When Principal Eleanor Kraft was looking for ways to raise money for new playground equipment at St. Bernardine’s School a few years ago, she was presented with a business plan she just couldn’t pass up: peanuts.
For some 30 years now, the Forest Park Kiwanis has sold roasted peanuts as a fund-raiser for children’s programs in the village. For three days, dozens of volunteers stand at busy street corners, transit stations and anywhere else that people frequent with the hopes of raising enough money to lend financial help to kid-oriented causes.
This year’s event takes place later this month and Kraft said local organizations could benefit from getting involved.
“We had to do different kinds of fund raising,” Kraft said. “They presented us with the opportunity and we took it. Now we have a playground.”
Forest Park Kiwanis President Nancy Bower said organizations like schools can partner with Kiwanis for a portion of the funds brought in through peanut sales. In the case of St. Bernardine, Bower said 40 percent of the money raised by those volunteers went directly to the playground equipment. And on top of that, Kiwanis made another sizable donation, Bower said.
Kiwanis is an international philanthropy that was founded in Detroit in 1915. The group has since expanded to include more than 600,000 members in 96 countries, and focuses on supporting children.
The Forest Park club has been in existence for some 85 years, Bower said.
Local Realtor Jerry Jacknow is a former member of the local Kiwanis and stood on street corners selling bags of peanuts for two decades. His experience with the peanut sale is largely positive, Jacknow said, and donors often tell stories of how Kiwanis has helped them.
Standing alongside the highway breathing exhaust fumes, however, isn’t always a highlight, he said.
“The first half hour is fun and after that it gets to be a little bit of a drag,” Jacknow said of the peanut sale. Jacknow also served as a Forest Park village commissioner and a member of the Proviso Township high school board.
The event usually brings in $2,000 or $3,000 for the group, Bower said, which is then distributed to organizations in Forest Park. None of the proceeds leave the village, Bower said. Peanut Committee Chairman Jerry Lordan said the event typically fields 30 volunteers. For this year’s event, Lordan said roughly 20 people have signed on thus far.
“If we get underwriting on the peanuts, then all the money in the can is for the kids,” Bower said.