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Park Forest is one of 21 communities in Illinois to receive a 2019 Governor’s Hometown Award.The Governor’s Hometown Awards program gives formal recognition to those who contributed to their community’s quality of life through projects that had strong volunteer support, met a need, and made a significant impact.The Park Forest community’s efforts to establish and develop the Park Forest Veteran’s Closet and Resource Center earned the village the honor. Located in downtown Park Forest, the Park Forest Veterans Closet and Resource Center provides assistance for area veterans transitioning from active duty. The center receives support from the Park Forest Veterans Commission, a volunteer group of Park Forest residents, with staffing and outfitting the space with donations. The Veterans Closet and Resource Center provides free goods and resources, including gently used furniture and other household items, along with employment preparedness and housing assistance.
“Once again, we are pleased to be able to honor so many communities that utilize volunteers,” said Commission Executive Director Scott McFarland. “Throughout the judging process of the Governor’s Hometown Awards, we clearly saw the spirit of volunteers and community service in many places in Illinois. It’s our honor to be able to bring attention to so many worthy initiatives.”The Park Forest Veterans Commission opened the Veterans Closet and Resource Center in August 2015.It started shortly after the village held a community-wide garage sale and asked residents to donate any items leftover from their garage sales to assist veterans. The outpouring was so great that a space was needed to store the many donations until they could be sorted and distributed. The Village of Park Forest donated a village-owned, empty storefront for temporary use. That temporary use became more permanent as donations continued to pour in. Today, the space that began as a storage room is now a fully operating service visited by and benefiting hundreds of veterans since its formation in 2015.In 2018, the Park Forest Veterans Closet and Resource Center:
• Served a total of 213 veterans• Volunteers donated a total of 1414 hours to operate the space• A total of $36,801 was donated in volunteer labor• Approximately $23,737 was donated in the form of a donated vehicle and item donation• An additional $16,000 in donations came from a single donor, with a total monetary donations coming in at $76,538.
Last week, village officials traveled to Springfield to officially accept the award.