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South suburban women join to help those in need

Members of It’s A Service Thing collected and 
wrapped gifts for children at the Jones Center in
Chicago Heights for Christmas.
​​

Little things can have a big impact. That’s what Sandy Christofanelli of Flossmoor and several other ladies had in mind when they started a local service organization called It’s A Service Thing

Christine Longo, Tammy Ciambrone and Jan Stanfa Basile hold just a few Christmas gifts members of It's A Service Thing collected for 150 children at the Jones Center in Chicago Heights. (Mary Compton/H-F Chronicle)
  Christine Longo, Tammy
  Ciambrone and Jan Stanfa
  Basile hold a few Christmas
  gifts collected by members
  of It’s A Service Thing for
  150 children at the Jones
  Center in Chicago Heights.
  
(Photos by Mary Compton/
  H-F Chronicle)
 

Some of them had been members of the Chicago Heights Junior Woman’s Club (CHJWC), which disbanded a few years ago, and missed having the opportunity to help by doing projects or making donations locally that would impact others. 

“We do several things a year. We’re not giving a whole lot of money, but when people are in need, we try to meet that need,” she said. “We try to touch as many as we can with small efforts.”

It’s A Service Thing began in 2013 when the handful of founding members invited women in the area to a kick-off meeting at Balagio Ristorante in Homewood. About 50 people attended that first meeting and Christofanelli said that every one of them joined. 

The current membership is around 60. 

Christofanelli served as the not-for-profit organization’s president until 2018 when Jan Basile of Tinley Park became president. Basile had also been a member of the CHJWC and she was excited to help start another group that could serve the Chicago South Suburbs. 

“We’re a group of women dedicated to providing volunteer service,” said Basile, adding that the friendship and fellowship that goes a long with it is a big bonus.

“When we find out about things in the community, we help,” said Basile. Several projects have been done in partnership with the Jones Community Center in Chicago Heights to help children in need. 

The club does a lot of collections of items that are then passed on or shipped to where they need to go. Members have helped by supplying school uniforms, food, coats, diapers and other items to those in need. If a family in the area has suffered a tragedy, they do what they can to ease the family’s burden. 

  Debbie Bender, left, of Crete
  and Mary Anne Watson of
  Chicago wrap gifts at Art 4
  Soul in Homewood during the
  December meeting of It’s A
  Service Thing.

The group meets quarterly at Balagio and twice a year they do a big service project at Art 4 Soul in Homewood. 

Their only organized fundraisers are a flower sale in the spring and mum sale in the fall. Money raised from those two sales and member dues ($30 annually) fund the group’s projects, like the recent purchase of 150 pairs of pajamas and slipper socks for kids at the Jones Community Center, shipping of care packages to a military unit in Afghanistan that a local man is part of or buying books for elementary school children.

Sometimes it’s volunteering of time and talent rather than providing funds that brings the group together. Members recently did gift wrapping for a penny and dime sale at the Jones Center, where kids could purchase holiday gifts for their family with pocket change. 

Other times, the group helps by reaching out to its members and other supporters to coordinate drives for food or other necessities. 

A couple of years ago, when Prairie State College had an on-site day care program, members put out the word about the need for diapers, wipes and pull-ups. Word spread and within a few days they had filled two vans with about $3,000 worth of baby products. 

“The ladies that worked there were in tears at the outreach we were able to put together in a week’s time,” said Christofanelli. 

A recent shoe drive was another such project where the group was able to do a collection for those in need. Nearly 600 pairs of shoes were collected. 

Jan Stanfa Basile, president of the It's A Service Thing organization, holds a few Christmas gifts for children at the Jones Center. Members took time at their December meeting to wrap the girls.
  Jan Stanfa Basile, president
  of the It’s A Service Thing
  organization, holds a few
  Christmas gifts for children
  at the Jones Center.

 

Tammy Ciambrone of Flossmoor oversees the club’s two fundraisers. She was another former Junior Women’s Club member in Chicago Heights. 

By the time It’s A Service Thing was organized, she had already become involved in another volunteer group in her community, but was eager to also join forces with her former CHJWC members to help those in need in the south suburban areas.

“What I like best about the group is the gratification of raising money and donating or giving service to groups that need it,” said Ciambrone. “It’s a nice outlet to get together with other women who have the same desire to help others.” 

She also likes to know that the group’s efforts are primarily helping those in the area. 

“We’re giving back to those we might see or know in our own community.”

For more information on the organization, follow the group on Facebook.

 

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