When a group of Brookfield-Riverside Rotary Club members gathered last Friday to package food and supplies for starving children, it was youngsters of about the same age in charge of the work.
More than a dozen sixth-graders at Congress Park School in Brookfield are part of Early Act, a growing Rotary outreach program created to encourage youth to help others in the community.
The Congress Park students were joined by teens from Lyons Township High School and adult club members, teachers and parents to package supplies for tsunami victims as part of the global Feed the Children effort.
About $500 worth of supplies were donated by Chicago area businesses. In an assembly line fashion, the children mixed together packages of vitamins, chicken flavor, rice and seasonings into plastic bags, each enough to provide six sustaining meals for those less fortunate.
Brookfield Parent Cecelia Riley said her son, Patrick, and the other sixth-graders were surprised how little packets of food could feed so many.
"These kids don't realize how fortunate they are, it's great they could do this to see how other people live," Riley said.
Patrick Riley said he thought the event was a good time.
"I really liked being able to help kids who can't afford stuff," Patrick Riley said. "It's fun to help out our community."
Nicole Capone, an 18-year-old senior at Lyons Township High School, organized the event. She's president of Interact, a Rotary-sponsored teen service club at the high school.
"We're trying to show the children how much of a difference they can make," Capone said. "We've been doing events all year. At Halloween, we brought candy to the kids at Children's Memorial at Loyola, for Earth Day we planted a tree and we made a patriotic poster for the VFW for Veteran's Day."
Other local schools also have Early Act programs. For example, the S.E. Gross Middle School Early Act Club has raised $400 for cancer treatment. There are also similar programs in schools in Downer's Grove, Park Forest and Oak Forest.
Nancy Lisowski, president-elect of the Brookfield-Riverside Rotary Club, said the Congress Park School is one of the first of her chapter's efforts in youth outreach.
"We want children to understand the importance of volunteering and community service," Lisowski said.
Cecilia Riley said she thinks every school should have similar programs to get children involved.
"They need to learn that not everything is handed to them, that they need to give back," Riley said.
For information on starting an Early Act Club in a local school, contact Chuck Snyder, District Early Act chairman, at (630) 325-2043.