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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

Aurora Food Pantry Honors Veterans For Memorial Day

Yvonne Boose

A northern Illinois food pantry is honoring veterans for Memorial Day by holding a special food distribution for them. 

The Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry is not only offering groceries to veterans, but to active service members and the families of fallen soldiers. 

Rebecca Dunnigan is the community outreach and program coordinator at the pantry. She says the pantry wants veterans to know that they are appreciated. 

“Too often we believe that the community forgets to say thank you for your service,” she explained, “to our veterans, to our veterans' families, the families are making a sacrifice and so many of the families have made the ultimate sacrifice.” 

Dunnigan says a grant was given by Illinois Joining Forces and Fox Valley Marine Corps League, which allowed the pantry to purchase high-quality goods.  

A ceremony will precede the distribution. Dunnigan says U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and 4th Ward Alderman Bill Donnell will attend. 

The event takes place from 10 a.m. until noon Friday, May 28 at the food pantry. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.