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Chasing away hunger in Elgin

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Updated: July 22, 2013 6:07PM

ELGIN — A cheer went up Wednesday afternoon at Chase Card Services.

“We got another box, guys! We got another box! Whoo hoo!” cheered Linda Burns of Elgin, a team manager at the card services center.

“Whoo hoo” is how it felt to fill those boxes with plastic bags of rice, lentils, vegetables and pink Himalayan salt, a casserole that will be distributed to Elgin children through the city of Elgin Park and Recreation Department’s free summer lunch program, Burns said.

“The good news is that Chase — even through all the mergers — we’ve been volunteering for 40 years. It’s part of the culture of who we are,” she said.

Nearly 200 volunteers from the card services center and other area Chase offices volunteered their lunch hours Wednesday at Chase Card Services, 2500 Westfield Drive, to package 30,000 free meals for hungry Elgin children.

That’s part of the company’s partnership this year with Feeding Children Everywhere and Chase Card Services’ celebration of 40 years in Elgin.

Chase is the second-largest employer in Elgin, after School District U46, according to Sue Niles, a team leader at Chase Card Services, who runs its volunteer team. Its card services center in the city is the company’s largest in the United States, Niles said.

“It’s all about being here in Elgin,” said Dena Jakubosky, human resources site leader at Chase Card Services.

“We have been here 40 years. We have a great partnership with the city and the schools. What better way to celebrate our longevity than by giving back to them?”

Jakubosky is part of the committee planning the company’s celebration of four decades in Elgin.

In 1973, the credit card division of First National Bank of Chicago moved to Elgin with 87 employees, according to Jakubosky. It hired 300 more from Elgin, she said. And although it’s been through several name changes since, that’s how the Card Services Center got its start in the city.

It moved to its current campus, just off Randall Road, in 1995, she said.

“In the banking industry, the fact we’ve been around 40 years is amazing,” Jakubosky said.

Already this spring, Chase Card Services kicked off its 40th year in the city by sponsoring the Fox Trot; 50 to 70 employees also participated in the run, she said. And Elgin employees collected 20,000 food items for seven area food pantries, according to Niles.

It also has more partnerships planned, including some seminars on careers for Elgin Community College’s Summer Bridge program, a school supply drive for U46 schools, and a small sponsorship of Elgin’s Fourth of July parade. About 50 employees likely will march in the parade wearing Chase blue — and tie-dyed armbands to remember the decade the company came to the city, Jakubosky said.

Creating volunteers

Last year, Chase employees in Elgin alone donated nearly 2,700 hours of their time through the company’s volunteer programs, according to the company.

Each year, the JP Morgan Chase Foundation supports a different nonprofit, Niles said. This year, that’s Feeding Children Everywhere, an organization based in Orlando, Fla., that organizes people to assemble healthy meals for hungry children.

Niles said she was excited to get the organization to stop at the card services center in Elgin.

So far, it has traveled to Chase locations in Texas, New Hampshire, New Jersey and others, according to Tim Krall of Feeding Children Everywhere. Chase employees in Chicago packaged 50,000 meals, Krall said. On Tuesday, employees in Tulsa, Okla., packaged 24,000 meals.

Altogether, he said, Chase employees will package about 200,000 meals this year. Each costs the organization about 25 cents, he said.

“We’re in the business of motivating people and empowering people and giving them the opportunity to do something with their own hands, and this is the best way we’ve found to do that,” Krall said.

It also is a win for everybody, he said, noting it’s a meal for thousands of hungry children and team-building for volunteers.

It gives you goosebumps, Burns said.

And it puts a smile on your face, added Sandra Vizcarra of Streamwood, who is moving to Elgin this summer and works as a trainer at the Chase office in Downers Grove.

“You get a little happy feeling knowing this will go to a family,” Vizcarra said.

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