By Dan Haley
It was an encouraging and inspiring evening for students from Oak Park and River Forest High School Tuesday as the Community Foundation presented two of three awards for "philanthropic excellence" to high school aligned groups of students.
Gathering on a snowy evening at the Carleton Hotel for its annual event celebrating the power and the virtue of philanthropy in all its forms, the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation gave its award for "Outstanding Individual Philanthropist" to Donna Myers who is active in a range of local non-profits. Myers passed the $1,000 grant she received from the foundation through to the Oak Park Food Pantry.
The Alumni Association at OPRF was honored as the "Outstanding Philanthropic Group." Bobbie Raymond, co-founder of the group and a legendary leader in Oak Park's efforts at integration, told the crowd that the alumni group wasn't interested in gathering in social settings to remember the past. Rather it was focused on ways to guarantee opportunities to current OPRF students for life-changing experiences underwritten by graduates from past decades.
Raymond touted the group's Summer Enrichment Grant program. And with eight of some two dozen students from last summer's group standing behind her, Raymond said her group was not looking necessarily for Straight A students but rather for students with passion and curiosity about the world but who lack the means to take part in international summer exchange programs or specialty programs in theater or debate held closer to home.
Finally, the Community Foundation recognized the Hephzibah Huskies as its "Outstanding Philanthropic Youth Group." Now chartered as an official club within OPRF, the Hephzibah Huskies has grown organically in recent years into a good sized group of OPRF students who volunteer throughout the year at Hephzibah Children's Association.
The focus of the teens work is with the 26 youngsters who live in an orphanage setting at Hephzibah House on North Boulevard. From planning major annual events for the kids, to day-to-day mentoring, Mary Anne Brown, executive director of Hephzibah, said this group was the future of Hephzibah and of Oak Park.