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Celebrating 10 years: Unity in Community Foundation embraces its mission

The Unity in Community Foundation has been around for a decade, and the president of the Franklin Park-based organization said its mission has been embraced.

Last fall, the organization hosted its 10th annual gala to raise money to support various initiatives throughout the year. Those include high school scholarships, the CommUNITY Helping Hands program, veterans fund and efforts to assist local food pantries.

“We’ve had families that we’ve helped, and they show up to our gala every year,” said Tom Brimie, the organization’s president. “They’re there. They appreciate what we did for them, and they’re trying to pay it forward.”

The Unity in Community Foundation’s annual gala typically has a local family or an organization they intend to help. Assistance has come in the form of buying a van with a wheelchair lift, a service dog and a triathlon bike.

Last fall, one of the beneficiaries was Giselle Gomez, a member of the Leyden girls soccer team. The soccer team had created Goals for Gomez, a campaign in which students sold T-shirts for $10, after Gomez was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Brimie said the first beneficiary was Lucia Ramirez, “a Leyden student who had a rare ailment.”

“She’s still around, and now she supports us,” Brimie said. “Her family comes out to all our events. … She gets a lot of her relatives to come out and support us to pay it forward.”

Ramirez said she is thankful for everything The Unity in Community Foundation has done for her and her family.

“What the community did is, they donated a van with a wheelchair ramp,” she said. “It makes it much easier to transport us. It was a life-changer.”

The Unity in Community Foundation relies on its board of directors and supporters, and the organization is open to volunteers. Peggy Kasallis, one of those volunteers, said that donating her time to help the organization is rewarding.

“I realized this organization does a lot of good for Leyden Township, and I think that’s important,” she said.

Kasallis, who started volunteering for the organization in 2016, said knowing the stories of benefactors, like Ramirez, is what makes her efforts all the more worthwhile.

“Knowing that we were part of what’s helping them get through, it’s very satisfying,” she said.

Brimie said his goal “from the beginning, was to get $10,000 in high school scholarships,” and that the organization nets $7,500 annually to award to students in Leyden Township.

“We want to build the coffers up,” Brimie said. “You want to be able to help the kids and offer the scholarships.”

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