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Community Involvement

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A community’s population rarely matters nearly as much as the size of that community’s heart. In the United States, communities often reap the benefits of one of the most prolific economies in all the world, even one that has transcended any to date. Regardless, individual citizens regularly confront instability and conflict each day on all manner of scales. Whether someone simply cannot find the cash to pay for transportation this week, or if someone finds he or she has a dangerous illness said person cannot possibly afford to treat, individuals all too often find themselves in need of a community that cares. In the context of a large city, those needing help can easily find themselves and their necessities undermined by the city’s regular bustle, even if the community could easily afford to help them. Smaller areas may become painfully aware of a fellow citizen’s plight but resign themselves to being inadequately funded to help. Mokena, though, with its modest population, somehow consistently manages to exude the kind of care for others that makes it an exemplary community of American values.

Everyone recognizes children as the future, and one of the most renowned ways Mokena has invested in social awareness and mutual respect comes in the plentiful investment in its youth, namely through the Mokena Area Youth Commission (MAYC). Both students and adults may join MAYC with the general intention of fostering a worthwhile community atmosphere and strengthening family and community bonds. MAYC programs include individual advancement programs like youth leadership conferences and grant opportunities. These are juxtaposed with more practical programs like Bullying Prevention and the Teen Activity Calendar, keeping students active and safe while promoting self-improvement. Volunteer opportunities also regularly channel through MAYC in order to find those enterprising and considerate people willing to get involved and keep the community running smoothly.

Some of those volunteer opportunities likely lead to another major site illustrating the community’s care for those in need, the Jennifer S. Fallick Cancer Support Center. The original Center opened in Homewood 14 years ago after Fallick’s husband faced cancer, and her long-held dream of opening up another facility came to fruition in February of 2007 with Mokena’s center. Many people ask Chris Rosandich, the Mokena site coordinator, “Who would think that Mokena has a cancer center?” She explains, though, “We wanted to be west because we provide services for 70 communities.” People from as far out as Joliet and Kankakee visit the Cancer Support Center in Mokena thanks to Mokena’s ideal location with highways and a Metra station nearby.

Offering services Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., the Cancer Support Center offers a wealth of programs to the community, such as individual counseling, support groups and networking groups for those experiencing cancer and their respective families. The Center also receives a lot from the community that it is capable of returning, such as free massages and raking sessions thanks to volunteers, pastries offered twice a week from a nearby Starbucks and even a full room of furniture it received from Ethan Allen that clients can enjoy. Funding also comes almost entirely from within the community, relying on the annual Gala, golf outing, and Walk of Hope, a survivors’ walk, to raise money each year. Truly, Mokena benefits from having such an amazing program in its community and responds by giving plentifully to the Center in return.

Mokena refuses to limit its compassion to its own community, too. Mayor Werner helped champion an effort to make Moss Point, Mississippi a sister city to Mokena. Parallel in size with Mokena, Moss Point faced terrible damage in the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Utilities have since returned to the Mississippi town, but Moss Point still requires much aid before it can return to its former self. Mokena citizens thus formed a committee to ensure continued help to Moss Point as it rebuilds and attempts to find its bearings once again.

Despite its relatively modest population, Mokena clearly has plenty of compassion to spread. Those facing a terrible medical condition can remain optimistic about survival chances or remain informed and tended to in case of an alternative outcome. Mokena also does well to invest in its future to ensure that tradition of social awareness maintains long after its current leaders have gone. To be sure, with a community’s heart so vast that it reaches as far as Moss Point, Mississippi, Mokena is sure to accomplish great things now and into the future. No matter the size of the issue, Mokena’s denizens, limited as they may seem, find a way to overcome.

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