There is a lot I love about Forest Park — the variety of local businesses, our festivals, cemeteries, waterslides, and the smell of Atomic Fireballs on a cold winter day — but what I love best is the variety of ways residents, businesses and local organizations come together to make a difference.

We have “CATS for Forest Park” looking out for the strays, a local “Cinderella Project” to make sure that all Proviso students can afford to have a dream prom experience (and since it’s that time of year, contact the Community Center if you have dresses or suits to donate), and the collaborative “Live Healthy Forest Park!” campaign working to make sure we eat better and get active.

We are also very lucky to have a fabulous library that strives to find programming that reflects our community’s interests. From Monday, Feb. 18 through Sunday, Feb. 24, the library staff will be encouraging the Forest Park spirit of giving by organizing and participating in a series of philanthropic-based activities they are calling “Forest Park Gives Back.”

“We wanted to do something we felt excited about that also really involved the community,” Sarah Beth Warshauer, the public relations and programming librarian at FPPL, explained. “This will give us an opportunity to come together as a staff, spend time working on fun projects with the community, and do something good at the same time.”

The first fun project is making blankets for Project Linus, an organization that delivers handmade blankets to terminally ill children. The library will be providing materials to make simple fleece blankets and Forest Parkers are welcome to drop in any time between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Monday to participate. Prolific knitters are welcome to donate surplus projects or you can bring your yarn and start a blanket there, as my knitting buddies and I plan to do. If you don’t finish your blanket in time, information on where to send it will be provided.

Then on Tuesday at 7 p.m., the library will be screening a documentary that fits with the week’s theme.

Book Buddies, a special edition of the library’s ongoing Read Along Book Club, will take place on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. Children 6-9 are encouraged to come in and serve as buddies to younger children by reading to them.

Friday’s all-day “Make a Get Well Card” event, which benefits the Chicago-based organization “Cards for Hospitalized Kids,” is great for kids and adults to let loose creatively and make something that will brighten a child’s day. Animals will be included, too, on Saturday at 2 p.m. when Animal Care League and the Treehouse Humane Society for Cats visit the library with pets that need to be adopted.

If you have a stockpile of clothing and home goods that you’ve been meaning to donate, you can drop them off on Thursday and they will go to a local Goodwill. All week long, the library will be doing “Food for Fines” to benefit the Forest Park Food Pantry. For each can of food you bring in, the library will knock a dollar off any fines you may have accrued.

The festivities will come to close on Sunday the 24th at 2 p.m. with a celebratory open house featuring “cake, coffee, and community.” This is a replacement for the usual February “Love Your Library Day,” and I have to say, “Forest Park Gives Back” has made me love our library even more.

Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie is the author of "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" and "Ballads of Suburbia." She's a proud Forest Parker who holds a master's in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally...

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