Rauners don hairnets, serve Thanksgiving meals to homeless

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Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner and his wife Diana donned hairnets Thursday morning to serve some Thanksgiving meals at A Safe Haven Foundation, a residential agency for the homeless on the near West Side whose husband-wife directors have recently been appointed to Rauner’s transition committee.

The wealthy couple, in low-key shirts and jeans, served trays of meals to families at the organization Rauner featured in a campaign commercial.

Rauner would not say specifically what he planned to do as governor to add jobs to struggling neighborhoods like Chicago’s West Side. But he said he wants to “provide incentives for businesses to locate in neighborhoods that have particularly high unemployment and we are going to invest in our schools, in our vocational training programs so our young people and those who are unemployed have high skills… so they can maximize their careers, maximize their income.”

Nor would he put a figure on how much private money or his own money it’ll take to restore the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, where, unlike outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn, he and his wife plan to live.

The Rauners were joined by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, and by Neli Vazquez Rowland, president of A Safe Haven, who was recently named co-chair of Rauner’s Healthcare and Human Services committee and her husband, CEO Brian Rowland, now a member of his Transition Policy Committee for Veterans.

A Safe Haven estimated they’d serve about 500 meals Thursday.

Nine-year-old Saniya Washington waited for a turkey platter with her mother and younger brother, Jakari McGee, watching as the governor and his entourage walked past her table.

She knew his name (“Bruce Rauner”) and his job (“Governor”), recognizing him from TV.

Latricia Washington called Rauner’s appearance “unexpected,” but “exciting.” Washington voted for Rauner, saying his ideas are “what this city needs.”

Derryl Thomas, 58, and Clifton McDonald, 45, seemed less excited about the hubbub surrounding the politicians as they ate hefty plates of turkey, cornbread, sweet potatoes and greens, but neither was sorry Rauner showed up.

“He’s the new governor,” Thomas said.

“You have to give everyone a chance,” McDonald replied.

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