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Stepping up for Stand Down Day

Rotarians, Interact Club members volunteer to aid homeless veterans

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 5:00 a.m. CST
Caption
(Photo provided)
Alexx Herrra, Lauren Wasko, Sandra Segura (treasurer), Erica Gualandi, members of the Interact Club at Morris Community High School, sort clothes as volunteers during the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down Day on Nov. 9 at Humboldt Park Armory. The day was designed to fullfil the needs of homeless veterans for the winter.

For the first time, the Morris Rotary Club and its extension at Morris Community High School, the Interact Club, participated in Chicago’s Stand Down Day, helping hundreds of homeless veterans.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down Days are held to prepare homeless veterans or veterans in need for the winter. Chicago veterans received coats, packages of food, screenings, hair cuts, clothing and more.

The event was held at Humboldt Park Armory, where Morris Rotarians and 10 Interact Club senior students volunteered Nov. 9.

“Our kids were absolutely amazing. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said  how polite they were and how helpful they were,” said Amy Barr, Rotarian, teacher and Interact Club sponsor. “They said they couldn’t do it without them.”

“Our school and our community should be proud knowing we have such great kids,” she continued. Interact Club President Rachel Neuhalfen was present at the Morris Rotary meeting where Rotary International District 6450 Governor Pat Merryweather talked to the club about the district’s participation in Stand Down Day and helping to gather coats from their local community.

Neuhalfen turned to Barr at the meeting and said the Interact Club had to be involved.

“I like to volunteer and it’s really important to give back to our veterans because they’ve given so much to us,” she said.

The students were shocked by the amount of homeless people right in front of their eyes at the event. Neuhalfen said she could not have imagined the amount of people she would see that day.

“I want to be in the Marines, so it was heartbreaking to see my brothers and sisters I could have served under or with there,” said Anthony Majcen, Interact Club member.

The students left Morris at 5 a.m. and left Chicago at about 2 p.m. that day. They helped with numerous jobs, such as sorting donations, serving food, and helping veterans find and try on coats.

For Airrha Alcanar, Interact member, the entire day was emotional and one she’ll never forget. One of the veterans gave her and another volunteer his hat as a token of his appreciation. It’s a memento she’ll always cherish, she said.

The Morris Rotary Club gathered about 500 coats for the Chicago Stand Down Day, said Morris Rotary President John Carr. The coats were donated from community members to the club directly or at drop boxes throughout the area.

Rotarian Alan Ferrari volunteered at the event and was overwhelmed by what he witnessed as well. At last year’s event, there were 75 coats and 800 veterans, so the Morris club jumped at the opportunity to make sure that didn’t happen again. This year, there were 4,000 coats.

“You know you’re doing some good when you literally hand them something they need,” he said. “But I didn’t do half the work the kids did. They were out there that whole day.”

For the event, about 4,000 coats were collected, 800 hats and gloves, 1,000 pairs of wool socks, 2,000 comforters, 2,000 amenity kits, and more than 850 sacks of food, according to rotarydistrict6450.org.

The Interact Club is an extension of the Morris Rotary Club and does service projects both outside and inside of school. It has 25 active members and 40 general members. For more information on the club visit morrishs.org.

For more information on the Morris Rotary Club visit morrisrotary.org.

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