When you make a donation the Downers Grove Public Library Foundation, every dollar goes back to the library you love and manifests in a variety of ways. In 2021, DGPLF committed to funding 2 years’ worth (2022-2023) of a stipend used to compensate two part-time interns (committing to between 225-300 hours per semester–Spring, Summer, Fall) as part of the library’s social work program and to date has continued to renew funding of the program.

The library began a social work program in early 2020 in partnership with students from Aurora University to help individuals in the community address the needs of patrons seeking referrals for services like domestic violence shelters, assistance with housing needs, literacy tutoring, locating food pantries, eligibility for Medicaid and more. Observing needs of individuals in the community, and recognizing that library staff were feeling increasingly unequipped to address the needs of patrons seeking referrals, student interns are able to increase findability and awareness of resources, as well as work with patrons one on one to assess personalized needs and offer referrals.

Aurora University students and Social Work Interns Andi and Dawn

Why $15 Per Hour?

Providing a paid stipend (at a rate of $15 per hour) not only compensates students for their time and contributions, but also attracts a qualified candidate pool while eliminating barriers for low-income and underrepresented individuals from participating in the program. Without official plans to incorporate a social work intern stipend into the current library budget, Library staff approached the Foundation seeing a need to fill this gap in service.

What is the Status of the Program Now?

With no formal plans to include the social work program into the current Library budget, the Foundation has committed to funding this program through 2024. However, additional financial support is needed to make this commitment sustainable. With increasing parallels between library work and the need to share social services with the public, this program provides vital services that serve all patrons who walk through the Library’s doors and further enforces the commitment to inclusion.

From October 2023 through January 2024, two social work interns provided over 130 direct interactions. These interactions vary in length from brief check-ins or scheduling future meeting times, to more lengthy one-on-one needs assessments which could result in one or multiple referrals for outside services. Referrals include resources for a variety of needs fulfilled by a diversity of outside organizations including PADS, 360 Youth Services, The Community Kitchen, People’s Resource Center, Catholic Charities, Community Kitchen, HUD (Housing and Urban Development), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), DuPage County Health Department, and more.

Some highlights from the program in 2024 thus far include:

  • Thanks to a partnership with the DuPage County Health Department, interns arranged for the arrival of the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) mobile van to be on site at the library, providing families with financial and medical assistance.
  • 44 of these one-on-one interactions between social work interns and patrons were interactions with patrons who identify as seniors.
  • 18 patrons were connected with emergency resources including gas gift cards, food, clothing and blankets.
  • Interns connected nearly a dozen unhoused patrons with temporary shelter thanks to working relationships with shelters and resources at Community Kitchen, First Congregational Church and First United Methodist Church.
  • 9 patrons (both those currently employed as well as individuals currently unemployed) received assistance with job concerns from updating resumes, interview preparation, navigating the IDES website, searching for jobs or increasing computer skills.
  • 6 free counseling sessions were completed with more scheduled.
  • 4 patrons were connected with shower opportunities with Community Kitchen.
  • 2 individuals were connected with permanent housing solutions.
  • 1 senior patron was assisted receiving SNAP and LIHEAP benefits.
  • In 2023, nearly 24,000 donations were received to stock The Cupboard, the library’s take-what-you-need pantry of food and toiletry items maintained by the social work interns, illustrating clear community backing of this initiative.

Spreading the Word about the Social Work Program

  • DGPL Foundation president Amanda ReCupido was a guest on the Library’s CoverToCover podcast in February where she spoke about the importance of the program.
  • DGPL Foundation vice president Katie Johnson also spoke about the program’s impact at the March Library Board of Trustees meeting. Read a transcript.
  • The social work program was featured on Kelly Jensen’s Substack, Stacked Thoughts and appeared as a letter to the editor in the Daily Herald. The program was also featured in a recent article in Shaw Local.

Help Us Fund These Vital Services

Your monetary donation to the Foundation helps make this program sustainable throughout the next two years. If knowing that the library is a space open to and for everyone is important to you, please consider showing your support by making a donation to ensure further interactions like these that support all members of our community.

Your recurring donation of $15/month ($180 annually), funds 12 hours of these vital social work services.