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Holiday spirit touches community

12/22/12      Waukegan

Students from St. Patrick School Wadsworth help hout coats Holy Family Pantry Waukegan. |

12/22/12 Waukegan Students from St. Patrick School in Wadsworth help hand out coats at the Holy Family Pantry in Waukegan. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 22, 2013 2:13AM

Bob Brown remembers it well.

Three years ago, he was on the receiving line for a much-needed holiday food basket at the Holy Family Pantry on Waukegan’s south side.

Saturday, he was on the other side, giving out 200 food baskets — each with a hefty frozen turkey — to the needy as grand knight of the Waukegan Council of the Knights of Columbus.

“I wanted to give back something I had received for my family when I was out of work,” said Brown, of Zion, who has turned his fortune since. He is now the principal owner of JBR Transportation, a taxi company.

As grand knight, he was instrumental in raising $6,004 for the giveaway. Each basket included enough food to feed eight people, he said. The money was raised from donations by the Waukegan Council’s 350 members and also from a golf outing.

Dove-tailing the event Saturday was a winter-coat giveaway in the courtyard of the pantry. The coats, along with hats, gloves, and mittens, had been collected by the students of St. Patrick School in Wadsworth.

With temperatures dipping into the 20s, it was a perfect time to have the warmth of a heavy winter coat. Melanie Velazquez, 11, found just the right thing — a black-grey jacket with lining warm enough to withstand the cold and wind. She tried it on for size and it fit her. She took it, along with a hat.

“Thank you so much,” she said gratefully to the students manning the table which was piled high with winter wear of every description, ready to find the right owners.

Rosario Ortiz, 17, thinly-dressed, was shivering in the cold as he saw his sister, Rosalio, 14, put on a warm jacket with a hood.

“It looks warm,” he said, his breath quickly turning into a burst of white mist in the cold air.

“This is the right jacket for me,” said his sister happily.

Roz Finch came looking for coats for herself and her daughter. “This is really a blessing,” she praised.

Cynthia Jennings, advisor to the St. Patrick School’s student council which was the driving force behind the coat drive, said the students collected four car loads of winter clothing for this event.

“Last year, there were two carloads. The majority of this year’s coats were new, some with the tags still on them,” she said.

Allison Belmont, 14, of Wadsworth, president of the student council, said fellow students started collecting coats in September.

“It was a great experience for us last year, so we decided to do the same things this year to help those in need,” said the seventh-grader.

Some of the clothes were donated by the students and their families, others from the community. The student also set up a Web site for the purpose.

Katie Collin, 13, of Gurnee came with her mother, Lisa, for the giveaway. The seventh-grader said she was able to collect more than 20 coats with the help of her father who is the operations manager at Maurice Sporting Goods in Northbrook.

“We’re glad and blessed to have this opportunity to serve people in need,” said the mother.

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