Many ways to help the less fortunate this holiday season
The bounty of the holiday season, enjoyed by many, also serves to emphasize the plight of society's less fortunate. In Chicago, the cold weather exacerbates the situation for those people who are already in marginal situations.
"This is the season when people can die from homelessness," said Omar McRoberts, who operates the University Community Service Center with Gayatri Sethi.
"The holidays are a good time to remember how privileged we are, and that there are people out there who are not," Sethi added.
A variety of opportunities exist to help the area's homeless and other people in need. Individuals interested in helping can donate time, food, money or clothing to various local agencies -- not just during the holidays, but throughout the year.
"One of the things we have to remember is people are in need 365 days a year," said Sister Connie Driscoll, who runs St. Martin De Porres House of Hope, a shelter for women and children.
People who want to help often offer to invite families living at the shelter to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, Driscoll said, but such kindness, while appreciated, isn't what is needed most. "Supporting the agencies that are in the community, through volunteering, donating food, etc., goes a lot further than taking in a family for one day," she said.
"Also, just because people live in a shelter doesn't mean they're not going to have a traditional Thanksgiving," Driscoll added. The women and children who live at House of Hope consider it home and would rather spend their holidays there. Stopping by the shelter and bringing something everyone can share, such as a game, would be more appreciated than an invitation to dinner, she said.
Below is a list of some area organizations that run soup kitchens, shelters and other programs for the homeless and needy, along with the organizations' specific needs, if any.
AT THE UNIVERSITY:
* The Giving Tree Contact: Kirste Moline, 702-5479
A University student group that conducts shelter projects on Saturday mornings and shares meals with shelter residents on Sundays. Meets Tuesday nights in Cobb 110 from 7:30 to 8 p.m. Also collects clothing and food and conducts events throughout the year to heighten awareness about homelessness.
* University Community Service Center 1178 E. 58th St. Contact: Omar McRoberts or Gayatri Sethi, 753-4483
Hours (autumn quarter): Monday & Wednesday 10 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to noon; Friday noon to 3 p.m.
A University-sponsored center that coordinates volunteer services and provides information on volunteer opportunities in the city of Chicago. Information on national groups is also available. Donations of food and clothing are accepted at any time and are distributed where they are needed most. IN THE COMMUNITY:
* Feed the People Open Kitchen Kenwood United Church of Christ 4608 S. Greenwood Ave. Contact: Terri Criddle, 624-3695 Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Serves noontime meals four days a week to 175 people. Volunteers are always welcome. Call 536-9059 or drop in. Will be distributing food baskets for Thanksgiving. Sponsored by the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council. Wednesday lunches are served at the Hyde Park Seventh Day Adventist Church, 4608 S. Drexel Ave.
* First Presbyterian Church 64th Street and Kimbark Avenue General phone number: 363-0505
Serves lunch for 300 to 400 people at 1 p.m. every Tuesday. Volunteers are needed to help set up, serve food and clean up. Donations of paper supplies, such as plates and napkins, are always needed. The church also runs a food pantry that is open whenever it has food; donations of canned goods are always accepted.
* Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council Food Pantry Cornell Baptist Church 5001 S. Ellis Ave. Contact: Jan Deckenbach (volunteer coordinator), 702-7034 General phone number: 752-8237 Hours: Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Distributes emergency supplies of food to residents who live between 43rd and 60th streets, from Cottage Grove Avenue to the lake. Serves an average of 150 people each week. Also conducts informal job counseling and referral services. Volunteers are needed to put together food packages and to help with clerical work. Food and monetary donations are always welcome; checks may be sent directly to the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council (designate that they are for the food pantry), 1448 E. 53rd St., Chicago, Ill. 60615.
* Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization 1238 E. 46th St. Contact: Karen Bozeman-Gross, 548-7500
A social-service organization that offers community-development programs, adult education, welfare-to-work programs, home repair for senior citizens and the disabled, and an emergency food pantry that is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Monetary donations are always welcome, especially during the holiday season. Volunteer opportunities are available on an as-needed basis. Currently conducting a program in which families in need are "adopted" by groups, with each group providing Christmas gifts and a food package for one family.
* Matthew House Supportive Service Center 3610 S. Giles Ave. Contact: Sandra Collins, 536-2528, or the Rev. Sanja Stinson, 536-3661 Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
A center for the homeless that offers a variety of services, including provision of care packages and assistance in finding housing. Serves two hot meals -- breakfast and lunch -- every weekday. Helps 40 to 50 people per day, mostly men but also women and children. Always in need of men's clothing, including coats, thermal underwear, gloves, etc. Volunteers, cash donations and donations of meals are always welcome.
* Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church Refuge Center 4840 S. Dorchester Ave. Contact: Myke Humphrey, Joan Downing, 268-2733
Short-term and intermediate-term shelter for women with dependent children. Provides parenting counseling, substance-abuse treatment, employment referral and health-care services. Donations of food, baby formula, toiletries, toys and bedding are always welcome, as are volunteers to work with the children.
* St. Gelasius Catholic Church 6415 S. Woodlawn Ave. Contact: Clarence Bessell, 363-6500
Runs a food pantry that is open from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Serves 400 families every month. Occasionally needs volunteers to create and distribute parcels. Food donations are always welcome. Can provide pickup service for contributions.
* St. Martin De Porres House of Hope 65th Street and Woodlawn Avenue Contact: Sister Therese, 643-5843
A shelter for women and children that provides such services as job training, child care and substance-abuse rehabilitation for 120 people. Volunteers are needed to help tutor children and take them on outings, and to visit with the women living in the shelter. Monetary contributions are always welcome; the shelter is funded entirely by private donations.
* Unity House 4331-33 S. Vincennes Ave. Contact: Anniece Seymore (residential program) or Paul Simpson III (all other programs), 285-2668
A second-stage housing facility that houses residents for six to 24 months. Residents include mothers 18 and older and their children. Can house up to seven families at a time. Residents learn how to budget money, and they participate in seminars on such topics as substance-abuse prevention and how to build self-esteem. Funded through a combination of public and private funds. Greatest need is for a team of volunteers to help with child care -- the mothers are either in school or working. Also occasionally needs volunteers for special occasions, such as Christmas parties. Always needs donations of small household items, such as dish towels and wastebaskets, and small appliances.
* Homeless Help Line: For information on other shelters in Chicago, call 563-1600.