The helping hands will still be doing outreach but the women’s group It’s a Service Thing officially disbanded.
Sandy Christofanelli of Flossmoor, a past president, said she teared up at the final meeting Aug. 31 because “this was my baby. Everyone in the group had a connection through me.”
Jan Basile of Tinley Park, the group’s current president, said the COVID pandemic put an end to most meetings “because members were afraid to come out” and it was hard to get anyone to take on leadership roles. “People’s time is just stretched,” she said.
“It’s very sad. I made a lot of friends and did a lot of volunteering. We made a difference in a lot of people’s lives, but with COVID, and a lot of the organizations that we worked with no longer in existence,” it was hard, Basile said. “We did a lot of food drives and things like that, and we couldn’t give any more because of COVID.”
It’s a Service Thing was organized in 2013 by Christofanelli and several friends who had volunteered with the Chicago Heights Junior Women’s Club until it disbanded after 100 years of service. About 20 of those members, Christofanelli’s friends from Infant Jesus of Prague Church and other friends, formed the nucleus of the group.
Initially the group of about 80 members would give time as they could doing projects they selected, whether that was time at a senior center or working with kids at the Jones Center in Chicago Heights. But they revamped their efforts to focus more on projects. Christofanelli remembers helping the Prairie State College day care center with donations of diapers, wipes and other baby needs. When the center closed, the donations went to South Suburban Family Shelter.
If a member heard of a need, the group was on it. They’ve helped the South Suburban Humane Society with donated food and toys. They’ve assisted families after a fire or with a special need, such as purchasing beds for kids. They brightened the holidays with gift donations for kids. And they’ve donated food to about every food pantry within a 50-mile radius, said Jen Sesto, another member.
Her business, Art4Soul in Homewood, was a drop-off point for donations when the group was in the midst of major collections. The group wasn’t into big fundraisers, but rather outreach. She estimated the volunteers have donated items worth at least $120,000 over the years.
At last count the group had 57 paid members, but not everyone would come to meetings. And then with COVID, the regular meetings were dropped.
Sesto says it is sad knowing that It’s a Service Thing is dissolving, but she believes “it never will truly go,” because the volunteer spirit in these dozens of women is alive.
“Every one of these people will be doing what we’ve been doing here,” she said.