Evergreen Park District 124 has healthy outlook on generosity

  • Written by Claudia Parker

central middle school photo 1-5

Photo by Claudia Parker

Students at Central Middle School in Evergreen Park hosted a Holiday Movie Night and collected goods for the annual food drive to help those in need.


The Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 provided plenty of cheers this past holiday season.

Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest that being generous will actually make you happier. A study by the University of Pennsylvania states that generous people are healthier as well.

“The district office staff used to do a holiday gift exchange, but we changed it to focus on the kids,” said Deb Wlodarski, administrative assistant to the director of curriculum. “I’ve been here for 25 years. We’ve been doing this at least 15.”

What began as an office grab-bag quickly transitioned to charitable donations given to families most in need.

“The social workers from each school provide names of families they feel could benefit from receiving assistance granting their children a gift from their holiday wish list,” said Jean Hector, administrative assistant to the director of student support services. “With the parent or guardian's consent, district office employees are then able to select an item to purchase specific to that child’s request.”

“The families are always so appreciative, it just warms our hearts watching them pick up their gifts,” said Jan Stanton, community outreach coordinator for District 124.

Southeast School has adopted the administrative office’s concept. The staff decorated a giving tree with wish list items anonymously provided for staff to select and purchase for students most in need.

Central Middle School was hoping to restock the Evergreen Park food pantry, which often gets depleted after Thanksgiving.

“On Friday, Dec. 2, we hosted a holiday movie night for students with popcorn and other concessions, the cost of admission was a nonperishable food item,” said Holly Trojanowski, CMS administrative assistant. The Movie Night was a huge success, as students covered the gymnasium floor like wall-to-wall carpet. They collected more food -- over 200 cans -- from just this one night than their previous year’s annual food drive.”

Southeast School had a head start on this mission, as their Southeast Eagle Spirit (SEES) Booster club collected a full banquet table of food donations just prior to Thanksgiving break.

While toys bring smiles to faces and food warms the soul, Southwest School was hoping to warm extremities. Their Bulldog Booster Club sponsored a mitten drive and their Daisy Troop collected socks.

“There’s going to be a healthy competition between the classrooms to see who can collect the most,” said Therese O’Toole, Southwest School secretary.

The recipients of these donations may never get the privilege of knowing the joy experienced by the givers involved. And, until now, they may not have known the backstory of how they came to receive what was given.

Over the previous five years, Laura Frey, a universal banker at Evergreen Bank Group, has been dropping off large quantities of school supplies to the District 124 administrative office. The supplies have always been appreciated and put to great use, but this year there was an unusually large donation.

“This is not from me,” said Frey. “These donations are coming from the entire community. We advertise this school supply drive in our branch, the local newspaper, our bank website and on our social media. People from the community, including bank employees, bank patrons, and the bank itself provide donations.”

Frey said she’s a lifelong resident of Evergreen Park with children who have attended Northwest School, Central Middle School and Evergreen Park High School.

“When my kids were in school, I always had extra school supplies to donate,” she said. “The principal would put them aside and, when he saw a student in need, he’d pass them along. Once I started working for the bank, I suggested that we collectively offer school supplies to District 124 and everyone willingly jumped on board.”

“Learning the origin of the school supply drive sponsored by the Evergreen Bank Group has given District 124 an even greater appreciation for the generosity they’ve provided,” said Dr. Robert Machak, the district superintendent.