Joliet center in need of donor support
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org February 8, 2012 9:32PM
Tony Ray, of the Forest Park Community Center in Joliet, checks in on Robertine Cole's early learning center class at the facilty Monday, January 31, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 25, 2012 9:50PM
JOLIET — Tony Ray is doing his usual scramble for money at the Forest Park Community Center. The ongoing struggle for funding is harder this year because Ray was hospitalized in late 2011 for kidney problems and continues to face health challenges.
“I’m OK,” Ray said in a recent interview at the community center. “I have 17 staples in my arm. I have a catheter in my chest. I’m on dialysis.”
Other than that, as Ray said, he’s doing OK.
Ray was in good spirits that day if for no other reason than that AT&T had just presented the center with a check for $1,500. The money will be used for youth mentoring and the food pantry at the center, which provides a variety of community services for the low-income community that surrounds the building at 1017 Woodruff Road.
Throughout the year, Ray said, his job will include raising about $150,000 to pay the bills and fund programs at the center.
That effort suffered a setback when Ray became ill last year. He was unable to organize the annual Making a Difference banquet, a big fundraiser usually held in late January.
The bank account is running “very low,” Ray said. It’s down to about $3,000, and Ray said the AT&T check was a big help. But he still needs to raise money.
“I just sent a mailer out to all of our supporters,” he said. The mailer explains why there was no banquet and seeks contributions.
The Forest Park Community Center was started in 1990 by Louise Ray, who wasn’t related Tony. Louise Ray was the center’s only director until her death in 2009. Tony Ray took over that year as executive director.
Founded to give young people an alternative to the trouble they might get into in the streets, the center offers mentoring, job counseling and computer training. It also has a preschool. For seniors, there is a Meals-On-Wheels program.
Ray said he enjoys the support of “a great board of directors and a good staff.” The center also is lucky to have certain benefactors, such as local car dealer Terry D’Arcy.
“Terry D’Arcy just promised me $5,000. Thank God for Terry,” Ray said. “I couldn’t thank Terry enough from the day I took over.”
The center also gets support from community leaders and business people who come as guest speakers to offer young people insights into life and working.
Guest speakers this year have included Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas, local accountant Charles Meade and Joliet insurance businessman G.L. Tyus.
“I’m certain things are going to work out,” Ray said. “We’ve been there before. I just thank God, and I’m sure everything will work out accordingly.”