Judson University in Elgin planning to begin in-person classes on Aug. 24


By Tom Siebert

Judson University announced today that school officials are planning to begin the fall semester with Welcome Weekend on Aug. 21 and in-person classes on Aug. 24.

“We will continue to comply with all federal and state guidelines, as well as our own high standards, for the health and safety of our entire community––students, faculty, staff, and guests,” said Mary Dulabaum, Judson’s director of communications and marketing.

The university will start with a progressive return of Judson staff throughout the summer and will include opening the campus to visitors and events as the Illinois stay-at-home order is lifted, she added.

The state is currently under a shelter-in-place directive from Gov. J.B. Pritzker until May 30, due to the coronavirus health crisis.

According to the Illinois Dept. of Health, the state has recorded 79,007 coronavirus cases and 3,459 deaths as of noon today.

For the fall semester, Judson will follow appropriate health testing, screening, and tracing; cleaning and sanitizing; and social distancing as necessary in classrooms, residence halls, the cafeteria, athletic events, and other student activities and events, according to Ms. Dulabaum.

University leaders are also developing at least three contingency plans for adjusting its strategies, based on continuing developments and changes to governmental guidelines.

Current students, prospective students, faculty, and staff were informed of the university’s plans yesterday.

Judson is a Christian institution representing the church at work in higher education. Nestled along the Fox River in Elgin, the university is home to more than 1,250 students from 36 states and 30 countries.

The school offers degrees in more than 65 different majors and minors for traditional, graduate, and adult students, ranking consistently among the Best Regional Universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.

Judson has also been recognized as a “Christian College of Distinction.”





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Coronavirus forces Kendall County PADS to close its shelters but not its hearts to the homeless community


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

The rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic forced Kendall County PADS to abruptly cut short its tenth shelter season by about one month, but not until volunteers sought help for their homeless guests in securing alternative temporary housing.

Earlier this month, the PADS board of directors decided to defer to school closings and local health officials before deciding whether to close its seven shelters, located at six area churches and a Christian academy. The sites had been scheduled to remain operating until April 18.

“Although the board agreed to the guidelines for closing, we were able to stay open for three more nights so we would have a couple of days to make some quick decisions for some quick solutions,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of the homeless support group.

Three social work interns from Aurora University, which partners with PADS, visited the shelter sites on the last three overnights they were open, meeting with their homeless clients and committing to stay connected with them via phone calls and texts.

“They will continue this support for four more weeks,” said Ms. Engelhardt. “Most of our guests were able to find a place for shelter immediately or in the near future.”

PADS provided transportation to four of those guests who were placed at the Daybreak Center in Joliet, which offers emergency housing and supportive services to individuals and families in crisis.

Volunteers responded to the shutdown with a mix of emotions ranging from disappointment, to gratitude for the service opportunity, to concern for the homeless, coupled with a commitment to help out during the next shelter season, which runs from Oct. 18 through April 17, 2021.

“I am so sorry to hear about PADS closing even though I understand the rationale,” said Cathe Gusler, who served at the Parkview Christian Academy shelter on Wednesday evenings. “Thank you for giving me the honor to assist this program. Please keep me in mind for next year and let me know if there is anything I can do to help during the off season.”

Another volunteer, Jillian Liff, was both grateful and gratified after her first season of serving on Saturday nights at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Boulder Hill, unincorporated Kendall County near Montgomery.

“PADS brought me together with people from the community once a month to offer what we could––in my case a hot meal to people who are struggling,” Ms. Liff stated.  “Because each of us on the cooking team took one or two elements of the meal, we were able to provide some pretty tasty and nutritious home-cooked dinners. It felt good to be a part of PADS this season.”

Kendall County PADS has been providing nutritious meals, temporary housing, and compassionate care to the area’s homeless during the colder months of the calendar since 2010.

During this past shelter season, the support group hosted more than 50 guests, which translated into more than 1,300 overnight stays during 21 weeks.

In addition to Parkview and St. Luke’s, the makeshift shelters were at Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville, Harvest New Beginnings church in Oswego, Trinity United Methodist Church in Yorkville, and Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego.

Kendall County PADS 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, volunteer, or learn more about helping the local homeless community may call (630) 334-8180 or visit kendallcountypads.org.

The potentially deadly coronavirus, designated as COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It is also transmitted when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

As of 7 a.m. on March 23, there were 358,082 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide with 15,433 resulting in death; 39,371 cases and 467 deaths in the United States; 1,049 cases and 9 deaths in Illinois; and four cases and no deaths in Kendall County.

Those recorded numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, which are expected to rise drastically, were obtained from the WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois Dept. of Public Health, and Kendall County Health Dept., respectively.

Following the closing of the temporary shelters, Ms. Engelhardt sent a letter of appreciation to all PADS volunteers, which read in part:

“You have demonstrated over and over your dedication to helping the people who live in homelessness.  You faithfully pass on kindness through your warm hospitality. Thank you for your selfless gift to others in need these past five months.”

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Gen. David Petraeus to speak at Judson University’s World Leaders Forum


By Tom Siebert

Former CIA Director David H. Petraeus, a retired four-star general who commanded U.S. forces in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, will be the keynote speaker at Judson University’s ninth World Leaders Forum next fall in Schaumburg.

“General Petraeus is the most respected and influential military leader in the post-9/11 world,” said Judson University President Dr. Gene Crume. “He represented American values on the world’s stage for many years. As conflicts grow around the world, General Petraeus will offer our community a measured, experienced perspective on global issues.”

The decorated general has said that his foreign policy views are not in alignment with the Trump administration. But he praised the president’s order last month to assassinate Iranian terrorist leader Qassim Suleimani.

“It is more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden or even the death of [Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi,” he said at the time.

A 37-year military veteran, Petraeus was appointed director of the Central Intelligence Agency by President Barack Obama in July 2011. He stepped down from that position in November 2012 after an extramarital affair and pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified material passed onto his mistress.

Petraeus currently serves as chairman of the Global Institute, an arm of the investment firm KKR. He is also an honorary professor at the University of Birmingham in Great Britain, as well as a board member for the Institute for the Study of War, the Atlantic Council, and more than a dozen veterans service organizations.

In addition, the retired military leader is the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Combat Action Badge, the Ranger tab, and master parachutist wings. And he has been decorated by 13 foreign countries.

The goal of the World Leaders Forum is to present Judson students and the Chicagoland community with an opportunity to be inspired by significant thought leaders. Proceeds fund Judson Leadership Scholarships and innovative entrepreneurial activities, as well as support ongoing operations of the Forum.

Previous keynote speakers at the annual event were former President George W. Bush; ex-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev; ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair; former Mexican President Felipe Calderón; Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan; former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean; and author, attorney, and diplomat Caroline Kennedy.

Located in Elgin since 1963, Judson affords students a Christian, liberal arts and sciences education through its Bachelor of Arts degrees in more than 60 majors, minors, and graduate programs. The university also offers online courses, in addition to certification and accelerated adult-degree programs. For more information, visit www.JudsonU.edu.

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First World War film ‘1917’ is a stunning cinematic masterpiece


By Tom Siebert

The brilliant new movie “1917” is seemingly and seamlessly filmed in one continuous shot, capturing the chaos of World War I in two harrowing hours, with no respite from reality and not even a moment to mourn the mounting dead.

All is anything but quiet on the Western Front in Northern France when too-young British lance corporals Will Schofield (George McKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are tasked with the perilous mission of hand-delivering retreat orders to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, lest 1,600 soldiers including Tom’s brother are massacred in a counterattack by the German army.

Thus begins director Sam Mendes’ shell-shocking drama that accompanies Will and Tom as they painstakingly traverse a hellscape of mortar, machine guns, barbed wire, bloody waters, and bloated bodies––testing them physically, psychically, and spiritually.

Based partially on the stories told to Mr. Mendes by his grandfather Alfred, who fought in the so-called Great War, “1917” is precisely choreographed with slow- and fast-moving cameras that immerse the viewer into the battlefield action as well as the ever-changing emotions of the main characters.

It is a cinematic feat that will be taught by film professors who were once wowed by Orson Welles’ opening tracking shot in 1958’s “Touch of Evil” and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller “Rope,” with its smoothly rolling cameras that appeared to present the narrative in real time.

But “1917” is much more than digital trickery and technical gimmickry by famed cinematographer Roger Deakins. It is also a colossal engineering and architectural accomplishment.

The pre-production crew dug a mile of deep trenches through the Scottish plains and erected more than 150 3D models of war-ravaged sets.

During filming the characters’ movements and sparse dialogue had to be perfectly synchronized with each “scene.”

And everyone had to deal with the moods of the sun, since the film could be shot solely under the gray skies that prevailed during the actual day of the wartime event, April 6, 1917.

During their race-with-time rescue operation, wide-eyed Will tells his comrade Tom: “We need to keep moving!” And so does this relentless shark-like movie, which has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

In one particularly stunning sequence, lance corporals Schofield and Blake search for occupying German soldiers in the bombed-out rubble of a town that is literally lit up by the white glare of phosphorous flares.

This primitive technology is evidenced throughout “1917.” For instance, the airplane was not invented until 1903, but fourteen years later it had become a crude weapon of war, as depicted by a dizzying dogfight between British and German planes.

Moreover, the heartrending scene of a soldier bleeding to death was sadly typical in the First World War, long before the introduction of MASH units in the U.S-Korean conflict and medical helicopters during America’s decade-long military involvement in Vietnam.

And aside from the cynical banter of an animated bunch of British soldiers riding in the back of a transport truck, there is virtually no discussion in this otherwise ambitious film about what started the cataclysmic war, which took the lives of more than 20 million people.

For the historical record, on June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the presumptive leader of Austria-Hungary, which then attacked Serbia.

Russia and its interlocking allies France, Italy, and Great Britain were then drawn into the war against Central Powers Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.

Better communications between the countries may have prevented the First World War, just as improved field telephones would have negated the need for the miles-long foot mission of Messrs. Schofield and Blake to the front lines.

And when the stand-down message is finally conveyed to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch), the commanding officer laments, “I hoped today might be a good day. Hope is a dangerous thing.”

That may be true, but we must all hope and pray there will never be a World War III. Because with nine countries now possessing nuclear weapons, there would not likely be anyone left on earth to make a movie about it.


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‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ gets ugly, goes deep, and soars high

Hanks Rhys

By Tom Siebert

Jaded journalist Lloyd Vogel doesn’t “get” Fred Rogers. He thinks the cardigan-clad legend is simply the “hokey host” of PBS-TV’s long-running “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

After all, only a guileless child could take seriously the lyrics of the show’s twinkly piano theme, sung by the always-affable sweater guru himself:

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Please, won’t you be…my neighbor?”

In the inspiring new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Mr. Vogel, an investigative reporter for Esquire magazine, is miffed because he has been assigned to write a “puff piece,” rather than an exposé, about Mr. Rogers, then a 70-year-old national icon.

“Play nice,” his editor Ellen, played by Christine Lahti, warns him. And even the writer’s wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), cautions, “Please don’t ruin my childhood.”

This innovative, profound film, directed brilliantly in a Mr. Rogers episode format by Marielle Heller, is loosely based on the 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say…Hero?” by Tom Junod, whose cynical outlook on life was positively altered by spending quality time with the Presbyterian minister turned TV star.

It is beautifully fitting that Mr. Rogers is performed by “Mr. Nice,” Tom Hanks, the Jimmy Stewart-esque Everyman character of our times, who has won more than 50 major acting awards in his fabulous 40-year career.

But this amazing movie is less about Mr. Rogers than it is about the fictional but all too human Mr. Vogel, portrayed by Matthew Rhys, who should garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

The film opens with the reluctant writer attending his sister Lorraine’s wedding with his wife and their newborn son, Gavin. During the reception, Lloyd starts a bloody fistfight with his estranged father, Jerry, who had abandoned his wife while she was dying of cancer.

Nursing a nose injury, Lloyd travels to KQED-TV in Pittsburgh to interview Fred, who prevaricates when asked pointed questions about his legendary status, seeming to be interested only in the journalist’s obvious resentment toward his dad.

Following that first conversation, Lloyd updates his editor over the phone: “He’s just about the nicest person I’ve ever met. I just don’t know if he’s for real.”

In their next interview in New York City, Fred again evades Lloyd’s questions and instead talks about raising his own two sons, takes out his puppets, and through them tries to cajole the writer into talking about his father.

“Someone has hurt my friend Lloyd,” one puppet says, “and not just on his face. He’s having a hard time forgiving the person who hurt him.”

But the interviewer isn’t ready for Kabuki therapy. He abruptly ends the session and goes home, only to find that Jerry, bitterly but brokenly played by Chris Cooper, and his girlfriend Dorothy had brought dinner for the family. Lloyd demands that his father leave but Jerry suffers a heart attack and is transported to a hospital.

Mr. Vogel then refuses to remain at the hospital with the rest of his family and returns to the Pittsburgh studio to resume his talks with Mr. Rogers. Alone on the set of the show’s Neighborhood of Make-Believe, Lloyd collapses from exhaustion and dreams about his dysfunctional childhood.

He then appears magically in a Mr. Rogers episode about hospitals, wearing rabbit ears, shrinking to the size of the show’s characters King Friday XIII and Daniel the Striped Tiger, and being towered over by Fred and Andrea.

In the final scene of this creative dream sequence, Lloyd visits his dying mother, who encourages him to relinquish his anger towards his father.

Back to reality, Mr. Rogers meets Mr. Vogel at a restaurant, asking him to spend one minute thinking about those who “loved him into being” and reinforces the need to forgive his dad.

Not fully transformed but willing to take the first steps toward reconciliation, Lloyd then visits his now-dying father in the hospital, forgives him, promises Andrea to be a better husband, and even pledges to become a “Mr. Mom” to his son Gavin.

From 1966 until 2001, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” taught little children about big issues.

When Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) was shot to death in June 1968, the show devoted an entire week to teaching kids the meaning of the word “assassination.”

A year later, Fred and African American actor Francois Collins, who played a police officer on the program, cooled off their bare feet in a small plastic wading pool, taking a quiet stance against segregated public swimming facilities.

Fred Rogers, who passed away in 2003, gave every child laser beam attention and Christ-like love, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities.

Fans of Mr. Rogers will delight in the film’s cameos by his real-life wife Joanne and the actual actor who played Mr. McFeely on the show, David Newell, now 81.

In the movie, Fred softly states, “I think the best thing we can do is to let people know that each one of them is precious.”

And he gently teaches us grown-ups that unconditional kindness can change one’s world.





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Kendall County kids blanket PADS guests with kindness


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

As the season of giving coincides with cold weather and early darkness, Kendall County youth are showing warmth and brightness to the area’s homeless community.

Students from Parkview Academy and members of a local 4-H Club, both in Yorkville, recently donated colorful fleece blankets to PADS’ temporary shelters.

Jennifer Kaufman, leader of the Stagecoach Trailblazers and Cloverbuds 4-H Club, identified the need for thicker blankets when volunteering at the PADS site at Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego.

“They have one room that gets really cold, and the guests would ask for extra blankets,” said Ms. Kaufman, whose son Thomas, 15, spearheaded the project.

She said the materials were purchased at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, which offers a discount to the 4-H club, and later woven into double-tiered blankets by the Trailblazers, ages 8 to 15, and the Cloverbuds, 5 to 7.

“It made me very happy that we were able to help,” Ms. Kaufman added.

Another blanket drive was conducted by students at Parkview Academy, which houses one of the seven overnight shelters that PADS operates during the colder months.

In addition to donating the decorative blankets, the Parkview students made greeting cards and a festive banner saying “To Our Friends At PADS” that welcomed homeless guests to the school gym on a recent Wednesday evening.

“All of the blankets were amazing,” said Peggy McNamara, PADS site coordinator at Parkview. “I got teary-eyed when I saw them. Those kids reached out to us!”

This is the tenth year that Kendall County PADS has been providing safe havens and nutritious meals to the local homeless community. Social work interns from Aurora University also assist guests with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

Each shelter is open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. through April 18, 2020. 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, north 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 501(c)(3) not-for-profit group funded by gifts and grants as well as donations from individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate, volunteer, or learn more about helping the homeless may call (630) 334-8180 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org.

“Our shelter sites are now filled with fleece blankets,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of the homeless support group. “PADS has been the recipient of many donations in the past few weeks. The spirit of Christmas is strong at this time of year, as seen by the monetary contributions and other goods.”

Posted in Anne Engelhardt, Christianity, Homeless, Kendall County, PADS, Tom Siebert | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘The Irishman’ gets an A+ in moviemaking but flunks history

Picture1.pngBy Tom Siebert

From Al Capone to Don Corleone, Hollywood glamorized gangsters, depicting them as murderous wise guys who also happened to be family friendly good guys.

Then along came realistic filmmaker Martin Scorsese, whose movies such as “Goodfellas” and “The Departed” portrayed mobsters as vulgar, violent sociopaths for whom crime not only did not pay but often led to a ghoulish, ungodly death.

Now comes director Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” a sweeping, colorful, beautifully shot masterpiece that features acting titans Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as well as a genius supporting cast that includes Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Arlington Heights native and hottest comedian in the country Sebastian Maniscalco.

The epic, elegiac film is an adaption of Charles Brandt’s book “I Hear You Paint Houses,” the self-told story of Frank Sheeran.

He was a Philadelphia meat truck driver who in the film becomes a Forest Gump-like character involved in practically every infamous incident in recent American gangland history, including the shooting deaths of United Mine Workers president Joseph Yablonski in 1969 and mobster “Crazy Joe” Gallo at a Manhattan clam bar in 1972.

Mr. De Niro, who should win his third Academy Award for his interpretation of Mr. Sheeran, is digitally aged from a young soldier fighting in World War II, to a middle-aged mafia hit man, to an infirm octogenarian seeking penance from a Catholic priest in a nursing care facility.

Mr. Pacino, as controversial Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, turns in his finest performance since the tour de force of “Dog Day Afternoon.” (I know he won Best Actor for “Scent of a Woman” but that was the Academy making amends for overlooking his incandescent acting in “Serpico” and the first two “Godfather” films.)

And Mr. Pesci, who broke cinematic ground with Mr. De Niro in “Raging Bull,” plays Russell Bufalino, an avuncular mafia don whose syndicate commits its crimes in the Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia metro areas.

Oh, and everybody will love Ray Romano’s portrayal of amoral union attorney Bill Bufalino, who clears Mr. Sheeran after he is accused by the trucking company of theft.

Director Quentin Tarantino is known for hiding “Easter eggs” of obscure cultural references in his films. But Mr. Scorsese is pretty good at trivial pursuit in “The Irishman,” with his eclectic soundtrack and zooming Miami Beach shot that opened “The Jackie Gleason Show” in the 1960s, accompanied by The Great One’s composition “Melancholy Serenade.”

And in a particularly charming scene, Steven Van Zandt, he of “The Sopranos” and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, sings “Spanish Eyes” as nightclub crooner Jerry Vale at a Teamster’s banquet.

Movies about real people often pose fact-checking challenges, dramatic license and liberties taken into account. But in a country crazed by conspiracy theories, it is important to debunk some of the assertions made in “The Irishman,” for the benefit of those who get their “history” from movies.

First of all, the film perpetuates the political myth that Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the mob stole the 1960 presidential election on behalf of Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) by stealing votes and stuffing ballot boxes.

That allegation has never been proven, and even if it were, JFK would have still won the presidency without the 27 electoral votes from the state of Illinois. (He gained the votes of 303 electors, 33 more than the 270 needed to win.)

“The Irishman” also weaves together bits and pieces of the many discredited “plots” to assassinate President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. The undisputed fact is that there is no evidence that anyone other than sniper Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in the assassination.

And the 1975 disappearance of Mr. Hoffa is still listed by the FBI as an unsolved mystery, notwithstanding the film’s imagination of the union boss’ fate.

“The Irishman,” now playing concurrently in a limited number of theaters and streaming on Netflix, has been deemed by some critics as the ultimate underworld film.

To me that means I will never have to watch another profanity-peppered, blood-spattered movie like this again.

For as artistically brilliant as the gangster genre can be, it is ultimately not good for my soul nor spiritual growth.

Posted in Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese, Movie Review, Ray Romano, Robert De Niro, Tom Siebert | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anne Engelhardt stepping down from leadership of Kendall County PADS with gratitude, graciousness


By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, IL

The first guest of Kendall County PADS was a 34-year-old recovering alcoholic and single mother of four. That was on the evening of Oct. 18, 2010.

Since then the homeless support group has helped a total of 474 guests, providing 11,006 overnight stays and serving 33,325 meals, including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Those impressive numbers belie the inauspicious beginnings of the local PADS chapter, when most area residents were unaware that there were those who had no place to live in the sprawling, rustic county with a 2010 population of about 127,000.

“They didn’t know there were homeless people in our community––people were oblivious to it,” said Anne Engelhardt, who recently announced that this shelter season would be her last as executive director of the nonprofit organization.

Ms. Engelhardt herself became aware of the problem when Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ (YCUCC), where she is a member, was visited by a liaison from the Grundy-Kendall Regional Office of Education, which had been tracking the number of homeless students in area schools.

Then Anne and a few other concerned citizens visited a Grundy County PADS site, following it up with letters to local churches and editors of weekly newspapers to see if there was support for aiding the area’s homeless.

Thus began a series of organizational meetings at YCUCC throughout the spring and summer of 2010, where the social issue was discussed by pastors and churchgoers from the community.

The meetings grew exponentially from 12 attendees to 18, to 80, to 170 at the first volunteers training session in September of that year.

“There was definitely something happening that was bigger than us,” Ms. Engelhardt recalled. “People would stand up and say, ‘I want this at my church.’ I felt like the Holy Spirit was leading us.”

Shortly thereafter, Kendall County’s health department, food pantry, and sheriff’s office offered their services. And seven churches subsequently volunteered to provide temporary shelter sites one night of the week during the six colder months of the year.

In addition to YCUCC, they were Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville, Harvest New Beginnings church in Oswego, United Methodist Church of Plano, Trinity United Methodist Church in Yorkville, Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego, and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Montgomery.

Six of those original seven churches will still be offering nutritious meals and a safe place to stay when PADS opens it tenth shelter season on Oct. 20. The seventh site is Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville, which replaced United Methodist Church of Plano in 2017.

Over the past nine years, Kendall County PADS has widened the scope of the services that it  offers.

The first challenge was providing transportation so that guests who did not own cars could travel from site to site throughout the week. Since the county has no bus service, PADS partnered in 2011 with Kendall Area Transit to provide rides during the week, and then Yorkville Express came aboard in 2015 to cover the weekends.

The two private transit firms not only shuttle guests to and from the shelter sites, but also get them to their worksites––for those who have jobs––or other important appointments.

In 2016 a guest assistance program was established with social work interns from Aurora University. The interns help PADS clients with such personal issues such as addiction, mental health challenges, finding employment, and securing permanent housing.

“That added a whole new dimension to what we do at PADS,” said Ms. Engelhardt. “We were able to offer our guests a lifeline to be able to help themselves. And we will always do that.”

She points with pride to those former guests who have become contributing members of the community and some who have even volunteered at the shelters.

One of those is Darrell McGhee, 39, who sought shelter at Cross Lutheran Church on a cold December night in 2014.

“I for one as a guest had a great experience there for a couple of winters,” said Mr. McGhee, who now has a steady job and a permanent place to live. “Anne was always positive and encouraging, always found a way she could help.”

He added: “She put in a great deal of effort and hard work to make this all come together.”

Kathy Farren, an assistant site coordinator and treasurer for the nonprofit organization, agreed.

“Anne has a great combination of energy and organizational skills beyond belief,” she said. “God put the right person in place at just the right time.”

Ms. Farren, a friend of Anne’s for more than 40 years, heads a task force that is searching for a new executive director.

They are seeking someone who has considerable computer, organizational, and interpersonal skills, said Ms. Engelhardt. “I’m sure someone is out there, and perhaps getting a whisper in the ear or a nudge in the heart.”

Ideally, she continued, PADS’ new leader would be able to shadow her and learn the position throughout this shelter season, which runs through April 18, 2020.

Ms. Engelhardt and her husband Jerry are both retired teachers who have been married for 49 years. The Yorkville couple has five adult children and nine grandchildren, with one on the way.

She expressed her profound appreciation to all those who have volunteered, donated, or contributed in some way to PADS over the past nine years. “I continue to be moved by the compassion of hundreds of people in the communities who graciously give their time and kindness to others in need.”  

Those who wish to donate, volunteer, or learn more about helping the homeless community may call (630) 334-8180 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org.

Although Anne’s role in Kendall County PADS will soon be reduced, her vision remains large.

“My hope is that our community leaders and social agents will gain an understanding of the complexity of the lives of homeless people,” she said. “I hope they will begin to recognize that homelessness is a social problem that requires systemic support for a better and different approach to solutions to reduce––and maybe someday end­­––homelessness.”  

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Poetry trumps politics in Caroline Kennedy’s talk at Judson University’s World Leaders Forum in Schaumburg

WLF2019 6

By Tom Siebert

Caroline Kennedy comes from the most fabled political clan in American history.

But the author, attorney, and diplomat conducted a clinic on how to avoid family feuds over politics last night, telling stories, reciting poetry, and even playing trivia with an audience of more than 500 people at Judson University’s World Leaders Forum at the Renassaince Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center.

“We have enough divisiveness in our country over social issues, so I’m not going to go there with you,” said Ms. Kennedy, after conservative cultural commentator Eric Metaxas asked her how she reconciled her Catholic faith with her pro-choice stance on abortion.

The subject was politely changed by Mr. Metaxas, the nationally syndicated radio host of “Socrates in the City,” a series of conversations on “life, God, and other small topics.”

“Your mother did a really great job of raising you and your brother,” the interviewer told her, referring to the late First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr., who was killed in a small plane crash in July 1999.

“My mother was somebody who was incredibly true to herself and that was a great example to my brother and me,” recalled Ms. Kennedy, who served as U.S. ambassador to Japan during the second term of President Barack Obama.

She noted that her family’s ties to that country dated to August 1943, when a Navy patrol boat commanded by her father, John F. Kennedy, was struck by a Japanese destroyer, killing two crewmen and stranding 11 others on a Samoan island for six days.

“When I was there, many older people knew of my father’s war record, but what they didn’t know is he corresponded with the crew of the Japanese destroyer throughout the 1950s,” Ms. Kennedy said. “He had hoped to visit Japan during his second term and would have been the first sitting president to do that.”

President Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s rifle bullets while riding in a motorcade in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, five days short of Caroline’s sixth birthday.

She expressed her pride and privilege in fulfilling her father’s legacy of reconciliation in May 2016, when she accompanied President Obama to Hiroshima, Japan, the city that was decimated by a U.S. atomic bomb in August 1945, expediting the end of World War II.

“When I was the ambassador to Japan, Americans often approached me and recited my father’s presidential inaugural address from 1961,” said Ms. Kennedy. “This always made me proud because the quote ‘ask what you can do for your country’ is emblematic of the service and generosity that makes America special.”

She traced the family’s history of service to her grandmother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, who “believed that we should be not just hearers of the faith but doers of the faith.”

Rose Kennedy’s father was mayor of Boston and her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy, was U.S. ambassador to Great Britain during the 1930s.

At the World Leaders Forum, Caroline singled out her late aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for founding the Special Olympics, “right here in Chicago.”

And she gave a high grade to Judson University’s Road to Independent Living, Spiritual Formation, and Employment (RISE) program, which provides a college experience for students with intellectual disabilities.

Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Metaxas, acutely aware of their political polarism, joked and cajoled each other throughout their hour-long, lively conversation.

“What does the word America mean to you?” the host asked his guest.

“You go first,” she quipped.

“I’ve written a book on the subject!” he shot back, referring to his New York Times best-seller, “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty.”

The two talkers found common ground on the subject of poetry, Ms. Kennedy having published three anthologies of poems, some of which her extended family members would recite or illustrate during Christmases.

She fondly recalled her “Uncle Teddy,” the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), reciting “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” at her book signings.

And she drew laughs from the audience when she recounted her young son John getting off easy on a family assignment when he memorized “The Red Wheelbarrow,” a three-line ode that Mr. Metaxas knew was written by American poet William Carlos Williams.

Trivia came up again when Ms. Kennedy remembered that the Secret Service would ask her and young John Jr. questions “to keep us quiet” such as what are the five state capitals that begin with the letter “A.”

Some sharp members of the Schaumburg audience shouted out the answers: Albany,‎ Annapolis, Atlanta, Augusta, and Austin.

Then the discussion turned serious, to sacrifice, a subject that the tragedy-stricken Kennedy family knows all too well.

Caroline’s other uncle on her dad’s side, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), was gunned down after winning the California presidential primary on June 5, 1968, dying the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.

And to this day, all of her many cousins are involved in service in some way.

“Our democracy is something that is really precious, and we should treat it that way,” she asserted. “It really does inspire me to want to give back, to be worthy of that sacrifice and legacy that has gone before us.”

Mr. Metaxas concurred. “God blesses us so that we’ll be a blessing.”

The eighth edition of Judson’s World Leadership Forum received rave reviews from students.

“I loved the presentation,” said Bryan Tripp, a junior majoring in music and business administration. “I thought it was a real fun evening, lighthearted, not at all what I expected it to be.”

Sophomore Ce’Nedra Fogg, a psychology major, agreed. “I loved the witty banter between them. It was an actual conversation that I felt I was a part of.”

The goal of the World Leaders Forum is to present Judson students and the Chicagoland community with an opportunity to be inspired by significant thought leaders. Proceeds fund Judson Leadership Scholarships and innovative entrepreneurial activities, as well as support ongoing operations of the Forum.

Previous keynote speakers at the annual event were former President George W. Bush, ex-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Located in Elgin since 1963, Judson affords students a Christian, liberal arts and sciences education through its Bachelor of Arts degrees in more than 60 majors, minors, and graduate programs. The university also offers online courses, in addition to certification and accelerated adult-degree programs. For more information, visit www.JudsonU.edu.

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Kendall County PADS faces critical need of new volunteers as shelter season looms

PADS - Food Team - serves awesome meal!

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

Famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger was once asked what his prescription was for someone who felt they were about to experience a nervous breakdown.

“Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them,” Dr. Menninger replied.

Well, that’s what Kendall County PADS volunteers have been doing since the fall of 2010, when the nonprofit support group began providing nutritious meals, safe overnight housing, and much-needed social services to the area’s homeless community.

During the colder months of the calendar, 630 volunteers are needed to operate seven temporary shelter sites, each of them open for one overnight of the week from mid-October to mid-April. Most volunteers serve one or two times each month for four and a half hours. Some of the site coordinators serve every week.

Kendall County PADS usually retains about 90 percent of its volunteers each shelter season. But the number of returning volunteers is down this year.

“Just one month prior to our scheduled opening, we need about 150 men and women to serve as volunteers this season” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “It seems to be more challenging to find people with the hearts for volunteer service of this type.”

In order to address its current shortage of volunteers, Kendall County PADS lowered its age requirement from 18 to 17 as well as expanded its recruitment pool to include those needing to complete court-ordered community service hours.

Additionally, a volunteer recruitment team has been plastering social media with inspirational PADS posts; handing out brochures to local businesses; reaching out to churches, civic organizations, senior communities, and emergency/medical personnel; and keeping a database of all volunteers so they can be called on to meet emergency staffing needs at any of the sites.

Anyone interested in helping their homeless neighbors is invited to attend a new-volunteers training session from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 3, at the Kendall County Health Department, 811 John Street, Yorkville.

A special invitation is extended to churches, public libraries, local businesses, PADS volunteers, the Caring Hands Thrift Store in Yorkville, and police departments, in addition to the county sheriff’s office, health department, and food pantry.

The two-hour training session will include an overview of PADS––how it operates each night and the integral role of volunteers. Attendees also 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 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 strongly encouraged to attend the training, which will also feature representatives of the Guest Assistance Program offered by social work interns from Aurora University. The GAP helps homeless guests with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

The shelters are scheduled to be open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. starting on October 20 and ending on April 18, 2020. 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, north 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

During the past nine shelter seasons, Kendall County PADS has served a total of 474 homeless guests, provided 11,006 overnight stays, and served 33,325 meals including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

PADS of Kendall County is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit group funded by gifts and grants as well as donations from individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate, volunteer, or learn more about helping the homeless may call (630) 334-8180 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org.


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