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Season of Giving

Thursday, December 27, 2012|

 

 

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Serving the Tri-Cities and Kaneland

 Volunteers share a Christmas Eve tradition with Marklund residents

By NICOLE WESKERNA - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Created: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

Updated: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:29 a.m. CST

 

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Jeanette A. smiles with Santa Claus at Marklund at Mill Creek in Geneva. Clients of Marklund opened presents with family and volunteers on the morning of Christmas Eve. (Rena Naltsas – For the Kane County Chronicle)

 

Marklund Celebrates Christmas

More than 200 volunteers helped residents at Marklund – a center in Geneva for adults and children with developmental disabilities – open gifts on Christmas Eve.

GENEVA – For the last 11 years, Colleen McCauley has spent the morning of Christmas Eve at Marklund in Geneva, helping residents open gifts donated by area churches, individuals and businesses.

It was a tradition that started shortly after McCauley’s daughter died from brain cancer in 2001. She had donated a custom wheelchair and walker to Marklund, a center for disabled children and adults, and one resident there suggested that she choose a name from the facility’s gift tree.

She took that resident’s advice and now returns to Marklund year after year on Christmas Eve.

This year, she and about 20 coworkers from Screws Industries in Glendale Heights bought presents for 80 Marklund residents. They also purchased gifts for staff members.

“To us, it’s Christmas,” she said. “Seeing the kids appreciate it more than anything – that’s the meaning of Christmas, just to give.”

Cathy Nikrandt, volunteer coordinator at Marklund, said 215 volunteers were expected to help 96 residents open gifts this year. She said volunteers have been dedicating part of their Christmas Eve to assist residents with opening gifts since Marklund opened more than 50 years ago.

This year, Boy Scout Troop 43, the Rotary Club of Batavia and a Wheaton Warrenville South High School leadership group were among the organizations whose members helped out Monday.

Members of the Simmons family in Elburn said this was the first year they volunteered, adding they hoped to make it a Christmas Eve tradition. Robert and Jennifer Simmons brought along their children, Sam, 11, and Rob, 14. Jennifer Simmons said her family has been involved in volunteering at Marklund in the past, and she wanted her family to gain a new perspective.

“Christmas is kind of chaotic,” she said. “We figured serving would put our minds back to where they ought to be.”

Though it was the first time Rob Simmons has been involved in gift-opening at Marklund, he said he had an idea of how much it meant to the residents. He said he donated a book to a resident two years ago, and that resident still remembers him and the gift to this day.

“It really means a lot to know that someone cares about them,” Rob Simmons said.

Marklund spokeswoman Dawn Lassiter-Brueske said the volunteer efforts of those who helped out Monday furthered Marklund’s mission to make everyday life possible for individuals with profound disabilities.

“Even if five people are helping one person, you are helping them feel like part of a loving unit,” she said before volunteers headed to the residents’ rooms.

Many Marklund residents gathered in a common area to open gifts together. Sharon Huisman of Ingleside helped her son, Richard, open gifts with other residents. She has spent Christmas Eve at Marklund for the last three years, and she said donors have always been very generous.

“It’s great to see the outpouring of love people have,” she said. “I couldn’t express how grateful I am for the volunteers’ time and their outpouring of love.”

Almost 40 volunteers from the J. Kyle Braid Foundation leadership program at Wheaton Warrenville South High School helped Monday. Dan Vitale of Wheaton graduated last year but decided to return again as a volunteer this year. He said the leadership group does a lot of volunteer work, but Marklund has become the group’s favorite because he said it feels like a tight-knit family.

“It just shows that people outside of this place care about [the residents],” he said. “We want to support them in any way possible.”

Marklund Government Relations Director Appointed to State Advisory Board

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NEWS RELEASE

 

October 19, 2012 (Geneva, IL)       Lois Sheaffer Kramer, director of government relations and community support for Marklund, an organization that serves persons with developmental disabilities, has been appointed to the Illinois State DD Facility Advisory Board. This five-member board will serve in an advisory capacity representing those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID and DD) to ensure compliance with the ID/DD Community Care Act.

“It is an honor to be appointed to serve as a member of the DD Facility Advisory Board,” Sheaffer Kramer said. “I am looking forward to working more closely with our state leaders to promote the quality of life that people with intellectual disabilities deserve as they strive to reach their highest potential in all areas of their lives.

"We are very excited about Lois' well-deserved appointment,” said Gil Fonger, president and CEO at Marklund. “She is a passionate advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities and will serve very well in this new position. We are also appreciative of the recognition that Marklund is also receiving through this appointment as a leading advocate in the state for individuals with developmental disabilities."

Sheaffer Kramer has served children and adults with DD for 28 years at Marklund, starting her tenure as a recreation therapist and eventually transitioning to director of children’s services before taking on her current role. As director of government relations and community support, she has served on various workgroups as an advocate to discuss legislative changes that impact people with ID/DDs, as well as leads the Illinois Skilled Pediatric group which includes 13 facilities throughout the state. She is also an active member of the Center for Developmental Disabilities Advocacy and Community Supports.

“I take this responsibility very seriously as I realize that I will be representing folks that I have known and served over the past 30 years that are not able to speak for themselves,” she added.