Every year Carol Spale, coordinator of the North Riverside Neighborhood Services Committee, gives away Christmas gifts to special members of the community at the end of the year. These gifts are just one of the many ways Spale and the block captains of the committee spread kindness throughout the community.
Mayor Richard Scheck started the Neighborhood Services Committee in 1992 to help residents in need and create family bonds between neighbors. Fourteen years after he put that idea into action, the program is still going strong.
Twelve of those 14 years Spale has been the coordinator of the program. She has watched the program grow to where there are now 90 block captains helping neighbors whenever possible.
Spale, a resident of North Riverside for 26 years, uses her volunteer position as a way to repay the kindness she received when her family moved to the community.
"We wouldn't have survived as a family without the help of the community," she said.
Spale prayed for an opportunity to repay her neighbors' generosity and saw it in the mayor's neighborhood program. After responding to a letter asking the community for help with his outreach program, Spale met with Scheck and soon became coordinator of the program.
Though Spale has been working for the program for more than a decade, she says the block captains are the ones to be praised.
They're the ones out there in the trenches every day. They're the ones driving, shoveling and having parties. They do so many extra things they amaze me, she said.
Spale also credits her husband Frank as a great support.
"I could not do it without him. He does all the nitty gritty work," she said.
While the block captains may be the ones in the field, Spale is the one giving them a vision. All her ideas are based off a four-point program she learned at a religious group meeting. One, be the first to reach out to people. Two, reach out to everybody. Three, share each other's joys and sorrows as if they were your own. The fourth point is to be concrete or, in other words, help in concrete ways.
"We try to cover the town with a network of caring," Spale said.
Block captains then spread kindness by shoveling snow from neighbors' driveways, giving rides to those without cars, throwing block parties and giving cookies to neighbors during the holidays.
Block captains also serve as a resource for neighbors. During meetings block captains learn about programs and services around the area and are then able to share that information with neighbors.
While block captains are connecting with neighbors Spale says the program would not be a success without the Mayor.
"We couldn't do what we do without his support. His openness and trust allows us to reach people. He's never said `no' to any crazy idea," Spale explained.
Spale's only had one unsuccessful idea. Once she encouraged block captains to celebrate Make-A-Difference Day, but it didn't go over well.
The block captains said they didn't need a special day to do kind acts because they feel compelled to do them every day.