Jewelry for Mom: Joliet nonprofits hold ‘shopping’ for kindergarteners

Theresa Rouse, District 86: ‘Like a little boutique for the kids’

On April 15, volunteers from two Joliet nonprofits – the Zonta Club of Joliet and Visitation and Aid Society – hosted a “jewelry gift shop” of gently used bracelets earrings, necklaces for the students at Edna Keith, M.J. Cunningham Elementary, and Sator Sanchez and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools to give on Mother’s Day. Sean Vargas-Martinez was excited to surprise him mom with his gifts.

For Mother’s Day, kindergartener students at four Joliet schools surprised the special mothers and mother figures in their lives with jewelry from a very special “store.”

On April 15, volunteers from two Joliet nonprofits – the Zonta Club of Joliet and Visitation and Aid Society – hosted a “jewelry gift shop” of gently used bracelets, earrings and necklaces for the students at Edna Keith, M.J. Cunningham Elementary, and Sator Sanchez and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools to give as gifts on Mother’s Day.

Theresa Rouse, superintendent at Joliet Public Schools District 86, said this is the second time the Zonta Club of Joliet has brought the event to the students and the first time the club partnered with the Visitation and Aid Society in Joliet.

Rouse said she is a member of Zonta.

“The members donated used jewelry and they put it all together like a little boutique for the kids,” Rouse said. “They went to five of our schools – two years ago – and the younger students got to pick out a piece of jewelry to give to their mom for Mother’s Day. The Zonta Club members had such a great time with it, they decided to do it this year with Visitation and Aid.”

On April 15, volunteers from two Joliet nonprofits – the Zonta Club of Joliet and Visitation and Aid Society – hosted a “jewelry gift shop” of gently used bracelets earrings, necklaces for the students at Edna Keith, M.J. Cunningham Elementary, and Sator Sanchez and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools to give on Mother’s Day.

Rouse said she can’t “emphasize enough” the value of partnerships between District 86 and community organizations.

“They’re a great way to help support our students,” she said.

Terri Taylor of Joliet, a member of the Zonta Club of Joliet, said the club offered the event in 2021 as a nice way for students to appreciate their mothers. In 2021, the event reached 520 students, Taylor said.

“This year we reached about 709 students,” she said. “With jewelry left over.”

Taylor said both organizations collected a total of 2,200 pieces of jewelry. Volunteers sorted through all of the pieces, making sure clasps were “in good working order,” replacing missing backs on earrings and polishing silver, she said.

“A lot of people donated silver jewelry that had turned black, and they don’t want to be bothered with it,” Taylor said. “But it’s pretty amazing when you clean it how amazing it looks.”

Karen Sorbero, president of the Visitation and Aid Society in Joliet, said a society member who also belongs to the Zonta Club of Joliet “brought this very interesting idea” to one of the meetings.

“I love what this is about – giving a special gift to your mom. I would have loved an opportunity like this when I was 5. This makes my day.

—  Elizabeth Walsh, Zonta Club of Joliet member

Sorbero said the Visitation and Aid Society typically spends $30,000 each year to provide meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as holiday gifts for the students and their families up to age 16, for approximately 240 District 86 families.

So naturally the Visitation and Aid Society was enthusiastic about this Mother’s Day project.

“And it was a great way to partner with another organization,” Sorbero said.

On “shopping” day, volunteers covered banquet tables with tablecloths and displayed the jewelry just like a store might, Taylor said.

“We mounted the earrings on [paper] flowers so we could see them better and make sure they stay in pairs,” she said.

On April 15, volunteers from two Joliet nonprofits – the Zonta Club of Joliet and Visitation and Aid Society – hosted a “jewelry gift shop” of gently used bracelets earrings, necklaces for the students at Edna Keith, M.J. Cunningham Elementary, and Sator Sanchez and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools to give on Mother’s Day. Earrings were mounted on flowers to keep them paired.

Taylor said the students were “very excited” to pick out two special pieces of jewelry.

“Some of them picked out pieces quite quickly,” she said. “And our volunteers helped direct the ones who were searching for the right thing.”

Taylor said volunteers helped narrow choices by asking students, “What’s your mom’s favorite color” and “What does she like to wear?”

When students were ready for “check out,” volunteers placed the jewelry into little pink organza bags, Taylor said.

Kindergartner King Neal announced, “My mom likes yellow” and scanned the tables, looking for the perfect piece, rejecting most, and deciding gold would work.

“This one has a heart on it.” King held up a necklace. “But not this one,” he added, putting it back.

Knowing her mother’s favorite color helped kindergartener La’Milian Griffin select just the right two pieces of jewelry.

“She loves pink,” La’Milian said, holding up her gift bags.

On April 15, volunteers from two Joliet nonprofits – the Zonta Club of Joliet and Visitation and Aid Society – hosted a “jewelry gift shop” of gently used bracelets earrings, necklaces for the students at Edna Keith, M.J. Cunningham Elementary, and Sator Sanchez and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools to give on Mother’s Day. La'Milian Griffin proudly shows off her selections.

But the right gift eluded kindergartner Tony Bonilla, even knowing his mother’s favorite colors.

“My mom likes black and purple,” Tony said as he showed off his gifts. “It took a while to find them.”

Kyle Ly knew what his mother wanted and was pretty sure one of the pieces would have cost $7,000 elsewhere.

“So I decided to buy it for her,” Kyle said. “My mom will be so happy.”

On April 15, volunteers from two Joliet nonprofits – the Zonta Club of Joliet and Visitation and Aid Society – hosted a “jewelry gift shop” of gently used bracelets earrings, necklaces for the students at Edna Keith, M.J. Cunningham Elementary, and Sator Sanchez and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools to give on Mother’s Day. Kyle Ly (left) and Tony Bonilla (right) show off their "purchases."

Sean Vargas-Martinez shopped more by instinct and was satisfied with his “purchases.”

“I thought they’d look good on my mom,” Sean said. “I’m going to surprise her.”

Elizabeth Walsh, a member of the Zonta Club of Joliet, loves volunteering at this event.

“I love what this is about – giving a special gift to your mom,” Walsh said. “I would have loved an opportunity like this when I was 5. This makes my day.”