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December 2016

Thornton Township gives away 5,000 toys

Ivy Pillar and her friend, Lynette Jones, were smiling even bigger than their children when they left Thornton Township hall. That’s because they each left with a large bag each of presents that will make Christmas special for their families. They understand the work it takes for any organization to create a program this large, and they didn’t take it for granted.

“We are thankful for everyone in the township from Frank Zuccarelli down to the volunteers who made the experience great,” said Pillar, of South Holland. “This is something we are not going to forget.”

Thornton Township, the largest township in Illinois, gave away more than 5,000 toys to community residents as well as 1,400 holiday food baskets during its annual Christmas Care program. It’s a tradition that has become a staple of the township’s December programs for almost two decades in an effort to make the holidays more enjoyable for families. Each child receives at least three individual wrapped gifts.

“It would be very difficult to do this without the help of the township,” added Jones, of Riverdale. “It’s going to be a good Christmas and we appreciate everything we are getting.”

Throughout December, Thornton Township employees and volunteers wrap thousands of gifts, separating them by age group and families. It is a labor of love that has staff wrapping late into the weekday nights along with the weekends. In addition, the township gave families free onesies for newborns up to 24-months, understanding the need to provide an all-encompassing package of gifts, food and clothing.

“This is one of my favorite programs all year,” said Frank M. Zuccarelli, Thornton Township supervisor. “It’s a great feeling when you see the excitement in a child’s eyes when they see all the wrapped presents, and then you see the parents so thankful that they can provide a good Christmas for their children.”

Rachel Clark walked into Thornton Township hall and was simply amazed. Her eyes turned to the thousands of wrapped gifts for kids and couldn’t believe an event like this existed.

“I can only imagine how the kids feel like when they see everything,” said Clark, of Calumet City, who brought her son, Julius, 4, and six nephews. “It’s incredible that a program like this is available and I know so many families, including myself, are very thankful.”

Lanisha Adams, 18, of Riverdale, took her two 10-year-old twin brothers, Damarion and Omarion to the Christmas Care program. They took photos with Santa, ate pizza and picked up toys that they will open on Christmas.

“They really like everything today from the snacks to the photos and I know they are looking forward to the presents,” said Lanisha Adams.

Thornton Township recently received the Illinois Township of the Year award at the annual Township of Illinois Annual Educational Conference in Springfield. The township received the award previously in 2004 and 2008.

“The township enjoys helping families. That is what local government is supposed to do,” said Joyce Washington, Thornton Township trustee. “The community really comes out for this program and we are going to continue having this event for our residents.”


Holiday Dinner a success

South Holland, IL.—More than 1,100 people attended the Thornton Township annual Holiday Dinner at South Suburban College. Township Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli, the board of trustees and the clerk’s office organized the free dinner as a thank you to all its residents. Neighborhood volunteers and trustees served the food.

“I really enjoy these dinners, old friends getting together and enjoying each other,” said Zuccarelli.

In addition, hundreds of donated frozen turkeys were given away throughout the afternoon. Trustee Joyce M. Washington, who has been a trustee for 18 years stated, “I really enjoyed myself with fellow trustees and commissioners. Many of my neighbors and friends were in attendance.”

The event featured live music and dancing as well.

“The township did a great job this year and last year feeding constituents,” said Clerk Jacqueline E. Davis-Rivera. “Lots of people told me they were happy. I think we were successful.”

Thornton Township received the Township Officials of Illinois (TOI) 2016 Illinois Township of the Year Award. Thornton Township is the largest township in Illinois and has about 185,000 residents. Thornton Township consists of 17 south suburban communities – Blue Island, Burnham, Calumet City, Dixmoor, Dolton, East Hazel Crest, Glenwood, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Homewood, Lansing, Markham, Phoenix, Posen, Riverdale, South Holland, and Thornton.


Thornton Township wins Illinois Township of the Year

Thornton Township received the Illinois Township of the Year award at the annual Township of Illinois Annual Educational Conference in Springfield. The township received the award previously in 2004 and 2008.

“We are very proud of the hard work our staff does to provide the highest quality of service to our community,” said Frank M. Zuccarelli, Thornton Township supervisor. “Our motto is people working with people and we truly believe that township government is at the ground floor of providing the necessary programs that communities need. We are honored and humbled by this award and that the Township of Illinois recognizes the hard work we have put in this year to help our local residents.”

The largest township in Illinois, Thornton Township is made up of all or part of 17 south suburban communities. The township provides general assistance program offering financial relief for qualified residents. In addition, the township registers voters, helps with homeowners and senior citizen homestead exemption, food assistance program, free family counseling, after school homework tutoring and weekly senior programs.

Thornton Township received the award for many of the programs that continue to run and expand during the past year. Many state run Meals on Wheels programs have cut down the number of days they offer food with many seniors on long waiting list for services.

But at Thornton Township’s Food Assistance Center, they currently serve more than 3,000 families per month with more than 350 boxes of nourishing food delivered each week directly to the homes of senior residents who are shut-ins. the food assistance team continuously talks to residents and asks them about the type of foods they need.

Because of state funding many organization can no longer offer transportation services for seniors. Just this year, Senior Services Plus, which was a bus transportation for seniors, shut down for the first time in 43 years. Some of the Catholic Charities USA around the Chicagoland area had to cut or alter their senior transportation services.

However, the township has filled that void by record number of rides to medical appointments and grocery stores. The Senior Transportation Department provides trips for the people of the Township that are 60-years of age and older. That population, the “Baby Boomers” over 60, is growing every day. For the last three consecutive years, Senior Transportation had broken records for completed trips every year. The township averages picking up more than 160 seniors each weekday.

In addition, with employment higher than the national average in south suburban cities and towns, the township has helped match unemployed residents with purposeful, long-term job opportunities. During the past eighteen months, around 110 township residents have found meaningful, long-term positions and are no longer on General Assistance.

Understanding that in times of budget crunches, collaboration becomes even more important, this aggressive effort is being done in collaboration with South Suburban College, which provides skills-building workshops to help participants develop and present better job interview capabilities. The township also runs GED programs where students can receive more personal attention because we focus on smaller class sizes.


The township also has a robust youth and adult program that features free family counseling and after school tutoring and programs in Dolton and Riverdale.

“We understand the importance of working together for a common goal,” added Zuccarelli. “We are here to serve the people and make sure that we build each other up and we build our communities up. We are able to accomplish this because we have a strong board of trustees who care about the community and a strong management team in all areas working to make sure we provide the best services possible.”