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Kadner: He’s offering seed money to inspire civic duty

'That's how we can make our communities better places live by setting an example for others follow' Terrence CamodecOrlPark said.

"That's how we can make our communities better places to live, by setting an example for others to follow," Terrence Camodeca, of Orland Park, said.

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Updated: March 29, 2012 8:11AM



Terrence Camodeca, of Orland Park, is trying to give his money away once again.

In the past, Camodeca has paid for buses to take schoolchildren from Ford Heights and Chicago Heights on field trips to Brookfield Zoo.

A Cook County deputy sheriff, Camodeca decided to pay for the buses after reading a story that rising gas prices might cause poorer school districts to cancel field trips.

And he once used a $500 check from the federal government, part of a federal stimulus plan, to commission a painting of the Swallow Cliff Forest Preserve toboggan slide that was being torn down.

In 2002, he tried to turn over $300 in economic stimulus money from the federal government to the state to help pay for programs for the developmentally disabled, which were being cut.

“Now I want to donate $500 to the Orland Township food pantry, but I want to involve the youth of the community in the project,” Camodeca told me.

“I want them to come up with $250 and I will double match their contributions.

“I want to get them involved because I think it’s important to instill an ethic of community participation among our children.

“I went to the (Orland Park) village hall and pitched the idea and I spoke to people at Sandburg High School, but they tell me they don’t want to set a precedent and have a bunch of people coming to them asking for the students’ help in raising money for every charity.

“I don’t just want the children to raise money. I want them to visit the food pantry run by Orland Township to see how it helps people.

“I want them to understand that there are people who rely on the community to get food to eat and maybe understand the good fortune they have if their parents are working and can put food on the table.

“I mentioned this idea to a nutritionist and she said it might even be a good idea to have the children shop for the food themselves.

“She would be willing to take them to a grocery store and explain how to read the labels, talk about the nutritional contents of each can and package, to give them an education on why some foods are better to eat than others.

“Sure, I could just write a check to the food pantry, but that wouldn’t accomplish my goal.

“My goal in giving these donations is, hopefully, to become an example to young people who will carry on the tradition of giving to others while expecting nothing in return.

“That’s how we can make our communities better places to live, by setting an example for others to follow.”

When Camodeca made his offer to pay for the school buses to take children to Brookfield Zoo, Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-Chicago) told him it would mean just as much to the children if he visited their classrooms and spoke to them.

“I told the kids that when I was in school I wanted to be an astronaut, but I wasn’t very good at math,” he said. “Fortunately, I had a teacher who helped me, but I was never good enough to accomplish my dream. But I did learn enough to become a law enforcement officer, and that’s not too bad.”

Camodeca said he felt the children were impressed because many of them were having a hard time with math themselves.

“But I was able to explain that not everyone is smart in every subject and learning doesn’t come easy,” he said. “But if you apply yourself, you can still learn something and it will help you later in life.”

So Camodeca now is looking for some group that works with youth to help him in his effort to help the Orland Township food pantry.

“The kids don’t even have to come up with the $250, if that’s too hard,” he said. “If they would each be willing to do some good deed in the community, if I could get 250 kids doing 250 good deeds, I would consider that a contribution equal to $250. It really isn’t about the money. I’m going to donate this $500. I just want to use it to plant the seeds of civic duty in these children.

“I have faith in children. I know some people think all they’re interested in these days is the latest cell phone app, but I believe if you give them a chance to help the less fortunate they will be energized.

“What I really want is for the kids to take ownership of this initiative. I want them to feel they’re the ones making this happen, not me with that $500 check. If they take ownership, they will feel a responsibility to help those less fortunate than themselves, and the next time they won’t need me to offer a $500 check as an incentive. They will just offer to help on their own.”

Camodeca said adults in charge of youth organizations who might want to participate in his project can reach him via e-mail at renwiick@aol.com.

“Young people are capable of great things,” Camodeca said. “They just need to be shown the way. And that’s what adults are supposed to do.”



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