Joliet car dealer makes surprise donation to Big Brothers Big Sister

12/26/2014, 10:01 a.m.
Jeff Eberhard didn't let anyone know of his plans to donate $500 to the nonprofit organization that benefits Will and ...
Jeff Eberhard of EZ Auto Sales presents a check to Big Brothers Big Sisters employees Courtney Schaus and Maricruz Diaz. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will & Grundy Counties

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will & Grundy Counties provided this news release:

Santa Claus arrived a week early at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

He wasn’t wearing red, and he didn’t drive a sleigh. He was just a regular guy who lives each day in the spirit of Christmas.

On Dec. 17, Jeff Eberhard of Coal City stopped by the agency that helps at-risk children, a $500 check in his hand. No one knew he was coming, said Lisa Morel Las, chief executive officer.

“The donation came out of the clear blue sky,” she said.

That’s how they do it at EZ Auto Sales, 313 S. Larkin Ave., Joliet. Eberhard and Terry D’Arcy are partners in the used car lot, and for the past few years, they’ve devoted the company’s Facebook page to something much bigger than sales.

“Sometimes people need to know when there is a need in the community, and they need to know that people do step forward to help,” Eberhard said. “The page is meant to encourage others to be there when there is something going on for someone else.”

To spread the news about local fundraisers, the needy and charitable groups, EZ Auto often posts messages on its Facebook page explaining a particular community need. They ask their friends to like and share the page, promising to make a cash donation once the total hits a certain number. To make things a little more fun, they sometimes randomly choose a few of those Facebook friends to receive a special treat such as a gift card to a local business.

“People have a lot of fun with it,” Eberhard said. “It has worked out to be pretty cool.”

He knows that life can be difficult. A little more than a year ago, Luchi, his 8-year-old son, was diagnosed with leukemia. Although the boy is doing well, his illness has affected the family. “Now that our son is going through this, It makes us want to do more and help more,” Eberhard said.

Las plans to use the $500 to help make matches between adult volunteers and children – or Bigs and Littles, as they are called. The biggest expense at Big Brothers Big Sisters is the extensively trained staff of social workers that carefully match each child with the right mentor, a person who will change a child’s life for the better.

And they are always looking for more adults to volunteer as to mentor an elementary or high school aged-youth child. “We have 80 kids from around Will, Grundy Kankakee and Iroquois Counties on our waiting list,” Las said.

But the support of people like Eberhard and D’Arcy make it easier. Like Big Brothers Big Sisters, they are trying to make the world a better place.

“They use their business for good. Not only do they donate, they inspire other people to pay it forward and give to their community,” Las said.