By Anthony Garcia
Young people in Berwyn are taking the lead in bringing the holiday spirit to the less fortunate in Berwyn through organizations like Youth Crossroads and CIACO.
The non-profit Youth Crossroads is dedicated to helping the troubled or at-risk youth of Berwyn through any means necessary, providing free counseling and leadership programs and hosting events for the children and their families.
During the holiday season however, the young people helped by the organization look to give back to Berwyn, said Programs Director Joel Wallen.
“Throughout the year, they participated in dozens of volunteer opportunities in partnership with local governments, park districts and other social service agencies. When we presented the opportunity to help distribute food on Thanksgiving Day, it just seemed natural for them to volunteer,” Wallen said.
According to Wallen, Youth Crossroads dispatched six of their youth leaders to the Berwyn Park District Library Center to help distribute food to disadvantaged families.
They also work with other organizations.
“Currently, the Youth Leadership Program has partnered with three other community service agencies (Corazon Community Services, Youth Outreach Services, and Ser Co.) in the Cicero and Berwyn area to conduct a food and clothing drive,” Wallen said.
They’re planning for another drive around Christmas.
Other organizations also help out at the holidays besides Youth Crossroads.
On a recent day at the Buona Beef’s catering warehouse an assembly line of volunteers, young and old, gathered to help package “Boxes of Love” for those in need.
The organization CIACO (Chicagoland Italian-American Charitable Organization) had hundreds of volunteers — especially young people — fill boxes with all kinds of food, including crackers, juice, cookies and of course, turkeys. Each box weighed in at some 50 pounds.
Like Youth Crossroads, CIACO holds the event every year in an effort to help the needy families of Berwyn during the holidays.
This year’s edition of “Baskets of Love” even featured a special guest, Dennis McKinnon or “Silky D” of the 1985 world champion Chicago Bears, who helped promote the event through interviews on television to help raise even more awareness for the event.
McKinnon said he was happy to help CIACO promote the event.
“Well I love to eat. And I feel that no family should go without food during the holidays,” McKinnon said.
CIACO President Lou Scaramuzzo was proud of the organization’s work.
“The goal of CIACO has been and will continue to be to help the community, whether through our Thanksgiving Box of Love program or the giving of toys for children at Christmas time,” He said. “These works, along with maintaining family traditions and pride, will continue in CIACO through the years to come.”
And like Youth Crossroads, CIACO relied heavily on the help of youth volunteers to package the food for families all around Berwyn.
While both organizations receive the most attention during Thanksgiving, both plan on continuing to give to Berwyn during the Christmas season.