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November 05, 2013 | 04:13 PM
GENEVA — “I think, as a group, we all have a compassion for people and we’re just blessed to have jobs, especially in a tough economy,” said Steve Hurley, town police chief.

Hurley along with Town Clerk-Treasurer Deb Kirch and former town clerk of courts Senta Hall are the three founders/coordinators of Geneva Inspires Volunteer Effort (GIVE).

The second annual GIVE Thanksgiving meal is Nov. 7. Hurley said 150 attended the meal last year. In an Oct. 29 interview, he said they want more people there this year.

Which isn’t bad, considering around this time last year, Kirch was quoted in a previous Regional News story saying “we’re just nervous” about whether people would come to the first Thanksgiving dinner.

Since GIVE’s official creation in May 2012, has the nonprofit charitable organization made a difference?

Hurley said it’s a success for two reasons.

He said it has brought town employees together in a role to serve the community and the number of people who have participated and are benefiting from GIVE’s programs is growing.

The goal for GIVE now, he said, is to help even more people.

“GIVE is always looking for opportunities to serve,” Hurley said.

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“We have the dinners and gift drive so far, but if nothing else, we’d like to see these events just continue and grow.”

What stands in the way? Finances, said Hurley.

“We look for (charitable) opportunities, but it has to be within our budget, which fluctuates,” he said.

For now, there are three GIVE events — a spaghetti dinner in February, the free Thanksgiving community meal and the holiday gift drive in December.

Hurley said the February event was new this year, but the other two are “huge undertakings.”

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This year’s Thanksgiving meal will include 20 10-pound turkeys and four to six hams, as well as stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and beverages.

So far, it appears the odds are in GIVE’s favor for those betting on more people showing up Nov. 7 than they did last year.

“We’ve actually invited a few different groups this year, to make their holidays a little brighter,” Hurley said, adding that area assisted living homes and Inspiration Ministries were among those groups.

Jennifer Reitz, town police secretary and GIVE volunteer, said all kinds of people showed up last year from every part of the town, every social class and even town board members came out to volunteer. They’re also expected to roll up their sleeves and help serve food again this year.

“We had some elderly folks that came, folks from the New Life Lodge, families with children,” Reitz said. “This year, we’re hoping to feed even more.”

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It appears that the holiday gift drive will benefit the most people it has since it began.

Hurley said the drive is going to focus on 13 families — 33 children total.

Town employees can help one of two ways — sponsoring a child or family by giving them gifts or making a monetary donation.

Reitz, who coordinates the list of families for GIVE, said they help children of all ages.

Or, in some cases, adults.

“Last year, we actually (helped) a 20-year-old because he was at home helping his mom with the kids,” she said.

Hurley measured GIVE’s success by the increasing number of volunteers.

“The volunteers for the dinners and the gift effort have continued to mushroom, really,” he said.

Not just individuals, but local groups — including Como Community Church, the Lake Como Beach Women’s Club, Geneva Town Board, the town’s police commission — and businesses.

He said Jasmine Salon and Spa, Lake Geneva, conducted an event in which they contributed a certain amount of money for each time someone came in for service.

Hurley said as word-of-mouth spreads, more people are becoming involved.

“It’s sort of contagious,” Hurley said. “People see what’s happening and they get involved, then they engage other people to get involved. We continue to expand our base that way.”

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