|Responding to the Overwhelming|
Dear Friends of the Grundy County Housing Authority:
The recent events in Newtown, Connecticut, have sparked mourning all across the United States. And certainly the loss of our own extraordinary Sheriff Terry Marketti has caused much grief for many people here at home. As I sat on Sunday evening listening to the vigil in Newtown, I wanted to write something. But I knew there was truly little chance anything I could say would not be thought or spoken in the coming months or days, so much so that I nearly didn't begin to write.
But then I caught myself. That's really the problem, isn't it? We become so overwhelmed by the horrific, by the awful, that we believe we cannot effectively act. Because there is so little we can do alone, we fail to realize what we can do together.
Here at the Grundy County Housing Authority we believe one of the best ways we can honor the memory of these people is by taking as good care of each other as we possibly are able. And we don’t mean that in the terms of just taking care of ourselves – we mean it in the broadest sense - all of us helping to take care of all of us. We believe this is how to best respond to the overwhelming, be it our collective grief, or the overwhelming circumstances we sometimes face in providing services to some of Grundy County’s people with disabilities and elderly most in need.
We asked you for one dollar to help pay for a Christmas meal for our residents. You responded. Man, did ever you respond!
As a result, we had a delicious meal at Saratoga Tower, catered by R Place in Morris, Illinois. Santa stopped in, we sang Christmas carols, and anyone who wanted could sit on Santa’s lap for a picture and feel like child all over again. On a day when our nation mourned for the families in Newtown, Connecticut, and people all over Grundy County mourned the loss of our sheriff, we were able to end the day knowing somehow Christmas would still come, and somehow we would still be able to smile again.
Then we provided a second meal, this time for our residents who live in the Southern Grundy County, those who live in Gardner and Mazon. We gathered in the Pfiefer Community Center in Mazon and shared great food, catered by Maria’s Ristorante in Morris, IL, and some special treats provided by the Shane and April Gilbertson family. This is a Christmas dinner we’ve never before been able to have – there just wasn’t money to do it. To sit and see our residents feel so special, so cared for, is a memory I will no doubt cherish for a very long time to come.
The third thing we will be able to do with your gifts involves an almost unbelievable host of people, and has an outcome of which we hope you will heartily approve. We believe it addresses a year round need, as well as some needs into the future, and we also think it beautifully illustrates the power of what we can do when we work together.
The Erienna Township Board of Supervisors, the Community Nutrition Network, and the Saratoga Tower Resident Council, will match the remainder of your gifts to purchase a vending machine for Saratoga Tower. Saratoga Tower Resident Council will stock and maintain the machine with healthy alternatives from our friends at Timber Creek Farms. Income from the machine will be used to fund Resident Council activities, and to do something we believe truly extraordinary – make our residents philanthropists.
At its last meeting the Saratoga Tower Resident Council (which is comprised of every resident of the building) voted to begin its own donor advised fund at the Community Foundation of Grundy County. A portion of the proceeds from the vending machine will be placed into the fund on a monthly basis and, after the fund has grown, they will begin to make grants to people in need. Yes, you read that right – our residents, who have an average household income of less than $12,000.00 per year, will give away some of the money they could use to benefit only themselves, to pay your kindness forward by helping other people. This was their collective decision, and it was unanimous.
Now we realize buying a vending isn’t exactly where we started the conversation. We asked for your dollar to help with a Christmas meal. We did that. Twice. What is more, we did it in ways we think are reasonable and responsible. However, if for any reason you believe it is inappropriate to use a portion of the gifts we received in this way, we will happily use your donation in any way you direct, even if it means you would like us to return it to you. By partnering with others for a related purpose we hope you will know how seriously we value everything you do to help us, and how much we believe in the power of working together.
My final thoughts for you this holiday season are purely personal. Thank you. Thank you for making me a part of this extraordinary community. Thank for giving me the opportunity to work with an unbelievably smart, kind, and generous group of people. And thank you for filling my life to overflowing with so much more than I could ever deserve. It is in every way both an honor and a privilege to be a part of leading this organization.
From my family to you and all you call family, may you know great peace and great joy this holiday season, even as you have given them to us.
Very truly yours,
T. Brent Newman, J.D.