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Season of giving: Nonprofit agencies reaching out for help

Clients Lydia, Vera and Dolores (left to right) ring bells along with the music during a music therapy session Wednesday afternoon at the Elderday Center in Batavia.
Clients Lydia, Vera and Dolores (left to right) ring bells along with the music during a music therapy session Wednesday afternoon at the Elderday Center in Batavia.

For nonprofit agencies in central Kane County, charity truly begins at home.

With state and federal funding drying up because of a rocky economy, nonprofits are appealing to Kane County residents and businesses for much-needed funding this holiday season.

“The recession really hit nonprofits hard,” said Traci Eggleston, executive director of Elderday Center in Batavia, which provides supervised day programming for seniors and has an annual operating budget of just under $400,000. “The late payments from the state do have a detrimental effect.”

For the second straight year, Elderday is doing a mail campaign seeking donations from the community. Last year’s mail appeal raised between $3,000 and $4,000, or one week’s operating expenses for the center, Eggleston said.

“We were very touched,” she said.

Among the items on Elderday’s wish list this year are a new vacuum cleaner, arts and craft supplies, and gift cards to such stores as Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Target and Walmart.

Elderday Center is one of the agencies helped through both the United Way of Central Kane County – which serves the communities of St. Charles, Elburn, Geneva, LaFox, Kaneville, Campton Hills and Wasco – as well as the Batavia United Way.

The Batavia United Way is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for programs that directly benefit Batavians, such as the Elderday Center, Batavia Teen Center and the RSVP medication assistance program.

“Some seniors are having a hard time purchasing their medicine,” Batavia United Way executive director Jody Haltenhof said.

Batavia United Way also seeks to make Christmas a little merrier for a Batavia family in need. For the past seven years, Batavia United Way has sponsored an Adopt a Family program.

“We work along the Batavia school district to find families in need,” Haltenhof said. “There are families in the district that can’t afford to buy Christmas gifts.”

Haltenhof said she feels fortunate the agency met its goal last year to raise $150,000, and she hopes it can do the same next year.

“We previously hadn’t met our goal for several years,” she said. “I think the Batavia community is more aware that we are here along with the good work we are doing.”

The Salvation Army Tri-City Corps finds that one of the best ways to raise funds is asking people face to face. Bell-ringers are stationed in front of stores across the area, next to The Salvation Army’s familiar red kettles.

“We got going in earnest on Black Friday,” kettle coordinator David Byrne said. “I think it is a great way to get the message out to the community and to have a presence in the community.”

Last year’s Christmas campaign – which included both bell-ringing and a direct mail appeal – garnered $410,000 for the Tri-City Corps, surpassing its goal of $325,000. Byrne said he doesn’t think the need for the agency will go away anytime soon.

“Look at the statistics for people in need,” he said. “We feed roughly 300 to 350 families a week in this office.”

The Geneva History Center relies heavily on the community to fund the museum and its exhibits and programs.

“We don’t get money from anywhere else,” Geneva History Center executive director Terry Emma said. “We rely on the public to support what we do.”

This month, visitors can support the center while they are viewing its holiday exhibits. At 12:45 p.m. Thursday and Dec. 15, the Geneva History Center will host luncheons that spotlight the 18th-century Neapolitan nativity scene on display in the center.

Proceeds from the luncheons benefit the History Center and help in the ongoing restoration of the creche. The nativity set was purchased by Kate Raftery of the Little Traveler, where it was displayed each Christmas since 1930.

“We are in perpetual care of the creche,” Emma said. “Geneva High School culinary students create the menu, and celebrity servers serve the lunch. It kind of kicks the Christmas season off for me.”

Tickets cost $55 and can be purchased at the Geneva History Center or online at

The Geneva History Center also sponsors a program through Dec. 27 called Geneva Giving Trees. Local nonprofit organizations are invited to decorate a Christmas tree representing their mission and service, which are displayed at the Geneva History Center through the holidays.

The community is encouraged to vote for their favorite tree with their dollars at the History Center and on its website – every dollar is one vote. The winning organization is announced at a news conference on Dec. 28 and will receive all of their funds voted to support their tree. The remaining organizations split their winnings with the History Center.

“It’s kind of a community nonprofit fundraiser,” Emma said.

LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva also has several items on its wish list this Christmas, including games and art supplies for its ever-growing children's program and bottled water for participants in the center's yoga and exercise classes.

"Monetary donations are also welcome," said Nancy Vance, LivingWell's executive director.

The center provides 60 programs free of charge to participants, she said.

Want to help?

Listed are various nonprofit agencies in central Kane County that are seeking donations this holiday season:

Elderday Center,

United Way of Central Kane County,

Batavia United Way,

The Salvation Army Tri-City Corps,

Geneva History Center,

Geneva Community Chest,

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