Terrence Camodeca thought he would add a twist to a yearly donation he makes to the Orland Township Food Pantry.
“The news of the world is usually bad, so we need to create some good news for a change,” said the Orland Park resident, who uses his overtime pay working as a Cook County sheriff’s deputy for the contribution.
Camodeca put out a call that if young people in the area got together and raised $250, he would pay $500 of his own money in addition to their raised funds, all going to the food pantry.
“The idea is to help them achieve bigger goals through motivation,” he said. “Two generations working together for a common goal for all of us is very important.”
SouthtownStar columnist Phil Kadner wrote about Camodeca’s offer, and 12 responses came back. Some weren’t as in line with his idea.
“A homeless man living under a viaduct asked for the money so he could continue paying storage for his stuff,” Camodeca said. “Other people said they’d donate it to their food pantry, but I wanted this to achieve the goal right here in Orland Park.”
Camodeca didn’t have to look far. The Orland Township Youth Commission, who meet monthly in a room just down the hall from the food pantry, took up the cause.
“It was nice to know someone else is helping us along,” said Noah Grudowski, a Carl Sandburg High School student and youth commission member. “Instead of just working alone, we know that someone outside our group is helping.”
The youth commission first raised about $300 at the township’s Pet-Palooza event, selling homemade dog biscuits. But they decided to go even further.
“It really motivated us to raise as much as we could,” said Jason Crain, also a Carl Sandburg High School student and youth commission member. “It just gave us something more to shoot for. The car wash is an annual thing, so we thought why stop?”
The youth commission then raised about another $200 for the food pantry through a Saturday morning car wash.
“It just shows the ability that kids have,” Camodeca said. “They could’ve went status quo and raised $250, but they were in the moment, and went well over and beyond that. I’m very proud of them.”
In December, Camodeca and Orland Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady met with youth commission members at Aldi in Orland Hills, , filling 10 shopping carts. As an added educational twist, Camodeca insisted that the teens select healthy food for the donation.
“I’ve seen people at the township using services there, and seeing those faces, I know those are the faces the kids and I are helping,” Camodeca said. “I’m always reminded of the story of Walter Mitty, who dreamt big but they never came to fruition. You have got to take extra steps to make the dreams real.”
Camodeca has previously funded field trips for Ford Heights and Chicago Heights students, and commissioned a painting of the Swallow Cliff Preserve.
Looking forward, he hopes to help someone earn the $1,000 needed for sponsorship to run the Chicago Marathon.
“There’s a lot of good people who want to run,” Camodeca said. “They don’t just do it for the run. They do it in memory of someone important to them. Mom, dad, a war veteran. I’m looking into helping someone who wants to honor the memory of a person important to them.”
As for his effort with the food pantry and the youth commission teens, Camodeca hopes other people find ways to challenge young people they know.
“A trophy sits on a shelf and gathers dust,” Camodeca said. “The trophy of giving keeps giving, and never gathers dust. I hope for more of that.”
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