EVANSTON — One couple in Evanston has made a commitment to pay it forward with a significant financial contribution to the Evanston Youth Club for Boys and Girls. Chris and Deborah Reno said they made the decision to focus their charitable contributions within their own community.
The Renos are active long-time community members. Chris Reno is employed with Union Telephone as director of accounting. Deborah has her own massage business, Mind Body Connection, and volunteers her time to teach yoga at the youth club.
“I like to donate every month to a charity,” Deborah Reno said. “I was telling Chris how, when the youth club takes the kids on ski trips, that many of them don’t have cash for their lunches; so I was thinking of giving the club $100 a month for that purpose. Chris wanted to help more kids and make a meaningful difference in their lives.”
Chris Reno said, “It is important to me to keep our donations local. It’s all about giving back and investing in the community where you serve. When I was a kid growing up in Boston, my school took us on ski trips, and it broke my heart when some of the kids couldn’t afford to go or didn’t have any money for food on the trip. The club can use the money however they see fit for the greatest need for the kids.”
After their conversation, the Renos called Holly Slade-West, director of the youth club, and met with her. The couple told Slade-West that they plan to contribute $500 a month to the club for the next 10 years — a total pledge of $60,000. The couple said the money will be automatically deposited in the club’s bank account twice a month.
“It sure was a humbling and memorable experience to sit with Chris and Deborah on Christmas Eve as they made the commitment to our youth,” Slade-West said. “A few tears were shed by us all. There are great people in our community.”
According to Slade-West, the Evanston Youth Club has seen a large increase in attendance in the past year. Enrollment has increased to nearly 200 youth and an average of 65 members attend the club programs each day, with an additional 30 youth utilizing daily sport outreach programs.
“Research shows that every dollar invested in youth programs yields a $9 return, making this donation a very large investment in our community!” Slade-West wrote in an email to the Herald.
She said there is evidence that youth are in need of positive experiences, socialization and to be around good role models. Adolescence is often a period of difficult transitions, and the pandemic has made it even more difficult for youth, causing many to experience loneliness, depression and frustration at high levels.
In 2020, because of the pandemic, the club had to cancel its regular fundraisers and also saw a decrease in individual donations. Slade-West said the club will use the donation from the Renos to support youth development programs such as homework help, computer sciences, sports and wellness, and character development, as well as providing the youth with healthy meals and snacks and safe transportation to and from club programs.
“We feel very fortunate to have the support from Chris and Deborah and are certain it will have a lasting impact on all youth that walk through the club doors, especially during these unprecedented times,” Slade-West said.