More benefit from GALA donations than you may think

Opinion

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It has been seven weeks since GALA's marvelous fireworks to celebrate our country's birthday on the Fourth of July. Although threatened by rain most of the day, the ground and aerial displays went off without incident. And, from many comments received by our volunteers, the crowd really enjoyed the 31st annual show.

We have learned too, while speaking with organizers and the volunteers, that there might be confusion among our residents about the relationship among the various entities that support and put on the annual fireworks display. Indulge us with a few comments about those relationships.

First, there is GALA, the Great American Lightshow Association. One of their primary responsibilities is to create the show, hire the fireworks company, and coordinate with local entities?#34;police, fire, park district, District 200 and the village?#34;to put on the show.

However, GALA also works behind the scenes to educate the community about the safe manner in which to use fireworks, especially at this time of year. Educational materials are provided to the fire and police departments for distribution throughout the community. Finally, believe it or not, GALA is a non-profit organization, which means that your contributions to it are tax deductible.

Second are the volunteers and their connection to the show. Each year, capably-directed by Jay Champelli, about 50 volunteers pass through the crowd before and after the show, asking for donations. Those donations pay for the show. The volunteers are friends and fans of the GALA show who have been helping out for years.

Other volunteers are organized by Community Chest/United Way of Oak Park as a way of showing its support for the fireworks show and to say thank you for the contribution it receives in return.

That gets us to the third part of the formula for fireworks, Community Bank. Marty has committed the bank to two things as part of being involved with the GALA fireworks show.

The first is to guarantee support, marketing materials, and financial strength to the fireworks, when needed, while keeping the fireworks a community-supported show supported by your contributions.

The second is to give financial support to Community Chest/United Way as the organization most involved in providing services to community residents in need. So, in addition to committing financial resources to the show when needed, Community Bank has also committed to make a significant grant annually to Community Chest/United Way of Oak Park in proportion to the amount of community support received through the collection efforts of our volunteers.

Since the relationship was established over four years ago, the bank has given $30,000 in additional support to the Chest. By the way, during that time, GALA collections have totaled nearly $40,000.

Kate's Community Chest Board recognizes the importance of assisting GALA for the recognition and support they give to deserving local organizations and for the contributions promised by Community Bank.

Our story, though it has many parts, is simple: We help to support a first-class fireworks show every year for our community; encourage financial support to pay for the show from those attending and create a gift for the Community Chest proportionate to the amount collected. Everyone wins.

Thanks to all who came to the show, who volunteered, who gave, who governed (GALA trustees) and to Wednesday Journal, who provides the finale each year.

All of us hope you enjoyed the show. When you have an opportunity to contribute at next year's show, remember that you are giving in two ways?#34;to make sure that the show will go on, and that community services will continue to be available to those in need.

Please give and give generously.
Kate Wenzel, Community Chest/United Way
Marty Noll, Community Bank

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