JOLIET — Gifts from the Joliet community came Friday to Guardian Angel Community Services on carts.
Pushing those carts – and carrying some gifts – were staff members at the downtown branch of the Joliet Public Library. During the holiday season, the library hosted a “giving tree” to collect donations for Guardian Angel Community Services, which is located near the library.
“They’re like a next-door neighbor. We thought it was a good fit,” said Denise Zielinski, Joliet Public Library community engagement officer.
The giving tree is the Joliet Public Library holiday tree. On it, staff placed ornaments listing items needed for Guardian Angel, known as a safe haven for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The organization is the oldest nonprofit in Will County and moved last year to its downtown location.
The items needed included toiletries, clothes, food, household items and back-to-school supplies.
Patrons who visited either library branch – Black Road or downtown – could adopt an ornament from the tree and make donations. Library officials said the response was overwhelming and more than 40 boxes of goods were gathered.
“We’re just really thrilled the community embraced this idea and the amount of items they turned back in,” Zielinski said.
Zielinski initially came up with the idea of donating the gifts using a "human chain," where everyone involved in the giving tree project would link together, starting from the back door of the library to the front door of the Guardian Angel building.
She said the idea was to give recognition of staff who helped with the donations.
Friday’s cold, rainy weather was not conducive to this effort. Instead, library staff decided to round up the donations to put on carts and some carried them.
Jane Jungles, Guardian Angel office manager, said the donations made to the nonprofit Friday will aid clients and programs for the next several months.
Jungles also said Valerie Pastwa, Guardian Angel development specialist, worked closely with Zielinski on the giving tree effort.
“We have an awesome community and they pitched in to give back,” Jungles said.