CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Charitable efforts by Prairie State College prior to its semester break helped both children and veterans over the holidays.
The Student Veterans Club held its fourth annual collection that benefits the Manteno Veterans Home.
Professor Andy Schott, faculty adviser to the Veterans Club, said the collection begins every October and runs until the end of the semester.
Schott said veterans who reside at the Manteno facility are provided with mostly the basic necessities unless they have family members nearby to bring them additional goods such as toiletry items, underwear and snack foods.
"So what we try to do is collect those types of things to make life a little easier for the veteran that is at the Veterans Home," Schott said.
He said the collection was initiated by the Student Veterans Club, but the Prairie State community in general donates most of the items that are dropped off at the Student Veterans Center.
"We collect around 1,500 items for the veterans, and those items range from toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, socks," Schott said.
He said people don't always realize there are also female veterans who reside at the Manteno Veterans Home.
"In a sense, there's a uniqueness in our donation giving that we do take an interest in the women veterans, who are overlooked, unfortunately," Schott said.
He said members of the PSC faculty and staff, along with area residents, have collected or made items specifically for women, such as scarves and jewelry.
Schott said a director at the Manteno facility has told him the female veterans definitely appreciate the targeted gifts.
Children were also the recipients of Prairie State's generosity, as more than 150 brand new toys were collected at the staff and faculty's annual holiday party last month.
"Everybody was asked to bring at least one toy," said Pat Trost, executive assistant to the president.
Some brought more than one toy, all of which were dropped off at RESPOND NOW in Chicago Heights.
"It's an organization that the college has supported for a while," Trost said. "They provide essential services to people in the south suburban, Cook County area."
RESPOND NOW Executive Director Carl Wolf said the donated toys came in handy since the organization that would normally provide 1,000 children with toys, food and clothing at Christmastime had to provide for upwards of 1,400 this time.
He said RESPOND NOW helped pick up the slack since two other agencies stopped providing Christmas giveaways.
"We were not sure if we were gonna make it, but we did, we received enough toys," Wolf said. "Between Prairie State and different families and different organizations even as far as downtown, we were able to give every kid at least one toy and a secondary gift."
Wolf said RESPOND NOW received more toys than usual this holiday season and thinks people responded to the call when they heard the organization was worried that it had to help more children.
"The south suburbs are pretty amazing in that way," Wolf said. "It's a very tight-knit community."