Team BNSF helps fulfill holiday wishes for Cicero boys
As adults scurry to complete their last-minute holiday shopping this week, 10 neighborhood boys from the Chicago-area town of Cicero, Illinois, got a chance to experience the joy of receiving – and giving. These members of the local Boys Club were selected to go on a shopping spree on Monday, each with a $100 Target gift card, courtesy of the BNSF Railway Foundation and part of a $10,000 grant.
“BNSF has long been a part of this town’s history, going back more than 100 years, and the Boys Club has been serving boys here since the 1950s,” Peter Skosey, executive director, Public Affairs, said. “We brainstormed some ways to connect with the club, and the gift cards helped them pick out something for themselves as well as gifts for family members.”
Skosey enlisted the help of about 20 local BNSF employees, including the Chicago Division General Manager Sara Johnson. They acted as elves, helping the boys to make their lists, find the items and keep track of their spending. One of the elves was honored guest Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, Representative for the Illinois General Assembly 24th District. “I was humbled to be invited and serve as a source in the community connecting the Boys Club and its members to the railroad,” she noted.
Added Johnson: “This is one of the busiest times for our railroad, when we are helping to deliver packages and loads to our customers. Even so, getting to interact with these boys was invaluable, and I’m so privileged to have spent time with them.”
Skosey hopes to have quarterly activities with the club, including a career day, when members can learn about railroad jobs and get a tour of our Cicero Yard. A basketball tournament involving local employees is also in the works.
According to Boys Club CEO Edgar Montiel, the club serves 815 members between the ages of 7-18 from its Boys Club of Cicero/Boys & Girls Club of South Cicero. They are at-risk youth in the community, which suffers from gang violence, low education-attaining levels and poverty.
“The kids were very excited for the event,” Montiel said. “Every one of them purchased something for their parents, and returning to the Club, they were very excited to give their parents something special.”
Among the club’s goals is to ensure all members graduate from high school and are prepared for a post-secondary education and 21st century career.
“We plan to collaborate on expanding volunteer and service-learning projects,” Montiel said. “We have also discussed the possibility of developing a workforce development program for our older teens with BNSF and see this relationship growing. Being neighbors and staples in the community, I think there's a significant opportunity for both organizations to further invest in our youth.”
Skosey also values the newfound relationship with the club. “This gives us an opportunity to interact with our neighbors in fun ways,” he said. “Plus, as we look to the future of the railroad, these boys may someday be among our employees or its leaders.”