Sharing your wealth


Organization collects from the rich, gives to the poor :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

photo courtsey of Sharing Connections Sarah Martin of Sharing Connections chooses a high chair for a needy family.

When money is tight, the start of the school year can be a difficult time. Schools want children to arrive for the first day of school with everything from a new backpack to a supply of No. 2 pencils, a tall order for cash-strapped parents.

Sharing Connections, a Downers Grove nonprofit, can help. This month, the group is seeking donations of notebooks, backpacks, pens and other school supplies to distribute to families in need.

All year long, Sharing Connections collects gently-used furniture, clothing, toys, kitchen supplies and other items for families throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Those ongoing collections are supplemented with monthly collections of new items that focus on specific needs. This month, it's school supplies and baby products such as disposable diapers, wipes and bath wash.

Sharing Connections serves families referred by human service agencies and church groups. "They refer a family to us and tell us what they need," says Sue Armato, co-executive director. "Then we pull the order together and the family picks it up."

LeeAnne McGrath founded the organization 18 years ago after seeing so many negative stories on the evening news.

"I saw the reality of what was happening in my own community," she says. "Once you become sensitized to what you're hearing, it's hard to ignore it. We were raising three children and hoped the world they were growing up in would be safe. I started to think about what I, as an individual person, could do."

In 2001, the organization moved to its own warehouse, allowing it to help even more families. The organization helped 58,009 households in 2003. Armato hopes the number will grow in the future.

"We'd like to see an increase in the number of orders we can take on and fill and not have to turn anyone away," she says. "Maybe in the future we could have a couple of different offices to better serve different areas. For families in need it's very hard to commute far to get goods."

The organization also is in need of cribs and bedding. The Web site contains a complete list of needed items at All donations are tax deductible.

Donations can be dropped off at the Sharing Connections office, 5111 Chase Ave., Downers Grove. To arrange for pick up of larger furniture donations, call (630) 971-0565.

Jennifer Mesich


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