Uniting for the Holidays ComEd Volunteers

Bonita Estelle (far right), external affairs manager for ComEd and board president of Cornerstone Community Development Corporation, volunteers with fellow ComEd employees at Uniting for the Holidays in Ford Heights.

Uniting for the Holidays Bags

Volunteers give meal boxes and tote bags with gifts to residents through United Way's Uniting for the Holidays event.

For Kamil Walton, helping his neighbors around the holidays is personal.

“I grew up in Ford Heights, and I feel an intimate attachment to the challenges that communities and individuals face out here,” Kamil said.

As the deputy director for the nonprofit Cornerstone Community Development Corporation, he sees firsthand how disinvestment affects residents in the south suburb. Which is why events like Uniting for the Holidays are so vital.

The food and gift distribution event is United Way of Metro Chicago’s initiative supporting food security and bringing holiday joy to our neighbors throughout the Chicago region.

The fourth annual Uniting for the Holidays provided meal boxes, toys, books, snack packs, hygiene kits, and other resources for more than 2,000 households in six communities: Naperville, Blue Island, Robbins, Ford Heights, Chicago Heights, and Elgin. The drive-through events took place from mid-November to mid-December.

United Way’s 2023 ALICE Report shows that more than 30% of households in Cook County have difficulty meeting their basic needs, including access to food. Uniting for the Holidays helps our neighbors overcome these barriers, which are often heightened around the holidays.

“We do not have a grocery store in close proximity [in Ford Heights],” Kamil said. “It’s invaluable that during this time of the season, we help people supplement their food budget for their holiday meals.”

The series of festive events wouldn’t be possible without the community leaders and organizations like Kamil and Cornerstone who are on the ground supporting residents with resources and opportunities they need and deserve – like food, stable housing, education, employment, and health care.

“We know that we’ve got large pockets of food insecurity,” said Bonita Estelle, external affairs manager for ComEd and board president of Cornerstone Community Development Corporation. “It’s very important not only during the holidays. For organizations like United Way and Cornerstone, we work throughout the course of the year to make sure that those food insecure [residents] are able to access healthy foods so they can survive.”

Uniting for the Holidays is just one example of this critical work in action – and what’s possible when we come together across sectors to make a meaningful difference.

Thank you to all our generous corporate sponsors, volunteers, donors, and supporters for helping our neighbors enjoy a holiday meal and experience the magic of the season.

“Just imagine a world where we’re all coming together towards one cause and one goal, and that’s what you see here in United for the Holidays – corporate partners, community partners, and volunteers coming together around one purpose,” said Monique Shelton, (Cook County) director of community engagement at United Way of Metro Chicago.

“Giving something back to someone is what the holiday season is all about,” said Ashanti Johnson, a Ford Heights resident. She’s also a recent graduate of Cornerstone Community Development Corporation’s workforce development program.

“United Way and these organizations come here to help people and change their life in a way. You can feel the love.”