Carts, Client Choice and April Food Day


“There is nothing quite like seeing this for yourself to understand why this is so important,” said Rick Pesavento, United Way of DuPage/West Cook Fundraising Manager, as we reconvened in the community room after an enlightening tour of Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry in Naperville, Illinois. “This really helps us tell the story to our donors as we collect food all across the region for April Food Day.”

The Client Choice model gives clients a sense of dignity as they shop through the rows of what feels like the typical grocery store. The most nutritious choices are marked with a “Smart Check” label that indicates the item is low in sugar, salt, fat and high in fiber. Clients are given an allotted number of choices in each category based on family size, and they can select the items within each food group that meet their family’s tastes and nutritional needs.

“This leads to less waste and addresses any cultural and family preferences,” said Jane Macdonald Sr. Program Director of Loaves & Fishes.

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The organization’s five guiding principles, Community, Compassion, Dignity, Hope and Service were apparent in every part of their operation. More than 100 volunteers dedicate their time and service each day. Loaves and Fishes can proudly boast national recognition as one of the leaders in “food recovery.”

Jody Bender, their Community Relations Director, told our group: “Food recovery or food rescue is the practice of safely retrieving foods that would otherwise go to waste–and a perfect way to provide many more fresh food items to our clients. Once delivered or picked up by our pantry, our volunteers sort through racks carrying fruits and vegetables of all varieties to pull the items that are usable. Within 24 to 48 hours, the remaining products are in the kitchens of needy area families.”

In line with United Way of DuPage/West Cook’s agency partners, Loaves and Fishes does more than provide one-time direct service–they provide a holistic approach and offer wrap-around supportive services such as ESL classes, help accessing benefits, and employment assistance to help people break the cycle of poverty. Loaves and Fishes calls this approach “Pathways to Empowerment” as it charts a course to self-sufficiency.

As quoted by one of their clients, “At one point of my life, I had it together. Never would I have thought I would be waiting in line at a food pantry. Once I lost my job at a mortgage company, I found myself seeking assistance to meet the daily needs for my child and myself. I have now volunteered and am giving back to the community. Thank you for sharing and caring.”

If you or your company would like to donate food to April Food Day, click here to find a drop-off location in your area. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Jamana Jamison at 630.645.6339 or

Freedom Middle School Receives Gold Award of Distinction

Over the course of the last few years, Freedom Middle School, along with the seven other schools in South Berwyn School District #100, has made a commitment to help not only our students become healthier, but improve the health of our surrounding community as well. Our approach began simply by working with Aramark, our food service provider, to serve only the healthiest meals to our students. It continued to grow by eliminating all nonessential food in and out of the classroom, including candy rewards in classes and celebrations where food was incorporated. It may not seem like a big deal, but we truly felt that we were teaching our students unhealthy habits by celebrating in unhealthy ways. Now, instead of celebrating with pizza and pop, we celebrate with healthy fruit or other low fat, low sugar snacks. At the same time, our physical education teachers began to transition our physical education program from a game-based to a fitness-based program. For us, this meant students taking part in more fitness-related activities like running up and down the staircases in our building or simply running more than ever. Instead of playing a traditional game of basketball, our students played modified basketball games designed for full participation while challenging them to improve their overall cardiovascular endurance. The breadth of our approach all changed with the help of United Way and OfficeMax and we could not be more grateful. During the summer of 2011, Freedom Middle School partnered with Youth Crossroads (a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing counseling services to the Berwyn Community) and submitted a grant application to create a Community Schools Initiative as part of United Way’s LIVE UNITED 2020 vision to help increase the number of middle school students prepared for high school. During that time, OfficeMax was also working with United Way to adopt a local school and after reviewing our grant application and visiting our school, decided to adopt Freedom Middle School and pledged $1,000,000 in funding over a three-year period. Because of United Way and Office Max’s commitment, our students now have access to a state-of-the-art fitness center filled with cardio equipment designed to help improve their overall fitness. While in physical education class, students will have regular opportunities to workout using the various elliptical machines, treadmills, spin bikes, and step mills. During these workouts, the students also have the opportunity to watch educational content on TV monitors or listen to music to further enhance their learning. We also instituted morning fitness clubs where as many as 35 students have been seen at school at 6:30 am in order to get their workouts in before class starts. We are most excited about the possibility of opening up our fitness center to our community after school hours where we hope to provide quality opportunities for families to come in and use the equipment, free of charge. In March, Freedom Middle School hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for this new fitness center and filled the school with local organizations that provide health-related services to our community. Again, through our partnership with Youth Crossroads and with the help of United Way and Office Max, we were able to connect more than 350 families with services that they may not have known existed to help our community live healthier lives. We recently completed an application to the HealthierUS School Challenge as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and I am very pleased to announce that Freedom Middle School, along with five other schools in District #100, have received the Gold Award of Distinction. The additional two schools in our district won Silver Awards, which is the highest award they qualified for based on the various requirements set forth in the challenge. None of this would have been possible with out the fantastic leadership in District #100, the dedicated staff members of Freedom Middle School, or the substantial commitment to our programs provided by United Way and Office Max. While we have so much to be proud of, we know that our work is not close to being done and we plan to continue working with all of our great partners to ensure that our students and our community continues to have access to programs that will help them lead longer, healthier lives. Blog post submitted on behalf of Jim Calabrese, Principal at Freedom Middle School.  

LIVE UNITED 5k a Race to Remember

On Saturday, May 5, United Way of DuPage/West Cook held its third annual LIVE UNITED 5K Run/Walk at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Kellogg Company, UWDWC’s top corporate citizen, was again the title sponsor of the event, and we were thrilled to have Tony the Tiger make an appearance! I’ve run a fair number of 5Ks in my life, but actually planning and managing a race is a very different experience. What makes races special are the people — those who sponsor it, those who plan it, those who volunteer to make everything happen that morning, and those who run and walk it. People have many reasons to participate in races — to exercise, to enjoy a nice park or neighborhood trail, to support a social cause, to be part of a team of colleagues or friends, and many others. For some, it’s the first time they have walked or ran a 5K, and the determination to finish and the joy after crossing the finish line are truly inspiring. I hope this was a memorable race for our participants. I’ll bet people will remember the nice weather, the beautiful gardens and old WWI tanks at Cantigny, or the wild turkeys you could hear gobbling along the course. They may remember their finish time, and they may post a picture of their family or team together with Tony the Tiger on Facebook (I sure did!). I hope they’ll remember the reason this race was created — to support United Way of DuPage/West Cook’s Southeast DuPage Health Initiative, a free clinic and medical home in Westmont for uninsured adults. I had a great time. Congratulations to everyone who placed; congratulations to our biggest team, OfficeMax; congratulations to all our first-time 5K participants; and THANK YOU to all our volunteers and sponsors, especially Kellogg Company. You all LIVE UNITED and are our inspiration. Submitted on behalf of Esther Hicks, Director of Community Investment at United Way of DuPage/West Cook  

Kellogg Proudly Sponsoring LIVE UNITED 5k

Submitted on behalf of  Ella Lambrix, Kellogg Company.   Kellogg Company is proud to sponsor the United Way LIVE UNITED 5k. This event is an excellent way for our Kellogg teams in the Chicagoland area to get involved with the organization beyond our annual campaign. Our company’s vision is to “to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter.” We enrich lives not only through our brands, but through our involvement in our communities. We look forward to the excitement of race day and continuing to support the LIVE UNITED 2020 vision.

Kellogg Company Makes an Impact through Skills-Based Volunteering

Submitted on behalf of Laura Olson, Fundraising Manager at United Way of DuPage/West Cook. You may have heard United Way reference the term “the line that connects” when talking about the work that we do. The premise behind this is bringing together needs and available resources in the community. Because of the conversations United Way is involved in throughout the community, we were able to do just that. Kellogg Company, United Way of DuPage/West Cook’s top corporate partner, came to us with a service that their summer Information Technology (IT) interns would be willing to offer to a non-profit agency in need of technical assistance. United Way staff were able to match them up with the DuPage Federation on Human Service Reform, who requested that the Kellogg IT interns work with them on their online training capabilities. In addition to several other programs, the DuPage Federation offers training on veterans affairs. They wanted an easier way folks could access the information and make the training more user-friendly. The Kellogg IT interns were able to take a training manual and convert it into a comprehensive, interactive program. The program was transformed into an online training module complete with instruction levels, voice-overs, interactive examples, and end-of-level quizzes to test the knowledge the participants had just learned. It made the work for everyone involved in the training and certification processes easier and more enjoyable. The Kellogg IT interns, with supervision and guidance from Kellogg IT staff, were able to gain valuable technical and project management experience while helping a local community organization. As a result of the fantastic efforts of the team, Kellogg was nominated and has been named a 2012 Computerworld Honors Laureate. The Computerworld awards process evaluates the humanitarian benefits and measurable results of applying technology to meet a specific social need. On behalf of United Way of DuPage/West Cook and The DuPage Federation on Human Service Reform, we thank Kellogg Company for their commitment to the community. We are proud of the work that was able to be accomplished. Thank you for being a part of “the line that connects.” This project was a perfect example of the skills-based volunteerism that United Way would like to realize at many of our partner organizations. Many individuals and companies out there have special skills such as technical, financial or leadership skills that they could offer to non-profit organizations who would not otherwise be able to afford such services. If you have a special skill or service and would like to volunteer, please contact Carrie Newton.

Join Us for Money Smart Week 2012

Post submitted on behalf of Grant Myatt, Communications Intern at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.   Tax season is over, although, money is something always on the mind. Money Smart Week from April 21-28 is a great opportunity to relieve some stress and learn more about money management. This year’s Money Smart Week celebrates 10 years of helping citizens improve their financial literacy and education. The program provides a series of free classes and activities to help consumers better manage their personal finances. The event, organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, began in 2002 and now partners with the American Library Association to bring classes to more than 30 states. Class topics range from Credit & Debt Management to Teens & Money and are free to attend. United Way of DuPage/West Cook is proud to be involved with Money Smart Week again by offering two classes about financial education. In Westmont, The Southeast DuPage Health Initiative will host a Personal Financing 101 and Budgeting class on Monday, April 23. The class will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. in both English and Spanish. Presented by First Midwest Bank, the class is designed for those looking to understand their financial position and how to achieve financial success, money management advice and individual evaluation. In partnership with BMO Harris, the second class on Thursday, April 26 will take place at Outreach Community Ministries, one of United Way’s partner organizations. Representatives from BMO Harris will present their “Get Real” program for teenagers. United Way’s CEO, Wendy DuBoe, will also present as the keynote speaker at the Money Smart Week Kick-off Breakfast Monday April 23 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. For more information, check out the calendar of events for Money Smart Week 2012.

Berwyn Community School Initiative Celebrates New Fitness Center

Earlier this week, Freedom Middle School proudly celebrated the grand opening of a new, high-tech fitness center for their students. Over 300 families, students and local community partners gathered for a “Healthy Families Night” to properly ceremonialize this exciting new addition.  Attendees enjoyed complimentary Zumba classes, family dodge ball, and healthy food samplings. Local community partners lined the hallways with booths for families to stop by and learn about each organization and the different services being offered in their community. Each booth offered bins of fresh fruits and vegetables for the attending families, and community organizations provided giveaways and services such as flu shots and blood pressure tests. The new fitness center offers high-tech equipment including treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals, and much more. The equipment will be used by Freedom Middle School students during gym or after school programs and fitness clubs, as well as District 100 employees, with the goal of eventually being able to open the center to the public. The event was supported by the Berwyn Community School Initiative (BCSI), comprised of Freedom Middle School, Heritage Middle School, Youth Crossroads, OfficeMax Incorporated and United Way.  In addition, local officials also made appearances including Mayor Lovero of Berwyn; Michele Skryd, Fourth Ward Alderman of Berwyn; Stanley Fields, District 100 Superintendent; and District 100 Board and Foundation members. With the partnership of the BCSI, Freedom Middle School is able to offer students a safe place to spend quality after-school time creating lasting healthy habits and positive relationships with their peers. The BCSI is part of United Way’s 10-year vision, LIVE UNITED 2020, aimed at positioning community schools as a ‘place-based’ hub of service to create strong families and vibrant communities. OfficeMax Incorporated is the first company to adopt a community school and has granted $1 million over the next three years to the BCSI. The donation will be used to help improve education by boosting classroom and community services for the school’s students and their families.

United Way of DuPage/West Cook Welcomes New Chief Professional Officer David Cassel

United Way of DuPage/West Cook (UWDWC) is pleased to announce David Cassel has joined the organization as Chief Professional Officer (CPO). In his new role, Cassel will be the catalyst to mobilize relationships with local community stakeholders, corporate partners and community volunteers. He will also play an integral role in spearheading the organization’s LIVE UNITED 2020 movement in the west suburban communities. Cassel joins the United Way team from Alliance of Local Service Organizations (ALSO) where he served as the Executive Director. During his tenure at ALSO, he expanded the organization’s work to a national level; increased revenue from $500,000 to $2.8 million; thoughtfully recruited a strong/engaged governance board; and developed and executed a new strategic plan which created organizational capacity, increased community awareness and strengthened meaningful partnerships. Prior to ALSO, Cassel held management positions with the National Center for Violence Interruption, The Children’s Guild and the American Academy of Dermatology. He also led a special consulting assignment for the Chicago Public Schools. He received his Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his Bachelor of Arts in Peace & Conflict Studies/Communications from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. In 2009, Cassel was named “Chicago 35 under 35” by the Community Renewal Society for his commitment to eliminating race and class barriers. In 2008, he received the Community Partnership Award from the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention/CeaseFire; and, in 2011, received their Community Leadership Award.

Oak Park/River Forest/Forest Park Community Event A Success

United Way of DuPage/West Cook hosted its first community event on October 26th at Pleasant Home in Oak Park where Wendy DuBoe, Chief Operating Officer at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, spoke to local donors, partner organizations, board members and volunteers about United Way’s 10-year vision, LIVE UNITED 2020. The focus of the event was to present how United Way is advancing the common good in our three focus areas income, education and health throughout the Oak Park/River Forest/Forest Park community. Of United Way’s $9.3 million regional investment, United Way is investing $300,000 of that into Oak Park/River Forest/Forest Park, impacting more than 30,000 individuals in this region. Contributing attendance consisted of Oak Park and River Forest early childhood partner organizations United Way will be working with over the next several years including Elizabeth Lippit, Executive Director at The Children’s Clinic, Kathy Kern Executive Director at Parenthesis, Lynda Schueler, Executive Director at West Suburban PADS, Mena Boulanger, Oak Park/River Forest Community Foundation Board President, and Gavin Morgan, Oak Park Township Manager. I believe these community events are important for our donors, volunteers and partner organizations so they can not only understand the impact of what United Way dollars are doing, but understand what our strategy is for the next 10 years, why we are headed in this direction and what their support can do.

The Southeast DuPage Health Initiative Reaches Goal In First Year

The Southeast DuPage/Health Initative (SDHI), now in its second year of operation, is a highly innovative collaboration between Access DuPage, the DuPage Community Clinic, the DuPage Health Department and United Way of Dupage/West Cook that continues to help close the gap in access to holistic, affordable health services throughout DuPage County. SDHI has connected over 2,200 low-income adults to a trusted medical home and improved the health of communities across the entire county, just in the past year. Of those adults, over 1,100 have utilized services at the clinic, and about 20% have utilized additional coordinated services, such as mental health or case management for additional obstacles they may face. Patients received over 13,000 affordable prescription medications in the past year. Because of the model’s effective care of the uninsured, SDHI has created new partnerships with local health services to increase access to dental services, ophthalmology and other critical specialty care. The program is forging new partnerships with local health students as well, including mental health clinical partnerships with United Way partner agency Metropolitan Family Services. To learn more about this initiative click here.