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Community Involvement

Des Plaines has numerous groups that serve the community in a variety of capacities, regularly going above and beyond for the betterment of the community.

Bessie’s Table is a program that helps provide food to those who may need a little help, or just some company during dinner. Each Monday evening since 2003, an all-volunteer staff serves up a good, nutritious meal at no cost. The weekly dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. at First Methodist Church. “The difficult economy has pushed more people our way,” said Becky Danegger, co-director of the program.

Danegger mentions that local businesses often step forward to sponsor the meals, and volunteers include members from organizations such as the V.F.W. Post 2992 and employees from Littelfuse, a Des Plaines-area business. Just Like Home Cafe also pitches in by donating the soup for the meal every week. Bessie’s Table is starting to get some recognition for their work, receiving the Governor’s Hometown Award in 2008.

The Special Events Commission is a perfect example of residents getting involved in the community. Linda Forman, the chairman of the Commission, pointed out that many events during the year serve as a time where members of the community can come together as a group and just enjoy themselves. The “Taste of Des Plaines” is a popular event now in its 10th year. “Friday Night Live on Metro Square” features local music groups and draws between 100 and 300 people. The 4th of July parade and fireworks also bring in a good crowd. “Putting on this event really brings the community together,” said Forman. “People line the streets, picnic, barbeque and just have a great time.”

Citizens on Patrol utilize the skills of community members. This group of volunteers was formed about 10 years ago at the request of the Mayor as a way to provide a “next step” for people who went through the Des Plaines Police Deparment’s Citizens Police Academy. These men and women perform non-emergency duties, such as directing traffic, delivery of City documents and assisting at City functions or special events. “The volunteers serve as the ‘eyes and ears’ for the Police Department on the streets. They also help to deter crime,” said Bruce Ahlmann, director of Citizens on Patrol.

In addition to the residents who sign on as part of the police presence, there are also those who are part of the Medical Reserve Corps. These volunteer health professionals (and others) come from Des Plaines and beyond, serving as a group that can be tapped in case of a health-related emergency, such as a pandemic or other health-related issue. “We have over 100 people who volunteer for this,” said Madeline May, RN, community health nurse for the City. The program has been around for three years, and has attracted people of all ages.

The Des Plaines Community Senior Center is an organization that works specifically to address the needs of senior residents in the area. Established in 1975, the facility serves more than 10,000 people every year and offers more than 55 different services and programs each month, including billiards, line dancing and woodcarving. “We have recently added a drumming circle as well,” said Program Manager Megann Panek.

The Center does everything from putting trips together to providing volunteer opportunities for seniors in the community, and the new Frisbie Senior Center has been held up as a national model. “People are surprised at how modern it is,” said Panek, emphasizing that the Center is a great place for seniors to just “hang out.” The facility houses a café, as well as a ping pong table and other amenities for people to enjoy throughout the day. In addition, the Senior Center has a resale shop that helps to support senior services.

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