Kendall County PADS furnishes new pad for one of its formerly homeless guests

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County

Kenny Wyzykowski grew up near Wrigley Field in the “city of big shoulders,” as the famed poet Carl Sandburg called it. As a young man, Kenny landed a job delivering bundles of the Chicago Daily News on the North Side.

“I got to keep most of the money in the vending machines,” he recalled. “So I did pretty good.”

After a decade of delivering newspapers, Kenny went onto a 35-year carnival career, working for Windy City Amusements throughout Chicagoland and most of Illinois.

But the rough-and-tumble “carny” lifestyle took a toll on his body and he suffered a stroke in 2016. His finances were depleted and he could not afford a place to live.

That’s when Kenny found out that Kendall County PADS also had big shoulders–and helping hands. For nearly three years, he was warmly welcomed into the seven shelters that the homeless support group operates each night of the week from mid-October through mid-April.

“They were wonderful to me,” he said. “I got banned for four days, but I apologized, and they let me come back.”

Kenny was one of the more-fortunate PADS guests because he has an automobile, which allowed him to drive every evening to one of the shelter sites, rather than use the public transit vehicle that the nonprofit organization contracts.

However, during the warmer six months of the calendar, when the temporary housing is not available, he was forced to live in motels. “All my money went for that.”

Meanwhile, his name was placed on a two-year waiting list for subsidized housing through the Kendall County Health Department. And finally, late last year, the health department was able to secure him a one-bedroom apartment in Amboy, about 40 miles westward in Lee County.

Kendall County PADS’ mission for Kenny was accomplished. But when executive director Anne Engelhardt learned that he had no furnishings for his new apartment, she decided to go the extra mile with him.

“I told him that I’d reach out to volunteers and other friends of the homeless,” Ms. Engelhardt said.

One of those friends is Carmen Solis, a volunteer at the PADS shelter at Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego. She told Kenny: “Whatever you need, you’ve got it!”

Ms. Solis, a Plainfield resident and client acquisition consultant for MetLife, thus became the manager of the project. She created a spreadsheet of needs and recruited seven team members to help out. Also assisting were the Caring Hands Thrift Shop in Yorkville and the Kendall County Community Food Bank.

The volunteers launched a donation drive, which yielded a bed frame, mattress, box spring, couch, recliner, television, microwave, two dressers, a lamp, hand towels, dish cloths, and blanket for the sofa.

Then they prepared a meal, rented a U-Haul truck, and set out on an hour-long caravan of care to Amboy. When they arrived, Kenny was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from the PADS volunteers.

“I want to thank them for all that they did for me,” he said, in an emotional voice. “I was blessed.”

The volunteers were blessed, too. Said Ms. Solis: “It was very rewarding for me. I don’t like the way things are, so this was one of the ways that I try to bring about change.”

For the past nine years, overnight guests of Kendall County PADS have been receiving a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a packed lunch to go. They also receive assistance with employment, social services, and housing referrals.

The shelters are open from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. through April 20 on:

• Sundays at Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville
• Mondays, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
• Tuesdays, Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
• Wednesdays, Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
• Thursdays, Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
• Fridays, Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego
• Saturdays, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org.

“My hope is that every one of our guests would be able to find housing and support, such as we have seen with this guest,” Ms. Engelhardt said.pads

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Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley gives generous grant to PADS of Kendall County

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County

It literally takes a village to turn churches into temporary homeless shelters.

But that’s what Kendall County PADS has been doing for the past nine years. The last two years have also entailed transforming a secondary school into one of its seven shelter sites, which are open every night during the colder six months of the calendar.

And the homeless support group receives a whole lot of help from donors, volunteers, public agencies, and charitable organizations, according to Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS.

“I have the unique privilege of meeting the homeless guests who come to our shelters, serving side by side with our volunteers, and working with our site coordinators, who provide excellent leadership at the seven sites,” Ms. Engelhardt said. “In addition, I am fortunate to be in the position to accept for PADS many kinds of assistance from local service agencies which support the mission of providing for the homeless.”

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One of those public charities is the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, which recently granted $7,778.51 to Kendall County PADS. The funds were allocated for:

• tables at Parkview Academy that are used by PADS guests and shared by students at the Yorkville school
• fourteen cots that have been equally distributed at the seven shelter sites and used to accommodate guests who are infirm, elderly, disabled, or otherwise physically challenged, and
• replacement of about one-third of PADS’ oldest basic supplies such as towels, washcloths, blankets, pillowcases, mattresses, and mattress covers.

“We strive to sustain a healthy and comfortable environment,” Ms. Engelhardt explained. “We want to treat our guests in ways we would care for guests in our own homes, keeping in mind their needs.”

The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, philanthropic organization that administers individual charitable funds from which grants and scholarships are distributed to benefit the citizens of the Greater Aurora Area, the TriCities and Kendall County, Illinois.

Founded in 1948, the Foundation provides a simple and powerful approach to charitable giving. Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations have the opportunity to custom design their own named funds that reflect their charitable goals and interests. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has grown to more than $89 million in assets and has awarded more than $70.5 million in grants and scholarships.

For more information on the Foundation, visit www.cffrv.org.

The Foundation helped launch the shelter program in 2010 with a $6,519 grant to cover capital costs. Since then Kendall County PADS has served a total of 428 homeless guests, provided 9,725 overnight stays, and served 29,209 meals including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The totals do not include figures from the current shelter season, which began last October 19.

The “village people” who put together PADS include 600 unpaid volunteers. Most volunteers serve one or two times each month for four and a half hours. Some of the site coordinators serve every week.

PADS also partners with the Kendall County sheriff’s office, food pantry, and health department as well as Aurora University, whose social work interns assist guests with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

The shelters are open from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. through April 20 on:

• Sundays at Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville
• Mondays, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
• Tuesdays, Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
• Wednesdays, Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
• Thursdays, Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
• Fridays, Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego
• Saturdays, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at http://www.kendallcountypads.org.

Ms. Engelhardt concluded: “PADS knows that shelter and nourishing foods are a foundation for the homeless. When they are consistently safe, nourished, and rested, homeless people can begin to work through stages of change.”

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Fab Four’s music makes fabulous ‘Let It Be Christmas’ at Community Christian Church in Naperville

Let it be photo

By Tom Siebert

The Beatles have come a long way from their records being burned in the Bible Belt to their music being performed in church. But it makes perfect sense. Most Beatles songs are about love and peace–global or personal.

So for the 11th year, the Epic Theater Company is staging “Let It Be Christmas” at Community Christian Church’s Yellow Box Theater in Naperville.

“Let It Be Christmas” is the nativity story of the Gospel–according to Matthew, Mark, John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

However, this is no stoners’ stunt, such as when people were playing Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” while watching “The Wizard of Oz,” and somehow it all seemed to fit together.

No, “Let It Be Christmas” is a brilliantly conceived and performed rock opera that seamlessly weaves samples, snippets, and sometimes entire Beatles songs into the long and winding road to Bethlehem.

The two-act, two-hour musical features a rock band, orchestra, professional-level singing, and colorful choreographed dancing by children, young adults, and grownups.

The rollicking musical is church friendly, meaning there are no song lyrics that reference sex or drugs. But there is plenty of that old-time rock and roll, 40 timeless Beatles tunes, as well as traditional Christmas hymns.

All four Beatles were brought up in church but none of them were professing Christians. John Lennon in fact caught hell in 1966 for saying that the group was “more popular than Jesus,” touching off short-lived Beatles protests that simmered mostly in the South during their summer tour of the United States that year.

But their Christian upbringing must have either deliberately or subconsciously informed their songwriting. How else to explain these spiritually lifting lyrics from the song “Let It Be”?

“And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer. Let it be. For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see. There will be an answer. Let it be.”

That classic was the showstopper at the Friday night performance, sung gospel style by Aretha Franklin-soundalike Renae Taylor, who played The Prophetess.

And the late Lennon’s 1980 solo hit, “Beautiful Boy,” from his last album, “Double Fantasy,” was lovingly sung over the baby Jesus by Maive Doyle and Nick Welter, Mary and Joseph, respectively.

The acting couple also sang Beatles verses to which any husband and wife could relate, from “If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be true?” to “We can work it out.”

The deceased Beatle George Harrison was a clever word player, so he would have appreciated the cast’s ensemble and shepherds singing his “Here Comes the Sun” to announce the birth of the Savior.

There are many angels in the cast and they all sing, well, angelically. One female cherub does a soaring rendition of the Paul McCartney solo classic “Maybe I’m Amazed.” The lyrics take on new meaning when sung to God:

“Maybe I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time. Maybe I’m afraid of the way I love you. Maybe I’m amazed at the way you pulled me out of time, and hung me on a line. Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.”

The audience at the nearly sold-out, 1,200-seat theater was wide ranging in ages. And everyone seemed to love the show, but especially the Baby Boomers, who applauded approvingly when four of the cast members recreated the iconic album cover of The Beatles walking across London’s Abbey Road, where their famed recording studio was located.

Beatle-philes in the crowd also couldn’t help but notice that the Three Wise Men were dressed like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, from the landmark 1967 album of the same name.

The massive cast took their well-earned curtain calls while the fabled reprise of that title track was enthusiastically played and sung:

“We’d like to thank you once again…it’s getting very near the end.”

But it is not quite the end of the show’s three-weekend run. The remaining performances are today at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 22, at 3 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased at https://communitychristian.org/let-it-be-christmas/. Community Christian Church’s Yellow Box Theater is at 1635 Emerson Lane, at the corner of Ogden Avenue and Rickert Drive, Naperville.

And “Let It Be Christmas” is the greatest group telling the greatest story ever told.

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President George H.W. Bush made America kinder and gentler

By Tom Siebert

I was highly privileged to interview him following a long day on the campaign trail. I asked him some tough questions, but afterwards he was exceedingly kind, giving me a double handshake. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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Yorkville woman faced homelessness twice, gives back to Kendall County PADS

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County

“I was homeless for two years in Aurora when I was a teenager,” recalled April Morsch, who now lives in Yorkville with her husband, son, daughter, and three grandchildren. “I know what it’s like.”22519248_1469562249758458_6674815785556872765_n

Many years later, in 2012, her husband Robert had shoulder surgery, forcing him to take leave from his job at Caterpillar in Montgomery and receive disability benefits.

The couple had to move in with relatives, while their daughter and her three children took refuge at one of the seven homeless shelters that Kendall County PADS operates during the cold months of the fall, winter, and early spring.

In 2016, Robert was successfully treated for Stage 4 cancer and it has been in remission for two years. So he has returned to his job repairing tractors and the family is back together living in a two-bedroom apartment in Yorkville.

“God has always kept his hand on us,” said April, exuding gratitude.

She now runs a Facebook page called April’s Awesome Attic, which is sort of an online garage sale–only without any junk. She collects and sells good clothes, coats, shoes, boots, jewelry, toys, baby equipment, and other items.

Thirty percent of the profits go toward helping to support her family, while the remaining 70 percent is directly donated to PADS, the Kendall County Food Pantry, the Caring Hands Thrift Shop in Yorkville, and the 3:11 Project nonprofit charity.

Mrs. Morsch washes, mends, and irons all the clothing as well as sanitizes the toys, jewelry, and baby items.

“I just get sheer joy out of it,” said April, who all together has three adult children and six grandchildren.

Anyone wishing to purchase donated goods or make a contribution to April’s Awesome Attic may click on www.facebook.com/groups/wife1020/.

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who want to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org

Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS, said that April and her family were helped in a severe time of need and are now survivors.

She added: “PADS could not have helped them or others without our 600 volunteers. It takes a large collaborative and reliable effort to be able to offer shelter and food and kindness so that others can find help and hope.”

The nonprofit organization still needs about 75 more people to volunteer for four and a half hours one night per month in order to open the seven shelters starting next Sunday, October 21, and operating through April 20, 2019.

The nights and sites are as follows:

Sundays, Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville
Mondays, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
Tuesdays, Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
Wednesdays: Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
Thursdays: Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
Fridays, Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego
Saturdays, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

Since its founding in 2010, Kendall County PADS has served a total of 428 homeless guests, provided 9,725 overnight stays, and served 29,209 meals including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Homeless guests also receive help with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

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Sexual assault survivor shares story of healing and helping others to Wheaton Bible Church singles group

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By Tom Siebert

Julie Woodley was sharing the message of “me too” long before there was a Me Too movement.

The sexual assault survivor turned trauma therapist told her inspiring story Friday evening to more than 180 women and men at the Single Purpose group at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago.

“Women, let us rise up whether we have it right or not,” Ms. Woodley said. “You men, cherish the women in this room. Our hearts have been broken.”

Julie’s life was shattered at an early age, when her father began to molest her, threatening her with guns if she told anyone. She grew up in “dirty shame” and by high school was medicating her psychic pain with alcohol and marijuana.

Julie ran away from her home in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and wound up in St. Paul, Minnesota, living in the streets and scrounging for meals and a place to sleep. Then she began looking for love in all the wrong places and became addicted to the original sin that her dad had committed upon her.

“I became a prostitute,” she said tearfully. “I had two abortions. I became the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood.”

To add more trauma to her already-traumatized life, Julie’s best friend was murdered, prompting her to go on a bucket-list binge of drinking before deciding to commit suicide by taking a bottle of pills.

Sobbing uncontrollably, she took the bottle, but instead of consuming the deadly medicine, threw it into the trash, and shouted out: “God, save my life.”

Then she cried herself to sleep, only to be awakened by a voice, saying, “Julie, I love you.”

It was God speaking to her, Ms. Woodley told the hushed Wheaton singles group. And shortly thereafter, her life began to radically change.

Julie enrolled in nearby Northwestern College, joined a church and Bible study, got married, and had four children. She was even able to forgive her father, whom she had not seen for 17 years.

She later attended Bethel and Liberty universities, earning a master’s degree in counseling and a certificate in theological studies.

For more than 20 years, Ms. Woodley has used her past horrors to help others, especially those who have been suffering from the emotional effects of sexual assault and abortion.

“I love to work with the traumatized. I was one of the first trained therapists at 9/11,” she recalled, referring to the coordinated terrorist attacks on four U.S. targets that killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 on September 11, 2001.

Recently, Julie took on the opioid epidemic in south Florida, counseling addicts in treatment centers.

“It is time to reach out to the generation that is dying of addiction,” she implored the enthralled church audience. “Step it up.”

Ms. Woodley recently relocated to west suburban Naperville, where she continues to lead her Restoring the Heart Ministries. She has co-authored three books: Restoring the Heart: Experiencing Christ’s Healing after Brokenness; Post-Abortion Trauma: The Silent Side of Abortion; and Surviving the Storms of Life.

She is also a brain tumor and thyroid cancer survivor. Her story has been featured on several radio and TV shows, including Unshackled, Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and Life Today.

Meanwhile, in October 2017, the Me Too movement began and spread virally on social media, calling attention to sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace.

Ms. Woodley’s focus, however, is on healing, forgiveness, and moving forward.

“We are all sinners and saints,” she concluded. “Let’s reach out to a hurting world.”

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Residents can become heroes to the homeless by volunteering at a Kendall County PADS shelter

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By Tom Siebert

“We can be heroes just for one day,” rock star David Bowie famously sang.

Well, area residents can feel as if they are both heroes and rock stars by volunteering for just one night per month at one of the seven temporary homeless shelters that Kendall County PADS is scheduled to open later this month.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to know that, at least for one night, you’ve helped take some of the burden off of our guests,” said Sara Poniatowski, PADS site coordinator at Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego.

Anyone interested in learning how PADS has been helping their homeless neighbors is invited to attend a new-volunteers training session from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 11, at Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, on the northwest corner of Illinois routes 34 and 47.

“People sometimes think that they need to belong to the church where the PADS site is located, or that they should have some experience working or interacting with the homeless in order to volunteer,” explained Ms. Poniatowski, who has been a volunteer for the past eight shelter seasons, the last six as a site coordinator. “We will train anyone who has a welcoming heart and a desire to serve those in need. Those two things are really all you need to get started.”

The two-hour training session will include an overview of PADS––how it operates each night and the integral role of volunteers. Attendees will learn general operational procedures, how to address health issues, and the importance of kindness to the men, women, and children who come to the shelters.

New recruits will also receive a volunteer manual and be assigned to an experienced shelter coordinator who will serve as a mentor to them. The hope is that each person attending will be informed and would feel comfortable with their role in Kendall County PADS, should they be inspired to serve. The session is free, refreshments will be served, and there is no commitment obligation.

First-time volunteers, however, are required to attend the training, which will feature representatives of the Kendall County health department and sheriff’s office as well as the Guest Assistance Program offered by social work interns from Aurora University. The GAP helps guests with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

During the colder months of the year, nearly 600 volunteers provide safe shelter, nourishing meals, and caring hospitality to PADS guests. Most volunteers serve one or two times each month for four and a half hours. Some of the site coordinators serve every week. PADS retains about 90 percent of its volunteers each shelter season, leaving an annual need of 100 new recruits.

Anticipating that shortage of help this year, a 14-member recruitment team has been set up to attract new volunteers through social media postings; handing out brochures to local businesses; reaching out to churches, civic groups, senior communities, and emergency/medical personnel; and setting up a database of the names of all volunteers so they can be called upon to meet staffing needs at sites other than the one for which they signed up.

The shelters are scheduled to be open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. starting on October 21 and ending on April 20, 2019. The nights and sites are as follows:

  • Sundays: Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville
  • Mondays: Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
  • Tuesdays: Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
  • Wednesdays: Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
  • Thursdays: Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
  • Fridays: Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego
  • Saturdays: St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

Since its founding in 2010, Kendall County PADS has served a total of 428 homeless guests, provided 9,725 overnight stays, and served 29,209 meals including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at www.kendallcountypads.org.

“The training is easy and entertaining,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “Volunteering can be easier than hosting guests at your own home.”

 

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