East Alton – For seven years, John Ciszczon, of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 155, has raised money to share with client families of Riverbend Head Start & Family Services Program, and he’s back at that again this year.
For most of those years, it was pretty much just Ciszczon on his postal route. But last year, the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor joined in, led by Rick Stamer, of Iron Workers Local 392, a member of the Federation’s executive board.
Donations to the Holiday for Head Start campaign skyrocketed to more than $11,000, allowing the Federation to provide $100 grocery cards to 122 needy families.
NO BETTER GIFT
“I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas gift than to see all these families when we handed out the cards – you know, the thank yous and just seeing the smiles,” Ciszczon, of New Douglas, IL, recalled.
Another nice touch was a visit to the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville, where the Head Start kids were treated to a showing of “Polar Express.”
“I sat in the back, just watching the kids,” Ciszczon said. “Some of them were so excited. Some of them had never been to a theater before.
“Just to see their eyes light up while they were watching the screen was really, really touching. It was nice to be a part of making a difference in their lives.”
This year, he said, he is working to get more involvement from Letter Carriers in Alton and Granite City.
Ciszczon credits Bruce Fowler, a fellow Letter Carrier from Belleville, with giving him the idea by raising money for families on his own routes for more than a decade.
“That’s sort of what got me going,” Ciszczon said. ”I had just transferred to my route in Edwardsville and I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to bring that here.’ ”
Riverbend Head Start educates impoverished children to prepare them for kindergarten and helps their families deal with unemployment and education issues. The agency now is working with 945 families in Madison County, operating at centers in Alton, Collinsville, Granite City, Edwardsville and Bethalto.
HOW TO HELP
To help, send a tax-deductible donation to Riverbend Head Start & Family Services, 550 Landmarks Blvd., P.S. Box 250, Alton IL, 62002. Write “Holiday for Head Start” on the memo line of the check.
For more information, contact Ciszczon at 618-920-0914 or Stamer at 618-406-1730.