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Momence woman leads collection that donated more than 1,000 toys

MOMENCE — Even during the busiest time of year for a delivery driver, Momence resident Amanda Morellas delivered on one of her largest donation drives to date.

More than 1,000 toys filled nine large Toys for Tots boxes at a drop site on Sunday, Nov. 28, after a five-week donation drive raised about $2,800.

A total of 325 local families will have toys under the Christmas tree this year thanks to the effort.

“All my spare time outside of my super busy UPS schedule was going to my kid, of course, and this toy drive,” she said. “It makes me feel great to help.”

This was the first time Morellas helped lead a donation drive for Toys for Tots. She was joined by 7-year-old Hayden Franc, of Momence, who asked to help with the drive.

Morellas said the success is the result of a group of great friends and family who help whenever she asks for donations and willingly meet her after work or along her route to donate.

A UPS driver for 14 years, she said she’s come to know and befriend many people over the years.

“I get the most generous help from the most generous people,” she said. “It’s all them, not me. I just motivate them.”

It may have been her first year contributing to Toys for Tots, but Morellas is no stranger to donation drives.

She raised $1,000 in one week last July to provide lunch to the Riverside staff.

The Agape Community Outreach Mission, located inside the Asbury United Methodist Church in Kankakee, has benefitted numerous times from outstanding food pantry donations from Morellas and her group of supporters.

One Christmas, Morellas adopted a family chosen from the Bible Witness Camp and went above and beyond to spread the holiday cheer.

“I dropped the donation myself and left a sobbing mess,” she said of her happy tears following the experience. “I am blessed, and I feel I am here to be a good human and example for the next generations to come.”

Morellas hopes to encourage people to donate what they can to help others in their community.

A list of Toys for Tots donation sites can be found at kankakee-il.toysfortots.org.


Local
Local people send many boxes to Operation Christmas Child

In this “season of giving,” some community members have gone above and beyond.

In her 21st year of participating in Operation Christmas Child, Sylvia Boozer, of St. Anne, put together and donated 253 shoe boxes during last month’s collection at Faith Reformed Church. These boxes will be given to children in need all around the world through Samaritan’s Purse, the international Christian relief organization that runs the program with 4,500 drop-off sites for donations.

While Boozer spends all year working on this project, she made it clear that it is a group effort.

“It’s not just me. It’s other people who know what I do and they give their generosity,” she said, noting that friends, family and even strangers she meets in stores have given donations along the way.

Boozer has created a list of the 27 people and which box each person helped with. In addition, for a woman who mailed a $200 check as a donation, Boozer is making a list of everything she was able to purchase with that money.

When Operation Christmas Child lets Boozer know where each of her boxes was sent, she plans to contact the 27 helpers with that information.

“I’m looking forward to finding out where the boxes went,” she said, sharing that past boxes have been sent to places like Colombia and Tanzania.

Dorinda Trovillion, of Chebanse, double-checked the contents of boxes headed for Colombia on Monday in the Chicago area’s OCC processing center in Aurora. She volunteers there in addition to being a year-round OCC volunteer at her church, Bethel Baptist Church in Bourbonnais.

Though she said Bethel Baptist Church only averages 60 to 70 people attending Sunday worship, the church contributed 1,283 boxes.

“It is not unusual when we have a packing party to have somebody that is 8 years old packing a shoe box and somebody who’s 90,” Trovillion said.

Preparing the gifts

Boozer has a dedicated closet where she stores all of her supplies and she uses her dining room as her “little elf workshop.”

When she first began, the organization did not supply the boxes as they now do, so Boozer was on a constant mission to obtain shoeboxes. She would ask friends, family and neighbors for their boxes, and would even make weekly trips to every local shoe store to pick up discarded or unneeded boxes.

“I’m of the mindset that I like to recognize others and I’m very grateful [to the people who have helped],” she shared. “Even if you do just one box, that’s a labor of love. I think everyone who did one box should get recognition.”

This year, the church supplied her with 100 boxes. For each box, Boozer wraps the lid and the bottom of the box to make it look like a present.

When she started in 2000, she did one box for a girl and one box for a boy. Over time, the labor of love became a year-round project and she is able to create so many boxes by shopping sales and clearance.

Like Boozer, Trovillion started packing shoe boxes in 2000 after hearing her aunt talk about preparing a box for “her boy.”

Trovillion said Bethel members make bead dolls, jewelry and jump ropes out of T-shirts. They also have their own standards, such as each box needing to include school supplies.

“Our motto is that ‘We don’t mail air,’” she said. “We pack ‘em full. We want it to be the best gift that a child’s ever received.”

Boozer purchases jewelry from thrift stores and breaks the pieces down to make her own bracelets for each girl box she creates. She also makes her own games and cards.

“That’s how I spend my time,” she said. “I pray for the box as I’m packing and buying for it … I think of those children. I don’t know who’s going to get it, but it warms my heart to know that they will [receive it].”

The effort is worth it, Trovillion said, because the boxes change lives.

”We have heard back from children who have received boxes, and they have gone all over the world, and it’s amazing,” she said.


Local
Judge dismisses lawsuit over ICE/county partnerships

KANKAKEE — A lawsuit that sought to stop a new state law ending partnerships between counties and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been dismissed by a federal judge.

In September, the Kankakee County Board joined the lawsuit filed by McHenry County as both counties operate facilities that house ICE detainees. U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard’s ruling, though, clears the way to end housing ICE detainees at the two counties’ jails.

The ruling was announced Monday.

McHenry State’s Attorney Patrick D. Kenneally and McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim said in a joint statement following the ruling that they intend to appeal the district court’s decision. They’ll now look to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for a stay on enforcement of the Illinois Way Forward Act.

The act, signed into law Aug. 2 by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, requires that existing agreements between ICE and jails in McHenry, Pulaski and Kankakee counties end by Jan. 1. It also prohibits any future agreements. The dismissed lawsuit argued in part that the law violates both the U.S. and Illinois constitutions, as well as violates intergovernmental immunity.

“The court’s ruling is a blow to local governmental control, as well as the supremacy of the U.S Constitution, against a clear case of overreach by the General Assembly and Governor Pritzker,” McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler said in a statement.

Financial impact

As the two counties are paid for holding ICE detainees, officials in both say the end of the agreements will have a detrimental financial impact.

“Far from helping the immigrant community,” Buehler said, “the forced Jan. 1 ending of our contract with the federal government to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees will cause significant hardship on detainees’ families, as well as the taxpayers of McHenry County.”

For the fiscal years 2016 through 2020, Kankakee County averaged 122 detainees per day. At those rates, according to the lawsuit, the county would lose nearly $4 million in revenue annually. In McHenry County, the jail averages 240 ICE detainees per year and has received $8 million in revenues annually since 2016.

Both counties have argued that the loss of revenue would result in lost jobs at their respective correctional facilities.

Kankakee County has had an agreement in place with ICE since March 2016 and renewed it in 2019, while McHenry’s began in 2003.

When contacted by the Daily Journal after the ruling, Kankakee County officials said they plan to release a statement Wednesday.


Local
Police ID pedestrian killed on I-57

PEOTONE — Police have identified the pedestrian struck and killed Dec. 3 on Interstate 57 near Peotone as James R. Murdie, 64, of Manhattan.

According to a release from Illinois State Police Lockport District 5, Murdie jumped from the Joliet Road overpass onto the left lane of I-57 where he was struck by a Honda CRV traveling south near mile marker 329.

It is not known why Murdie jumped onto the roadway. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

State police said the incident remains under investigation and that no further information is available.


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