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Recognizing that local businesses and restaurants form the backbone of communities, Alberto Paracchini, CEO of Byline Bank, tasked Susie Goldschmidt, Oak Park and River Forest Market President for Byline Bank, with purchasing $15,000 in gift cards from local restaurants.  

Byline Bank committed the funds in hopes of making a difference at a critical time for many restaurants struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope is this effort, and a similar one in Evanston, will gain momentum and inspire others to participate in showing support for local establishments.

In December, Goldschmidt operated like a jolly elf paying surprise visits to 68 Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park restaurants to purchase gift certificates on behalf of the bank.

“I had my fill of lunch, coffee, dinner and desserts over the five days spent buying the gift cards than I have had in quite a while. It was a great change up to my week,” said Goldschmidt. “One restaurant said they were wondering and waiting to see if I would end up at their business.”

Byline partnered with the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce as well as the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce to help Goldschmidt spread the love between communities. She visited breweries, restaurants and diners including Forest Park’s Yum Thai and Oak Park’s One Lake Brewing, Robinson’s Ribs, and Georges’ Family Restaurant. She also stopped by coffee shops, bakeries and sweet shops including Wise Cup in Oak Park, River Forest Chocolates, Twisted Cookie in Forest Park as well as Oak Park’s, Spilt Milk.

“I think this program is so amazing, and as a small business owner I cannot tell you what an impact that makes and how truly grateful we are for the support.” said Meg Svec, co-owner of Spilt Milk Pastry of the Byline Bank effort.

Goldschmidt, who has more than 40 years of experience in the banking industry, also understands the struggles restaurants are facing firsthand. She and her late husband owned and operated the now closed China Night Restaurant in Forest Park for 15 years.

“I know about the plight of restaurants after running China Night on my own for seven years,” said Goldschmidt. “It is great Byline wants to make a difference locally and preserve the feeling of a true community bank.”

Byline Bank has accumulated a collection of hundreds of gift cards. To date no official decision has been made as to how to use or distribute them, but the impact of the considerable spend has not gone unnoticed.

Courageous Bakery in Oak Park donates a portion of their proceeds to cancer research and sent an appreciative email to Goldschmidt stating the following:

“Every purchase makes a difference in these difficult times. We are so grateful we have been able to stay open, both to be here for our community and also give back to a good cause.”