Community and civic groups 209 Together and Kiwanis Club of Forest Park raised more than $16,000 to benefit students of Proviso East, Proviso West and Proviso Math and Science Academy at their annual scholarship fundraiser on June 28 at the rooftop of Urban Pioneer Group. 

The night’s haul is the most 209 Together’s raised since starting the scholarship fund three years ago. During the first two years, the group raised around $7,500. This year, they hoped to match that amount. But then they more than doubled it. 

“I start crying every time I think about it, I’m so happy we were able to do this,” said April Baker, co-organizer. “After a lot of long nights around my dining room table with everybody, it worked out.” 

Baker said chefs’ generosity toward the middle of the event catapulted the groups earnings, with some of caterers offering to host an exclusive cooking class on the roof of Urban Pioneer Group to those who donated additional funds. Chefs from The Heritage, Amerikas, New Rebozo and more catered the event for free. Some 125 people enjoyed the rooftop vibe courtesy of Linda Cibula, the owner of the building who donated the space.

“I got approached several times by people saying, ‘You don’t know these kids and you came together to do this?'” Baker said. “I’m a realtor, I see people avoiding our area because of Proviso and, to me, it’s just really important to be able to support the kids and make sure they have every opportunity they can.”

Baker said it cost less than $1,000 to throw the entire shindig. 

Because the fundraiser was built primarily on donated time and goods, most of the money raised will go directly toward $1,000 scholarships to each of the nine deserving students from District 209’s campuses.

Connie Brown, one of the founders of 209 Together who also helped organize the fundraising effort, said that the event was consistent with the organization’s mission.

“Every year, we do internships, volunteer work, anything we can do to improve our schools,” she said, adding that the group always needs volunteers.

“Our students are the future of our communities and if we support the education of our youth, they go on to learn amazing things and come back to be the leaders and builders of our town,” she said.

The recipients of the scholarships will receive their awards at another event in the coming weeks.

Full disclosure: The author of this article
 emceed the June 28 event.  

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