Members of the Chessmen Club of the North Shore load food baskets, keeping alive a 50+ year tradition.Photo by Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios

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In this season of staving off the winter darkness with the warm light of love and compassion, few things could seem as cold as the idea of being forgotten, and, again this year, Evanston residents and organizations worked to see that no one here would be overlooked in the holiday season.

Continuing a tradition of more than 50 years, members of the Chessmen Club of the North Shore delivered boxes and baskets of food to community centers and senior centers just before Christmas. Over the years the club has distributed more than 10,000 food baskets, feeding 50,000 families in the Evanston community during the holiday season.

The annual Mayor’s Holiday Food and Toy Drive brightened the holiday season for 441 Evanston families, thanks to generous donations from community members and businesses. Volunteers and City staff distributed holiday turkeys, customized food baskets and bags of toys at the annual event on Friday, December 15 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

In thanking the volunteers and the donors, Mayor Steve Hagerty said, “The holiday spirit is alive and well in Evanston.”

Evanston firefighters of Local 742 hosted a party for local children involved in the Salvation Army’s core program. For the 15th year, children gathered at a local fire station – this time, Station 2 on Madison Street – for a holiday celebration.

Staff at Childcare Network of Evanston collected more than 200 presents for their families. Participants and auxiliary board members of Center for Independent Futures made eight fleece blankets, and the CTA donated 20 boxes of food. Families dropped by CNE last week to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies and to receive these gifts.

Even those far from home remembered their Evanston roots. Athena Johnston, 7, who was born in Evanston, as were her mother and grandmother, now lives in Colorado with her family.

Last year Athena formed an organization called “With Love From Us,” whose mission is to spread love to people and animals around the world. Athena’s mother, Kori Ade, is a figure-skating coach in Monument, Col., one of whose students, Jason Brown, is a 2014 Olympic team medalist with an international reputation.

Mr. Brown saves the gifts traditionally thrown onto the ice by fans and delivers many stuffed animals to local Ronald McDonald houses in various countries where he has performed. Other “gifts” tossed on to the ice, particularly from fans in Japan are personal care items, small towels, socks or “Tenugui,” Japanese towels. He also saves the toiletries from the many hotels where he has stayed. This year he participated in a “love mission” by helping Athena assemble about three dozen baskets of toiletries.

Ms. Ade volunteered at the YWCA Evanston-North Shore as a teen, and her mother, Katharine Ade, delivered the three dozen baskets there just before Christmas.  

If, as the late Muhammad Ali suggested, service to others is the rent paid for one’s room on earth, Evanstonians this season could be months ahead.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...