Thanksgiving Baskets for SmartSteps

In November, JLKD volunteers assembled Thanksgiving meal baskets for SmartSteps. Baskets were distributed to families during their Thanksgiving celebration on Friday November 20th.

SmartSteps’ mission is in early childhood education and parental training for needy children (birth-3 years) and their parents living on the East side of Aurora.

Members assembled baskets the night before.

Members assembled baskets the night before.

Part of the Thanksgiving celebration included reading books to the children.

Part of the Thanksgiving celebration included reading books to the children.

Families enjoyed some time to socialize during the Thanksgiving gathering.

Families enjoyed some time to socialize during the Thanksgiving gathering.

A Message from Marcela Jones, Director of SmartSteps

Thank you and the JLKD for the donations of the beautiful Thanksgiving Baskets and all your hard work to make this project possible. I also would like to thank all the volunteers for their time and help, and for coming to celebrate the meaning of Thanksgiving Day with the children and their mothers here at SmartSteps.

Every SmartSteps participant was so happy and they really appreciated the baskets full of yummy goodies. Please would you let the volunteers know how much we appreciate all their help and support.
Again, thank you for helping SmartSteps continue their mission.

JLKD Participates in Giving Tuesday

The Junior League of Kane DuPage Counties, Inc. (JLKD) participated in #GivingTuesday 2015, a global day dedicated to giving. The donations will enable additional programs to promote education, encourage health and improve housing stability for families living in poverty in Kane and DuPage counties.

Since its founding in 2012, #GivingTuesday has inspired giving around the world, resulting in greater donations, volunteer hours, and activities that bring about real change in communities.

Scholarship and Grant Recipients


AURORA, Ill. (March 30, 2015) — As part of its commitment to promoting voluntarism and improving its communities, the Junior League of Kane & DuPage Counties, Inc. (JLKD) is pleased to announce the 2014-2015 recipients of the organizations Volunteer Scholarships and Grants for Innovative Teaching. The many worthy applicants showed tireless passion for improving their communities and are leading change by example.

Volunteer Scholarships
This year JLKD is proud to provide four, $1,000 scholarships to college-bound female high school seniors who demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to voluntarism. These exceptional young women were selected out of over 150 applicants.
• Lauren Van Vlierbergen, Harry D. Jacobs High School in Algonquin, Ill.: Lauren volunteers with many organizations, including Jacobs Interact, Jacobs Safety Initiative and Girls on the Run, but has a passion for increasing the safety of teen drivers. Due to her efforts, seatbelt usage has increased from 85% to 98% among students at Harry D. Jacobs High School and Jacobs High School is a cell phone free zone. Lauren plans to attend the University of Michigan in the fall.
• Kalie Koch, St. Charles East High School in St. Charles, Ill.: Kalie is active with the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association (FVSRA), which supports the recreation, leisure and social opportunities for people with disabilities. In college she plans to major in Physical Education Teaching and minor in Adaptive Physical Education Teaching to ensure special needs kids can also participate in Physical Education. She plans to attend college in Wisconsin in the fall.
• Kelsea Nolan, Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, Ill.: Kelsea hit a homerun for the Challenger Little League, a league that gives children with disabilities the opportunity to play baseball. She helped raise money to send her team to the Little League World Series in 2013, and served as the Chair for the 2014 Challenge Jamboree, which brought together 200 children across Northern Illinois for a day of baseball, crafts, food, music and fun.
• Marla Zepeda, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, Ill.: Marla dives into volunteering, giving swimming lessons to kids with mental illnesses through OrthoKids. She plans to major in psychology, and then continue her education into graduate school with a major in Developmental Psychology, specializing in mental disabilities. After completing her degrees, she hopes to get a job at a lab to keep studying these disabilities and help advance and/or create new cures and treatments.
Grants for Innovative Teaching
This year, JLKD distributed three $1,000 grants to support deserving teachers with a passion for teaching and their students.
• Bill Shuman, Mooseheart Child City & School, North Aurora, Ill.: Mooseheart will expand its use of technology through the use of document cameras to assist in more effective student learning. The document cameras will enable Mooseheart educators and students to expand their ability to clearly project images from textbooks and manipulatives for all students in the classroom to make the content more engaging for the learner.
• Neil Gunsteen, William Hammerschmidt Elementary School, Lombard, Ill.: Students will experience science in a whole new way through 3D printing. The students will gain important hands-on experience by concepting models, computer programming and learning how people use 3D printing for real world applications. The teachers plan to create their own replicas of ancient items, landforms and a variety of items to bring a new dimension to learning across grade levels.
• Shannon Ranney, Grande Park Elementary School, Plainfield, Ill.: Students in grades K-5 will use basic robotic programming skills to explore all content areas, such as Pro-Bots (robotic cars). Using robotic programming is a new hands-on, technology-based teaching approach that students will use to explore different content areas, such as math or geography.

More information on JLKD’s Volunteer Scholarship and Grants for Innovative Teaching programs can be found on

The Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is dedicated to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers in Kane, DuPage, Will and Kendall Counties. Our vision is to train volunteers to improve the lives of children at risk in the community by promoting literacy, developing self-esteem and providing positive programming. For more information, visit and like us on Facebook/JLKDServes.

New Members Fall 2014

AURORA, Ill. (Oct. 9, 2014) — The Junior League of Kane & DuPage Counties, Inc. (JLKD) is pleased to announce its Fall 2014 New Member class.

New members join JLKD in their ongoing efforts to improve the lives of at-risk youth in the community by promoting literacy, developing self-esteem and implementing positive programming.

The New Member Class is composed of 15 accomplished women dedicated to voluntarism: Sara Benson of Aurora,; Ellen Kuplic of Batavia,  Megan Mole of Elmhurst,; Danielle Welch of Geneva,; Kristen Hartman of Glendale Heights,; Jamie Hayes of Hoffman Estates, ; Karen Campana of Lisle, ; Tanya Griffin of Naperville, ; Patricia Paxson of Oswego, ; Kristin Whitlock of Schaumburg,; Anaga Kumar and Meghan Rye of Saint Charles,; Stephanie DiPietro of Sugar Grove,; and Abby Harkey of Villa Park.
In addition to receiving volunteer training, the New Member class will plan and implement a literacy-focused event at JLKD’s community partner Mooseheart Child City & School , a JLKD Community Partner, in late November. New Members will be reading aloud to students and leading literacy games and activities, with the goal to improve children’s reading and writing skills, and nurture a lifelong love of learning.

All women living in Kane, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties are invited to apply for JLKD membership. Applications for the Spring 2015 class are available at and are accepted through December 27, 2014.
The Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties, Inc. (JLKD), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is dedicated to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers in Kane, DuPage, Will and Kendall Counties. Our vision is to train volunteers to improve the lives of children at risk in the community by promoting literacy, developing self-esteem and providing positive programming. For more information, visit and like us on Facebook/JLKDServes..

2013-14 Award Winners

Congratulations to the 2013-14 JLKD Award winners!

New Member Award: Erin Tobias

Erin Tobias was praised for her excellent efforts in fundraising, Kids in the Kitchen and general membership. She is described as energetic, dedicated and a leader in the new member class. She went over and beyond with the Kids in the Kitchen event. Although she is very soft spoken, she used her voice to let her thoughts be heard and spent a lot of her free time volunteering at JLKD events.

Gabriela Pino Fundraising Award: Renata Musial and Chelsey Osborne

The general consensus of the members was, that without Renata Musial and Chelsey Osborne, our fundraisers just wouldn’t have been the same this year. This dynamic duo led the League to exceed our fundraising goals and have an amazing time as well. They have both, equally, gone above and beyond this year for fundraising, exceeding all fundraising goals. They are a great team and deserved to be recognized together.

Janet Bornancin Community Award: Sue Wilson

Sue Wilson is respected and appreciated by so many. Here are just a few of the things you said about her: She always makes an effort to involve you when you are at an event, and makes sure the event is the best it can be for those we are helping. She is a wonderful ambassador for our league and is always reaching out to see who need help and how we can give it. Her positive attitude is contagious! She has this energy that inspires others to want to learn more about the projects we are doing in the community.

Sustaining Member Award: Lynn Tucker

Year after year, Lynn Tucker gives her heart and soul to the League and everyone who needs it. She is giving and always goes out of her way to make others feel comfortable. She goes above and beyond as a sustainer, staying involved and active. She continues to support JLKD by working to continue relationships with other sustainers. She is a tireless volunteer who helps wherever and whenever needed. She has put a huge spark back in many sustainers for JLKD. She has worked so hard to rally the sustainers and engage them in meaningful ways.

Membership Award: Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark was nominated for the Membership Award for Outstanding League Work by League members with the following: “She has been a true asset to the League.” “She has developed things this year that make me proud to be part of JLKD.” “She does everything with a positive attitude and a smile, and is always willing to do more than is asked of her.” “She has spent endless hours contributing her time.” “She absolutely deserves this award. And a million cookies.”


Storybook Olympics

A Super Hero Thank You

On March 29,  JLKD put on a StoryBook Olympics event for the kids at Mooseheart Child City & School.  This year’s theme was Super Heroes and it was a great day of reading, activities and games.  Everyone had fun decorating their own super hero masks and each child was able to pick out two books to take home with them.

JLKD was thrilled to receive thank you notes from the kids!

Storybook Olympics Thank You 1

Storybook Olympics Thank You 2Storybook Olympics Thank You 5Storybook Olympics Thank You 3Storybook Olympics Thank You 4

Making it a Happy Easter

The Done In A Day and Story Wizards committees teamed up to sponsor an Easter Basket assembly event at SmartSteps in Aurora on April 16th.  The volunteers assembled 50+ baskets for children in ages raging from infant to 8 years old.

SmartSteps uses JLKD’s donations as incentives for its families to complete various programs and requirements.  Marcela Jones, Executive Director of SmartSteps, shared this thank you note:

The families were so happy and the children have big smiles on their faces when they received the baskets. Thank you for all your time and your kindness, on behalf of SmartSteps, staff and families – Thanks!!

SmartSteps Easter Baskets 3 SmartSteps Easter Baskets 1



Pioneer Elementary in West Chicago serves as pilot for Your Library Nook

WEST CHICAGO – With bright colors, bean bag chairs and plenty of books, the Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties hopes to create a readers’ paradise at Pioneer Elementary School in West Chicago.

The school will be the first to have part of its library transformed into a library nook as part of the league’s Your Library Nook initiative.

The project will create a comfortable, welcoming place for students to read that features new furniture, shelving, decorations, reading materials and games. It is expected to be completed during the 2014-15 school year.

“We know if you don’t have that place where they can feel safe and curl up with a good book, they’re not going to fall in love with reading,” said Sarah Clark, communications vice president of the Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties.

Part of a national association, the league is open to women of all ages and provides leadership training and service opportunities.

The focus of the league in Kane and DuPage counties is literacy, Clark said.

For the Your Library Nook initiative, league members wanted to help students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in particular. They looked at schools with the most students in free and reduced lunch programs and determined Pioneer Elementary would be a perfect fit for the project, she said.

At Pioneer Elementary, students are already excited to go to the library, but the idea of increasing that excitement is attractive to school leaders, Principal Gloria Trejo said.

“We want literacy to be an opportunity,” she said. “We want students to see this as an opportunity, not a task.”

Trejo and librarian Robin Harwood have worked closely with the league to develop a plan that fits the needs of the school, Trejo said.

About 93 percent of the school’s students come from low-income households, according to its 2013 Illinois School Report Card.

Many school parents work two jobs to make sure the daily needs of their children are being met, she said.

That makes it especially important for the school to play its part in meeting the literacy needs of its students and providing support to parents for promoting reading at home, Trejo said.

The Your Library Nook project is being funded entirely through donations. Of the $10,000 needed to create the nook, $3,000 has been raised, Clark said.

Part of that support came from the league’s annual Spring Fling event, which many school and district staff members attended.

While the Your Library Nook initiative at Pioneer Elementary will only transform a corner of the library, the league will donate plans for the rest of the library that school leaders can use for any future projects they decide to pursue, Clark said.

The league also will donate reading materials for a few years after the project is completed and participate in the school’s literacy programming for families, such as its Literacy Nights.

Following the project at Pioneer Elementary, league members hope to expand the initiative to other schools in the area, but they also want to continue their relationship with Pioneer staff, whom were phenomenal partners for the project, Clark said.

“They just poured their heart into it, and that’s just been so invigorating for us,” she said.

Visit to donate to the Your Library Nook initiative.

Babyfest at Gail Borden Library

JLKD Members supported Baby Fest at the Gail Borden Library in Elgin on April 5. The event offered free information on the importance of literacy and coaching on how to read to your children. Baby Fest is part of the library’s new Baby’s First Library Book initiative, of which JLKD is key partner – watch for future volunteer opportunities at this impressive local library.

Empowering kids to make healthy food choices

By Judy Buchenot For Sun-Times Media April 2, 2014 4:46PM

Cori Cozort and Erin Tobias would like people to rethink snacks and lunch.

To achieve this goal, they are organizing “The Healthy Wonderland,” an interactive food experience geared toward children and their parents.

The free program April 12 at Prisco Community Center in Aurora will be part of the SPARK Early Childhood Education Week of the Young Child. DuPage Children’s Museum, United Way and several other organizations are supporting parts of the event.

Cozort, 28, and Tobias, 29, are new members of the Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties, which hosts the annual Kids in The Kitchen program.

“The program has been held at Mooseheart, Whole Foods and other places. This year, we decided to team up with SPARK,” Tobias says. “The newest Junior League members are always put in charge of this event, because it is a fun way to become active in the community.”

Junior League is an international women’s organization founded in 1901.

“Everyone joins for a different reason,” says Tobias, an Aurora resident who is an assistant to the food and beverage manager at WeatherTech in Bolingbrook. “The organization focuses on volunteerism and helps women develop their potential through leadership opportunities. There are all ages in the group. I have met women I respect, and I am happy that I know them.”

A primary focus of the Kane and DuPage chapter founded almost 20 years ago is literacy.

“Kids in the Kitchen ties into literacy because you can’t teach kids effectively if they are hungry,” says Cozort, a Naperville resident who is an attorney with a Bolingbrook firm.

“Our concept this year was to make an interactive game where children visit stations that explain hydration, exercise and healthy food choices,” Tobias says.

Children will be given a “goodie bag” to collect a prize at each station they complete.

“We thought having a tangible item from each station would be a way to help them remember what they learned,” she continued.

The last stop in the game is a tasting station where children and adults can try three different items that are alternatives to common snack, lunch and breakfast choices.

The two women focused on fresh choices for children with preparation that was easy enough for a child to complete.

“We think is important that children get involved in the food preparation so they feel empowered to make good choices,” Cozort says. “We also wanted to show parents some simple options that kids will enjoy that can be found in any grocery store.”

Instead of a sandwich for lunch, Cozort and Tobias suggest trying a roll-up using either a tortilla or a slice of lunch meat as the wrapper for healthy fillings of cheese and vegetables.

“We give some suggestions, but there are a lot of options based on what a child likes,” Cozort says. “Just set out all of the pieces and let the child make the wrap, which gives them ownership of the food.”

Fruit skewered on a pretzel is one of their fun snack suggestions. A multi-layered yogurt parfait is their idea for a new breakfast option.

Tobias recommends choosing the granola carefully since some brands are less healthy than others.

“Read the labels when buying granola,” Tobias says. “Look for granola with 10 grams or less of sugar per serving.”

Tobias and Cozort share their recipes for a healthy fruit kabob snack, a wrap-up lunch option and a creamy breakfast yogurt parfait.


Fruit Blast Yogurt Parfait

1/2 cup flavored yogurt

1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit

1 tablespoon granola

1 tablespoon raisins

For the best effect, use a tall glass to create the parfait so the layers are visible. If using frozen fruit, defrost in the microwave for 10 seconds. If using fresh fruit, clean and chop into bite-sized piece.

Begin parfait by placing half the fruit in the bottom of the glass. Spoon yogurt on top. Add remaining fruit. Sprinkle granola and raisins on top. This makes a delicious and nutritious breakfast. There are many variations that can be created using different yogurt flavors and fruits. Instead of raisins, try other dried fruits like craisins or dried cherries.

Wonderful Wrap-ups

1 reduced fat or skim string cheese stick

2 slices lean deli meat

1 toothpick

1 tablespoon mashed avocado

Spinach leaves

Cherry tomatoes

Lay slices of deli meat flat on cutting board, overlapping slightly. Spread with avocado. Lay spinach leaves on top. Place string cheese stick on one end and roll up the meat to surround the cheese stick. Place a cherry tomato on a toothpick and put the toothpick through the rolled up lunch meat to hold it closed.

There are many ways to vary this lunch treat by using different lunch meats, cheese and fillings. For an entirely edible treat, use a pretzel stick instead of a toothpick to hold the wrap-up closed.

Fun-Sized Fruit Kabobs

12 thin pretzel sticks

9 to 12 fruit chunks (strawberries, bananas, grapes, etc)

Wash fruit. Cut into bite-sized chunks and arrange on plates. Invite children to create kabobs by sliding three to four pieces of fruit onto pretzel sticks.

To reduce the chance of breaking the pretzel while skewering the fruit, twist the pretzel as it is pushed into the fruit.

Start with fruits the children are familiar with but consider introducing a new fruit into the mix occasionally. This is an effective way to get children to try new things while having fun.


If you go

Who: SPARK Aurora Early Childhood Collaboration, the Junior League of Kane and DuPage Counties and other area organizations.

What: A free family nutrition event with entertainment, activities and resource booths designed to give children, parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers valuable nutrition ideas and resources.

Where: Prisco Community Center, 150 W. Illinois Ave., Aurora

When: 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, April 12

Admission: The event is free and open to residents of DuPage, Kane and surrounding counties

Web: Visit