Founded in 1996, Assistance League Chicagoland West (AL) is one of 120+ chapters of Assistance League, a national organization that has put caring and commitment into action for 80 years. Their all-volunteer membership identifies unmet community needs, structures programs to fill those needs, and raises the funds necessary to deliver quality solutions. All money raised assists those struggling in western Cook and DuPage Counties. As local needs change, their programs adapt accordingly. They are always looking for new ways to serve.
Last year, Assistance League Chicagoland West members volunteered more than 8,000 hours and touched the lives of nearly 3,000 people across the western suburbs. Some of their most notable programs include Operation School Bell, New Start, Early Reading Literacy, and Scholars Support.
“Our entire organization is run by volunteers,” explains AL Chicagoland West’s executive director Ricki Lessig, an organization member for the last two decades, and executive director for the last 10. “We work, we shop, we pack, we fit the kids with their new coats—we do it all. But that’s what keeps me coming back—the amazing people who are committed to the Assistance League. We are hands on in every sense of the word.”
Operation School Bell provides new winter coats, hats, and gloves for local school kids in need, encouraging school attendance in the worst weather.
New Start provides all new kitchen essentials for families leaving homelessness—encouraging nutritious, home-cooked meals while maximizing limited budget resources.
Early Reading Literacy backpacks are distributed to local Head Start sites and targeted low-income schools, encouraging a life-long love of reading.
Scholars Support Scholarships are offered to at-risk students at College of DuPage, encouraging graduation.
“Most people don’t realize how vital these programs are in our very own backyards,” Lessig says. “When our volunteers see with their own eyes the difference we can make we can come together is incredible. That’s often why our volunteers stay with us because they can actually see the impact they are having.”
AL Chicagoland West’s annual fundraiser Books & Brunch, also celebrating its 20th anniversary, is being held on Tuesday, November 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Abbington in Glen Ellyn. Three authors donate their time to discuss their work and sign copies of their books. This year’s featured authors include Ron Balson (Once We Were Brothers), Ted Sanders (The Keepers), and Christine Sneed (Paris, He Said). Books & Brunch will also include a silent auction, raffle, and boutique. NBC 5 News Chicago’s Dick Johnson will emcee the event. Last year, Books & Brunch raised more than $170,000. AL volunteers plan the entire event.
“Books & Brunch is an annual highlight,” adds Lessig. “It’s a great way for those interested in AL to get to know who we are.”
To learn more about Assistance League Chicagoland West or to purchase tickets to Books & Brunch, visit alcw.org.