In November, the Marajen Stevick Foundation — which owns The News-Gazette and our radio stations — put up $25,000 to match tornado relief donations to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois. This week — as Gifford continues its recovery — we'll spotlight acts of generosity en route to that $25,000, which I'm happy to report was raised quickly.
As coordinator for the Champaign County Drug Court, Del Ryan wants his clients to "feel good about themselves."
On a chilly December night at the Urbana Civic Center, about 50 men and women in the program did something that had everyone in the room feelin' groovy. They handed a white envelope addressed to "The Town of Gifford" to Joan Dixon, president and CEO of Community Foundation of East Central Illinois. Inside it was $210.
"We had our three graduates hand the envelope to Joan and when they did, I looked into the audience and you could see it in their eyes: At that very moment, there was a special feeling," Ryan said. "A really good feeling."
Now $210 won't buy much lumber for Gifford. But considering where it came from, the donation feels like a million bucks.
Drug Court isn't a place you want to end up. It's for folks trying to break bad habits and stay out of prison.
"Some of them come from horrific upbringings, some have had terrible breaks, some didn't have a chance to get it right the first time," Ryan said. "In a lot of cases, they weren't dealt a very good hand."
Still, during a late-fall treatment session, one client asked Ryan: "Why don't we do something for Gifford?"
Loose change didn't stand a chance.
"Just about every one of our clients made some sort of donation," Ryan said. "We had no idea how much would be raised."
Let's hope Gifford does.
"It tells me they have a big heart and they care," Ryan said of his clients. "And it shows there's a lot of hope."