyed, said Bill Brestal, who is leading the all-volunteer initiative with Ron Wehrli.
Snowflake ornaments are $10 each. 100% of proceeds will benefit rebuilding Pass Christian, Mississippi.
If every resident in Naperville were to donate $10, Naperville Responds could raise $1.4 million. Already $175,000 has been pledged or donated.
Donations in any amount are appreciated. Please make out checks to: Naperville Responds.
Send donations to: Naperville Responds, 123 Water Street, Naperville, IL 60540-8604
For more information, visit
Community invited to say 'cheese'
by Kate R. Houlihan
SUN STAFF -- Fri, 9 Dec 2005
Naperville Responds is looking to make some positive changes on the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, and they're using the holiday season to kick off fundraising efforts.
On Sunday the group hopes to get as many Naperville residents as possible down to Jackson Avenue and Washington Street starting at 3:15 p.m. for what co-chair Bill Brestal calls a "Naperville photo opportunity."
"There will be a photographer on the top of Barnes and Noble," he said, adding people will be in front of the Christmas tree by Jimmy's Grill for the picture, decorating the tree or holding up the snowflake ornaments the group is selling to raise money for new sister city Pass Christian, Miss.
"It's just going to be kind of a piece of history," he said.
A little bit of Pass Christian will make its way north to Naperville when the Welch family — a grandmother, grandfather and two grandchildren who lost everything in Katrina, according to Brestal — will visit the city starting today and be on hand for what has been deemed "Naperville Responds Day" through a City Council resolution Tuesday.
Brestal said business windows will be adorned with large cards that residents can sign with wishes for the people of Pass Christian. He said the cards will then be sent to the coastal Mississippi community.
Fundraising ornaments are on sale at City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and Brestal's law office. He said there is a $10 minimum donation when purchasing the snowflake-shaped decoration, although donations are accepted in any amount above that.
Brestal said Ryan Hill Realty has donated $25,000 for the angel that will top the tree and 25 larger ornaments are available for a $1,000 price.
Even the decorations will help bridge the miles between the two cities. Brestal said the decorations will come down on Feb. 15 and be boxed and shipped to Pass Christian so they can be used on a tree there next year. A "Christmas Box" will also be at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Washington Street for donations.
"It should be a great day that day," Brestal said. "We'll have songs and singing and carols."
Pass Christian slated for sister cityhood
By Colt Foutz
NAPERVILLE SUN STAFF
Posted December 6, 2005
Families stick together, especially when one of their own is down on his or her luck.
Such is the feeling shared by a group of Naperville business leaders, associations and residents who successfully teamed up to bring hurricane-ravaged Pass Christian, Miss., under the umbrella of sister cityhood.
A proclamation by Mayor George Pradel at tonight's City Council meeting will announce the new relationship, putting Pass Christian on a domestic par with Naperville's international sister, Nitra, Slovakia.
The difference in this case is the mission, as outlined by Naperville Responds. The organization, founded by lawyer Bill Brestal, has set as its mission the building of relationships, homes and a partnership, according to Rich Mikolajczyk, a member of the Naperville Responds committee and the Sister Cities Commission.
"I think what (Pass Christian residents) appreciate about us is that we're in this for the long haul," Mikolajczyk said. "By making them a sister city, we're saying that we're not just going to throw some money your way and say we did what we could and we're out of there. We're saying this is a long-term commitment and you will be designated our domestic sister city, and we look forward in the years to come to establishing strong ties with you."
To that end, the group's task is to raise $2.5 million to rebuild the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The group will start by building 20 prefabricated homes for Pass Christian residents.
And once the rebuilding is complete, the relationship will continue.
"It's a massive undertaking, but the people there just have a can-do attitude," Mikolajczyk said. "They say, 'We are going to rebuild this town. It might not be the same as it was, but it will be as good, because we're going to provide strong leadership down there.'"
Contact Colt Foutz at email@example.com or (630) 416-5196.
New volunteer group helping Mississippi town rebuild
by Stephanie Penick – The Daily Herald
The “Naperville Responds” volunteer group has been meeting regularly for about a month.
With a motto of Bridging Two Communities, the new initiative seeks volunteers to join committees on the recently established foundation to help plan ways to assist in rebuilding the small community of Pass Christian, Miss., a town virtually destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The group is open and eager for everyone in Naperville to participate in some way.
Already many Naperville residents have visited Pass Christian. Pictures on a photo CD provided by Tom Burns of St. Raphael’s church show devastation that I still can t even imagine exists in the United States.
Attorney Bill Brestal, leader of Naperville Responds, suggests trying to imagine debris filling an area the size of a football field. Then imagine the debris 42 stories high.
All the debris must be removed before the community can begin to rebuild. Meanwhile, many residents live in tents.
The group of Naperville s business leaders, associations and residents organized by Brestal with the help of Ron Wehrli already has a five-year action plan. The plan is focused yet flexible, and the group is eager for innovative ideas to help provide hope for thousands of survivors who lost nearly all their life s possessions three months ago.
The group (a long list of members is posted at www.napervilleresponds.org) has launched a campaign to raise $2.5 million to help build 20 new single family homes. Pass Christian will be Naperville s domestic Sister City and the campaign is focused on an ongoing exchange between
the two communities.
In the spirit of the holiday season, a brief special event is planned for Naperville Responds on Dec. 11 in downtown Naperville.
The festivities will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Jackson Avenue between Washington and Main streets with a family holiday sing-along and a gathering for an all-community group photo.
The group also is creating a huge Christmas card for residents to sign with seasonal messages of hope and encouragement
A tree lighting and a special gift from Nick Ryan of Ryan Hill Realty will be presented at the Giving Tree by Jimmy s Grill at 4 p.m. Brestal said a family from Pass Christian has been invited to attend to help launch the initiative.
Organizers hope to fill Jackson Avenue from Washington to Main streets with holiday revelers for the community photo they ll use the photo to help raise awareness for the continuing commitment.
To highlight the slogan, Bridging Two Communities, Brestal showed attendees at last week s meeting a snowflake-shaped ornament. He said Ray Kinney of MinuteMan Press donated 1,000 ornaments with a photo of one of the Riverwalk covered bridges to symbolize the cooperative
partnership. Business owners can buy a box of 100 for $1,000 and sell them to help the cause.
The ornaments, which can either grace your Christmas tree or the Naperville Responds Giving Tree, sell for $10 and 100 percent goes to the fundraiser. You can purchase the ornaments at the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, MinuteMan Press, Roseland Home Decor and Brestal’s office, 123 Water St., and more sites will be announced.
Brestal also announced that Mary Ann Junkroski of Roseland Home Decor had volunteered to provide window treatments at cost for the homes after they’re built. And Naperville Responds already has received $75,000 in pledges.
Brestal has visions that every resident will donate a minimum of $10 and that could raise $1.4 million. Local businesses will be tapped to help raise the difference.
If you want to know more about Naperville Responds, visit the Web site at www.NapervilleResponds.org
The group next meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St.
If you want to send a donation in any amount, send it to: Naperville Responds in care of Bill Brestal, 123 Water St., Naperville, IL 60540.
When the givers are in need of some gifts
By Columnist/Commentary Editor Tim West
Nov. 17, 2005
Listening to some folks from Pass Christian, Miss., on Tuesday in the Naperville City Council Chambers, it was tough for some of us to keep our emotions in check.
Pass Christian was one of the towns that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
This may be one of the few times that the word "devastated" doesn't even begin to bring to mind what happened in that town of 7,000.
While those of us here are contemplating the coming of Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, and how we are going to cook a turkey and trim a Christmas tree, residents of Pass Christian are wondering when they are going to have a home again.
Some 75 percent of the houses were destroyed in the hurricane and the floods that followed. Ninety-nine percent of the downtown area is gone, and business is practically nonexistent.
The fire department. Schools. City Hall. All gone.
And of course, with all this went jobs and their concomitant sales tax receipts that fuel the city government.
Wal-Mart gets a lot of bad press these days, but the Wal-Mart that was destroyed in Pass Christian had provided city government with a huge amount of both sales tax and property tax. While people in other parts of the country are fighting having a Wal-Mart in their town, residents of Pass Christian are praying that this one is rebuilt.
It is almost beyond comprehension for those of us who live in the Midwest.
Yes, we have the occasional tornado, like the one that hit Plainfield, with loss of life and destruction of property.
But what happened to the southern part of our country this hurricane season would be as if one of those tornadoes took out northern Illinois, including Chicago, and for good measure destroyed buildings and claimed lives in Wisconsin and Indiana, as well.
Terrible things usually don't happen to several hundred thousand of our countrymen at the same time.
And listening to the four-man delegation from Pass Christian who came to Naperville earlier this week, one is proud of Americans who are doing their best to bring their town back — but it's going to take time, and they are going to need a lot of help.
A new local organization, Naperville Responds, is pledging to raise money in the hopes of replacing at least 20 of the homes, occupied mostly by Pass Christian's poorer residents, that were lost to the storm. The organization's large board of directors includes representatives from all of Naperville, including yours truly. One part of the plan is to have local school district people work with school district people in Pass Christian, librarians to work with librarians, firemen to work with firemen, and so forth, in order to determine what the most pressing needs are and how Naperville can help.
Money to build housing will be raised through various fundraisers in the coming year, as well as by the most basic fundraising method of all — asking people to donate.
This year's city Christmas tree will be decorated with ornaments, costing $10 each, that people will be asked to buy and have hung on the tree. The back of the ornament will have the name of the donor.
The ornaments will be on sale at the Municipal Center, the Naperville Area of Chamber of Commerce and other locations.
Homes may begin being built as soon as next spring or summer, and for people who right now are living in tents and campers, that can't start to happen soon enough.
I'm going to be plugging this effort in this column periodically so you don't forget about it as you go about your well-housed lives in Naperville, so please donate.
More information, and a way to send a donation, can be found at www.napervilleresponds.org .
We were told by the folks from Pass Christian that on a per capita basis, Mississippi is a leading state in charitable giving.
This time, it is those who are ordinarily givers who need our help.