Lidia Bielobradek, a Riverside-Brookfield High School senior from North Riverside, had some time on her hands after the school shifted to remote learning last month in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. 

She and her mother volunteer for Housing Forward, an agency based in Maywood that helps the homeless, so Bielobradek wanted to see if there was something she could do to help.

Bielobradek reached out to her computer science teacher, Sandy Czajka, and RBHS Principal Hector Freytas searching for possibilities. Freytas forwarded the email to Assistant Principal for Student Affairs Dave Mannon, who came up with the idea of donating unclaimed lunches to Housing Forward. 

So twice a week Bielobradek, usually aided by her brother Iggy, a freshman at RBHS, drives over to RBHS and takes lunches unclaimed by school families and brings them to Housing Forward. 

On April 20, Bielobradek delivered 42 lunches to Housing Forward. In the three weeks since she started delivering lunches, she has delivered more than 150 lunches.

“I love doing this,” Bielobradek said. “I’ve always wanted to help others.”

RBHS, like other schools, must still provide free lunches to those students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. And like many other schools, RBHS is now providing sack lunches to any student who wants to pick up a lunch

Last week Bielobradek started also picking up extra lunches from Komarek School after her mother, Viola, contacted the school to see if they had any lunches to donate.

Bielobradek also put a notice on the North Riverside Open Forum Facebook page asking if people had anything they could donate to Housing Forward. She got a number of responses, and drove around North Riverside picking up toiletries and other items that people put out for her. She stopped at around 10 homes and picked up more than 300 items.

“It also helps me still feel like I have a purpose, because a lot of people I know are just sitting at home, don’t really know what to do with themselves,” Bielobradek said. “Even just driving is awesome.”

S.E. Gross Middle School is sending the lunches that are not picked up by Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 families to the needy in Hodgkins through a connection with a member of the community who works in that town, S.E. Gross Principal Ryan Evans said.

Gross School churning out
face shields

The seven new 3D printers in the new STEAM classroom at S.E. Gross Middle School have been put to work churning out face shields for first responders and medical workers. 

In about 10 days, the lab has produced and donated 275 face shields to police and fire departments in a number of local communities including Brookfield, Riverside, LaGrange Park and LaGrange in addition to sending 100 to Hines V.A. Hospital.

“The 3D printer produces the part that goes around the head and goes on the bottom and holds it,” Evans said. 

The actual shield is just a plastic transparency.

A core team of about four district staff, including Director of Teaching and Learning Cathy Cannon, monitor the printers and use a laser cutter to trim the materials and attach the transparencies to the headbands. 

Evans reached out the regional office of the Illinois State Board of Education asking schools to donate transparencies for the face shields, and many have responded with donations, including Hollywood School in Brookfield.

“I’ve had schools donating to us, so we haven’t had to purchase anything,” Evans said. “Everybody kind of pitched in to help us out.”

The idea of using the 3D printers to make face shields came from Anu Mahajan, the founder of TinkRworks, the Hinsdale based company that was hired by District 95 to provide STEAM education.

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