Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thank you - Christmas 2009

As I promised, here is our Happy New Year's from An Angel's Touch

by Jude Coyle

*To be published in the 02/24/2010 edition of the Blue Island Forum.

First I want to offer Jim Reihel and the Freedom Riders from American Legion Post #50 a big thank you for again organizing and sponsoring our annual can shake in September. Without them we wouldn't have finished Christmas as well as we had. Anyone wishing to participate should contact Jim.

I began my Christmas activities as I do each year by addressing City Council. After some discussions earlier in the year about what we do, I thought it would be a good idea to make that part of my talk. I said, "We don't do 'baskets.'" We do not have a food pantry, and we are not equipped to help people who are at the lower end of the economic ladder and need constant help. There are organizations that do that. We also don't pay utilities, rent or mortgages for our clients. There are organizations that do that as well.

We are equipped to help people through emergencies, like illness and job loss. We keep a small amount of food on hand and we use gift cards to provide our clients with enough food to last a few weeks. Where we won't pay bills, we will allow money that was to be spent on food to be spent elsewhere. We have helped relocate families after burn outs, and we have relocated families who are returning to the world after spending time in abused women's shelters. We have also helped at least two young people finish high school, as well as many other things.

What do we do with the money we collect? First off, we buy meat for our families. We also buy items our clients need that haven't been donated from the community. In one case we bought a pair of special shoes needed by a child. This year we bought Food-4-Less gift cards when we ran low on canned and boxed foods. We have a very small overhead, and we plan to keep it that way.

I asked City Council for three things. First, I needed canned and boxed goods. Once we have serviced all of our clients, we pass the surplus onto the Salvation Army and St. Benedict's Vincent de Paul Society Food Pantry. I asked for 240 pairs of mittens or gloves and hats as well. They would go to the CEDA preschool, which is attended by poor children. I asked for new places to locate penny jars this year, too.

I was concerned about how much food we would collect, and rightly so. The economy proved to be a driving force in everything we did this year. I became more concerned when one by one my usual schools dropped their food drives. I shouldn't have worried though, Blue Islanders stepped up as they always do.

Right after speaking before City Council, a lady waved me down as I walked down Western Avenue. She introduced herself as Maria Alverez. She had seen me speak on WDDE, and she wanted to know if her small office could put together a food drive for us. Ah, YES!

After that I was contacted by the office personnel at Beverly Cemetery. The three cemeteries on Kedzie, Lincoln, Oak Ridge and Beverly, hoped to hold canned food drives. One of the staff asked Reverend Judy Jones who they should donate to, and Reverend Jones recommended An Angel's Touch. They didn't collect a thing. The office staff felt so bad, they collected funds between them and bought us large several boxes.

St. Rita High School came in as usual with about one third of what we usually collected. Gym teacher Raeann Zillman asked her students to donate their Halloween candy while Bob Jones at Beverly Bank conducted a hygiene product drive. Rose Rita collected food at the Calumet Township Senior Center, Deb Beasley, Children's Librarian, called to say that the Library would again hold a food drive, and the Park District collected baby items, again. The Blue Island Kiwanis donated cash. Charlene Finn and then John and Marsha Rauch arrived at my house with their trunks loaded with food. I made several pickups from Betty Nagle. Nancy Schultz and Raymond Garay dropped off a huge amount of food and mittens at the Senior Center. Tony from Doubleplay Lounge called to say that Troublemakers wanted to donate five turkey dinners, including apple pie for desert. In the end they donated 7. Aldermen Jan Ostling, Marsha Stone and Leticia Vieyra donated three gift certificates from D'Mastis for complete Christmas dinners. Several church communities held drives. First Evangelical Christian donated gloves and hats, while First Lutheran provided us with Jewel gift certificates. Then one by one, almost all of my schools called me to say, 'yes, we will have a food drive after all.' Metro South held a toy drive, as did the Police and 911 Center employees. Everything looked as if we would finish very well, and that we would have plenty to pass on after Christmas.

We received more calls for help than usual, and most stories were so much worse because of the economy. Our feelings of accomplishment was squelched by the time the second wave of requests came through. By then we had only corn and beans to give out, and very few toys. Temulac Boat Club and Windjammer Marina stepped in with a toy drive, solving the second problem. (A huge thank you to Mary Poulsen for help in organizing this.) We solved the food problem by giving out Food-4-Less gift cards.

As I said, the stories were sadder this year. We helped a family my daughter recommended. Becki had recently befriended a young lady who is expecting her second child. She is living with her son, her boy friend, her parents, her little brother and an aunt and uncle in a two bedroom apartment. Apparently most had been laid off from the same company, and only she and her boyfriend were able to find part time jobs. We also helped a couple who both suffer from diabetes. He had lost both his legs and she lost one.

Where we were able to pass along some food to St. Vincent de Paul at St.Benedict's, and to the Salvation Army, it wasn't nearly as much as I had hoped. I am asking that fraternal groups, community service groups, churches, Boy and Girl Scout troops please to help our pantries. Donations usually stop at Christmas. Hunger doesn't. This month and next will be tough for both places as more than the usual amount of people will be seeking help from already over stressed pantries.

In the end we serviced nearly 70 families. We donated to Guildhaus, The Lighthouse Church, and other organizations. We are also donating bed sheets and pillow cases to St. Elizabeth Seaton Parish. They are making the linens into burial bags so that the victims of the Haiti earthquake can be buried in dignity.

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A very special thank you to everyone who made this year happen, particularly Mayor Donald E. Peloquin and his office, City Clerk Pam Frasor and her office, City Council, particularly Aldermen Rose Rita, Marsha Stone, Jan Ostling, Leticia Vieyra and Mike Janko, State Representative Bob Rita; the Police Department, Fire Department, and 911 Center; the Chamber of Commerce; the Blue Island Park District, Deb Beasley, Director James Dieters, Jr., the Library; The Calumet Township Senior Center, St. Rita High School, DDE Key and Leo Clubs, Kerr and Veteran's Memorial Middle Schools, Teacher Raeann Zillman, Paul Revere Intermediate and Primary Schools; Reverend Judy Jones, St. Philip Lutheran Church, First Evangelical Lutheran Church, First Evangelical Christian Church, Grace United Methodist Church, Accurate Perferating, the Gerry Goodwrench Foundation, the Kiwanis, The Troublemakers, Tony and Doubleplay Lounge, The FORUM, Bob Jones and Beverly Bank, Metro South Hospital, the Simborg Family, Temulac Boat Club and Windjammers Marina of Chicago, Beverly, Lincoln and Oak Ridge Cemeteries, Maria Alverez and the AT&T Harvey Office, Korbakis Liquors, T&G's, Iversen's Bakery, Blue Island Video, Carr Gardens, Harry's Long Bar, Jim and Carol Riehel, American Legion Post #50, Charlene and Eric Finn, John and Marsha Rauch, Betty Nagle, Nancy Schultz and Raymond Garay, Thank you to my sort crew who not only show up for me, but bring new people each year. Melanie Rickerson, Katherine Matthis, Chris Rondenella, Sara Karis, Jenica and Matt Schultz-Taylor, Gloria Zaper, Leo Rivera, Mike Zbonski, Vicki Parsino, Ed and Grace Diaz, Matt Hess, Amber Sullivan, Stephen Gerez, Luis Estrada, Ed, Jon and Becki Coyle. If I have forgotten anyone I apologize for the oversight. Every donor and every gift is very much appreciated, not only by the members of An Angel's Touch, but by the recipients of your love as well.

Group thank you.

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