PEMBROKE TOWNSHIP — When she was in second grade, Imani Thomas-Springer gave the coat off her back to a classmate on the bus who didn’t have one.
“It was kind of getting chilly, and I had two extra ones and she [didn’t have a coat] so I just gave her mine because I felt bad,” recalled Imani, now a fifth-grader at Kennedy Middle School.
So when Imani asked for help gathering donations for the needy and homeless in lieu of a party for her 10th birthday last December, her mother, Vicki Taylor-Springer, was not surprised.
She knew her daughter was “going to be a giver” from the moment she gave her coat to another child in need.
“I’m a giver myself, her dad and I, so it’s just a trickle-down effect,” Taylor-Springer said. “When kids see you doing good, they want to do good as well by other people.”
Last December, Imani and friend Anthony Marquez rallied a group of family, friends and supporters to distribute 75 bags of donated items, ranging from socks, toothbrushes and razors to small books, children’s toys and blankets, as well as meals.
The duo kept the tradition going Saturday and distributed over 100 coats and 75 hygiene bags along with Christmas cookies and juice to people in need in Pembroke Township.
“It was fun and exciting to see other people happy,” Imani said.
The Illinois State Council Knights of Columbus and the Supreme Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Conn., decided to help by donating coats for this year’s drive after taking notice of Imani and Anthony’s efforts at last year’s drive published in a Daily Journal article, Taylor-Springer said.
Family and friends also helped the kids to gather supplies for donation this year.
“We plan on making it bigger and bigger every year if she can,” Taylor-Springer said.
Imani’s advice for other people who want to help others is simple: “Give to receive blessings.”
“I’m lucky, and some people aren’t, so I’m giving back,” she said.
Imani added that she is grateful for all the family and friends who helped make the drive possible.
“It’s a lot of people out there who just don’t get it, and people just don’t care,” she said. “So, when I give back, it kind of makes me feel happy when I see people getting what they need.”
Imani said she wants to be a singer when she grows up; she loves to sing gospel music and takes part in choir at church and school.
BOURBONNAIS — A fire in a home on Apple Lane in Bourbonnais on Saturday claimed the life of David Olvera, 63, of Bourbonnais.
Firefighters from multiple departments were dispatched at 6:28 p.m. to Tri-Star Estates for a mobile home on fire with an occupant inside and that oxygen was in use in the home, Bourbonnais Fire Protection District Chief Ed St. Louis said in a release.
There was smoke and flames showing when firefighters arrived. The residence suffered extensive damage in the blaze.
After extinguishing the fire, Olvera’s body was found. Kankakee County Coroner Bob Gessner said an autopsy is scheduled.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, but it appears to be accidental.
Family members said Olvera may have tried to smoke a cigarette while on oxygen, according to the release.
Two cats also perished in the fire.
Assisting at the scene were fire departments from Bradley and Manteno, Superior Ambulance, Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department, Bourbonnais police and Kankakee County Animal Control.
BRADLEY — Nearly 300 Bradley households received assistance in the form of shopping bags filled with food during the first of 10 Feeding Mission events coordinated by the Bradley village administration.
To be exact, Bradley deputy clerk Kym Nelson said 286 village residents either picked up bags of groceries or for those who could not drive, had the supplies dropped at their residence on Monday.
“It’s been a very rewarding day,” Nelson said late Monday afternoon, noting that elected village officials, including Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson, were still delivering bags to those who couldn’t get to the village’s pick-up location at the former Carson’s men’s store at the Northfield Square mall.
“We don’t want people to be shy or embarrassed,” Nelson added. “If people need help, we are here to help. We believe Thursday will be just as busy.”
Residents are asked to gain the food donation only once a week. They anticipate 900 to 1,000 different households will receive the free groceries weekly.
Nelson noted vehicles began lining up at the former Carson’s site at about 8:15 a.m. By 9 a.m., there were nearly 100 cars lined up. At 3:30 p.m., village officials were still answering telephone calls as to how to get this food. Each participant receives about $40 worth of food.
By the end of the program, the village will distribute about $200,000 worth of food. There are no income restrictions regarding who can receive food. Residents are only asked to have proof of their address because the program is only for village residents.
Nelson said the administration had been anticipating 200-250 people so they were prepared for a large response.
Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson, who wore a Santa hat, made about 30 at-home afternoon deliveries. He said he was greeted at one home by a woman in tears because she was so grateful for the packages.
“I guess my initial reaction today was, ‘Wow! There is a huge need here.’ I am pleasantly surprised people have taken us up on this offer,” Watson said.
Watson, who has knees issues, said by late afternoon his knees were swollen and sore. But, he said, the good feeling of helping so many others made the pain worthwhile.
“There are a lot of people who stepped up to make this program happen,” he said.
Grant money was used to purchase the food. The village purchased the groceries from Meijer, Target, Walmart and Aldi.
Feeding Mission, funded through grants from Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s CURE program, will continue with in-person pick-ups from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and again on Saturday. At-home deliveries will also be made.
The program then continues on Dec. 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19 and 21.