Joanie’s Closet is ready to help Lake Zurich families, students
To help families and students across District 95, Joanie's Closet collects supplies and winter gear for those in need. | Photo courtesy of District 95
LAKE ZURICH — School District 95 families in need shan’t be shy about asking for assistance around the holidays.
That is because Joanie’s Closet understands the financial crises that many face when the temperatures drop and the seasonal expenses skyrocket.
Joanie’s Closet is a district-wide initiative that provides short-term relief for families needing a quick hand with the basics.
For seven years, Joanie’s has offered necessities like food, school snacks, gas cards, shoes, boots, clothing, winter coats, snow pants, backpacks, household necessities, bedding and even transportation to doctor appointments.
“We see a need within the community any time there is an expense, like the start of school or a seasonal change,” explained Jean Malek, District 95’s director of communications. “We put our funds toward any needs — not wants — that families in the district might have.”
When a PTO committee chair at any of the district’s eight schools learns of a family’s situation, assistance may be provided by either an assortment of items the organization has in stock, or solicited from the school community at large.
Malek founded Joanie’s Closet in 2005 to commemorate the good deeds of May Whitney Elementary School’s beloved nurse, Joanie Bednarz, who unexpectedly passed away earlier that year.
“She had always been very active in taking care of the needy families at the school without ever really talking about it,” said Malek, explaining that Bednarz helped those in tough financial situations by cooking them meals and giving their children extra snacks to eat at school.
Malek added that Joanie’s would not be the successful district-wide, nonprofit organization it is today without the generous support it has received from the Bednarz’s family, the Hawthorn Woods Women’s Center and the district’s families, students and teachers.
Joanie’s volunteers packed about 300 boxes full of school supplies for needy students in all eight schools this past September, for which The Chapel provided the space, donations and cash contribution necessary to get the job done.
On Feb. 8, Joanie’s Closet will be hosting a Valentine’s Day dance for all children and parents of the district. The proceeds from the dance will support Joanie’s year-long services.
Coats, snow pants and boots are the most frequently-requested items, officials said.
To contribute to the closet, cash donations can be made payable to “District 95 Educational Foundation – Joanie’s Closet,” and donations can be mailed to the District 95 Administration Building, 400 S. Old Rand Road, Lake Zurich.
If parents feel that their child needs a winter coat, snow pants or boots that they can’t provide, they may contact the office at their child’s school for assistance. All assistance is provided anonymously.
Though Joanie’s doesn’t have the resources to help families with recurring needs, its community partners like St. Vincent de Paul are more equipped to provide assistance on a regular basis.
For instance, St. Vincent de Paul operates a food pantry at St. Francis de Sales Church in Lake Zurich on Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and The Chapel regularly hosts a Mobile Food Pantry. Last month, both distributed turkeys and other food staples to needy families so they could afford to prepare their Thanksgiving meals.
For more information about Joanie’s Closet, contact an office at any of the district’s schools, or the administration center at (847) 540-4969.