A group of East Peoria Community High School alums has given back to its community through donations to a program for students in need.

Moms Who Care, a program that started in 2009 at East Peoria Community High School, provides needy students with essentials like food, clothing, hygiene products and school supplies. Since the organization’s founding, it has expanded throughout the area, and now there are groups of Moms Who Care volunteers at 10 schools. Moms Who Care depends on donations from community outreach groups, businesses, libraries and private benefactors. 

On Thursday, Moms Who Care’s efforts received a $1,300 boost when Larry Widows of East Peoria, a 1961 graduate from East Peoria High School brought in cash, checks and hygiene products. Widows presented the donations to the group’s founder and co-coordinator Barb McDonald of East Peoria in the high school’s Moms Who Care room.

“It’s important to get the word out about Moms Who Care, because many people don’t know about it,” said Widows. “A friend I ran into at the gas station four or five years ago told me about this group.”

From that chance meeting with an old friend, Widows learned that many local students were living in poverty and some were living out of automobiles. He took an interest in helping an organization whose mission is to help provide basic necessities to underprivileged students. This year, he coordinated donations from 20 fellow members of the EPCHS Class of 1961, who contributed $675. His sons and a friend added $100, and the school’s Class of 1956, hearing about the Class of ‘61’s efforts, contributed a further $450. Widows’s wife and sister collected about $75 worth of hygiene products to complete the package.

“This is not a one-off,” Widows said. “My class is going to give at least $500 every year. The Class of ’56 has already told me they will probably give more next year also, and I’m hoping other classes will follow our lead. I have this big vision of getting 10 or even 20 classes involved with Moms Who Care.”

McDonald believes that the monetary donations will be used primarily to buy clothing, particularly tennis shoes, which are necessary attire for physical education classes. 

“We’re really grateful to the Class of 1961 and all of the other donors,” said McDonald. “This helps give needy students one less thing to worry about. If you haven’t got proper clothing, sometimes you get picked on. If you don’t have hygiene products, it’s difficult to stay clean. We feel like we meet a small need, but it’s a crucial one.”

For more information about Moms Who Care, visit https://www.facebook.com/MomsWhoCarePublicPage/.