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South Elgin Lion’s Club seeks holiday-basket donors

How to help

In addition to donations, volunteers are needed to help with packing and preparing the gifts during the week of Dec. 17. Call Leo Snyder at 224-629-0180.

Updated: January 11, 2013 6:15AM

When a grade school boy came into the South Elgin Lion’s Club and asked how he could get donations for his widowed mother and two younger siblings, it was a turning point for Leo Snyder of South Elgin.

Since then, the Lion’s Club member has run the organization’s holiday basket outreach program that last year provided about 200 families each with a week’s worth of food. This year, Snyder said he’s concerned donations are falling short.

“I need a lot of help on collections of money to help pay for all this,” Snyder said. “Last year the baskets were up to 65 pounds each and that included butter, eggs, cereal, all kinds of food.”

To make that happen, about $9,500 in contributions was the key, he said.

“But right now, we have about $2,200,” he said the week after Thanksgiving. “I need a lot of help.”

In addition to the food, the program includes two toys for each child in the family. Toys For Tots will provide some of the toys this year, Snyder said.

“And besides all that, we give families warm coats,” he said.

Collection boxes for coats and toys are available at State Bank of Illinois, 1140 W. Spring Street in South Elgin; Tastee Freeze, 400 N. South Elgin Blvd, South Elgin; Wise Guys Pizza, 325 Randall Road, South Elgin; and District U-46 schools including Willard Elementary in South Elgin; Clinton Elementary in South Elgin; Fox Meadow Elementary of South Elgin; Otter Creek Elementary in Elgin; and East View Elementary in Bartlett.

The school outreach is significant to the program, Snyder said, because it’s another way students learn about the program.

“I remember when a boy came in and asked if he could get on the program,” Snyder said. “I told him there were a lot of names ahead of him, but I gave him as much food as I could to take with him.”

Snyder learned the boy’s father had died just three weeks earlier.

“He said there was no food in the house,” Snyder said. “That just touched me real deep and I said, ‘I can’t forget this kid.’”

That moment inspired Snyder to commit to the annual endeavor that originated with the South Elgin Chamber of Commerce, he said. Another beneficiary he mentioned was a woman who contacted Snyder to thank him for providing her and her husband with a holiday basket for what turned out to be their last holiday together before he died.

“When the Chamber folded, then I got involved,” he said. The first year, which was four years ago, Snyder raised $7,200. Each year, the amount increased, but this year, the monetary donations just aren’t coming in, he said.

The vital funds are used for shopping. Snyder does most of it at Butera and Aldi where he finds the lowest prices, he said. Some local organizations also support the cause and contribute items for the baskets. Kane County Cougars shared coats from its own coat collection, and Windy City Amusement donated stuffed animals.

“But money is what I need bad too,” Snyder said. “Something like this is so hard to deal with, and I don’t want to give up.”

Volunteers are also needed, to help with packing and preparing the gifts during the week of Dec. 17. Snyder invited prospective volunteers to call him at (224) 629-0180.

Patrick Mogge, director of school & community relations for School District U-46, said: “We appreciate all that the Lions Club does to serve our communities and are thankful for their continued partnership with our schools.”

Snyder said he is hoping the collection boxes at the schools, and word of mouth, will draw gifts of clothing, toys, food and money to buy more of it.

“We can’t do it ourselves. The money has to be raised to make this program come together,” said Snyder. “This year it seems like there is more need than ever. That’s what I’ve been hearing out there. So we’ll see it happens.”

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