CN makes Christmas merrier in Forest Park
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org December 24, 2012 7:02PM
Bettye Gavin is the executive director at Forest Park Community Center as seen Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, in Joliet. CN Railroad announced a $100,000 contribution to the center. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 26, 2013 6:18AM
The spirit of giving has been alive at the Forest Park Community Center in Joliet this Christmas season.
CN railroad last week gave the center $40,000, a donation described as a lifeline for the nonprofit social service agency. The money is part of a $100,000 contribution through 2014 from CN, which has one of its largest railroad yard’s next to the Forest Park neighborhood.
The center, which has been making toys and food baskets available to low-income residents this Christmas season, will use the money in part to make computers available to people who otherwise might not have access to the technology.
“We’re trying to close that digital divide,” said Bettye Gavin, executive director of the Forest Park Community Center since September.
Gavin said she’s been impressed by the spirit of giving that exists at the Forest Park Community Center.
“The people’s hearts for giving this year is actually amazing — even people who volunteer just to provide some help,” Gavin said.”
Thanks to financial contributions provided to the center, the agency was able to make Christmas merrier for people who don’t have much.
“We were able to provide 150 families with toys for Christmas and an additional 75 families with food baskets for Christmas,” she said.
The CN contribution provides more long-term sustenance for the agency. Forest Park Community Center has faced its own financial struggles. A $23,000 donation from Silver Cross Hospital earlier this year kept the lights on, Gavin said.
The money from CN will provide some financial stability while also enabling the agency to work with local residents on computers skill and job training, as well as provide other services like a preschool center and financial literacy programs.
Many of the people who rely on Forest Park Community Center would not otherwise have access to a computer to look for a job or even apply for a job — much of which has to be done online now, Gavin noted.
“Members of the community who do not have computers will be able to come use our computers,” she said. The agency has five computer stations now. It will have 10 thanks to CN.
CN has what is called its “Stronger Communities Fund.”
“It’s our corporate giving,” said CN spokesman Patrick Waldron.
The Forest Park Community Center is the type of agency that the company helps with its Stronger Communities Fund, especially because of Forest Park’s proximity to CN’s Joliet rail yard.
“We look to support organizations that are active where we have large operations and a large employee base,” Waldron said.
Gavin said the donation was “like a breath of fresh air” for the Forest Park Community Center.
“It’s a huge Christmas gift that will benefit the entire community,” she said.