By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County, IL
Ron Parrish is a retired executive from two food-seasoning companies. Today, Ron’s life is seasoned with “love, peace, and happiness” because he volunteers for Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, west of Chicago.
“When God has been good to you, you want to give back by helping people in need,” said Ron, a Yorkville resident who has served as a site coordinator at Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego since 2010, the first year that Kendall County PADS began feeding and providing temporary housing to the area’s homeless.
Another longtime PADS volunteer at Harvest New Beginnings is Lynn Schilling, ministry leader for Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program with chapters in more than 30,000 churches worldwide.
“In Celebrate Recovery, we deal with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. So why wouldn’t we be there for our brothers and sisters?” said Lynn, whose ministry hosts an outreach night once per month for PADS guests during the shelter season.
She explained: “Part of our CR ministry is giving back. And serving together is a great way to serve and work through our struggles together.”
PADS is looking for volunteers like Ron and Lynn––men and women, at least 18 years’ old––to join at any time during the shelter season, which runs from October 16, 2016, through April 16, 2017. Most PADS volunteers serve just once per month for about four to five hours.
Nearly 600 volunteers each season give their time to provide safe, overnight shelter, nourishing meals, and caring hospitality to their homeless guests. Some volunteers serve two or more times each month. And some of the site coordinators serve every week.
Kendall County PADS will hold a volunteer training session on Monday, October 3, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, located at 409 Center Parkway, on the northwest corner of Illinois Route 34 and Route 47. Advance registration is not required.
The two-hour training session will present an overview of PADS––how it operates each night and the role of volunteers. Attendees will learn the responsibilities of the various volunteer positions, the importance of hospitality for guests, health and safety issues, dos and don’ts for volunteers, and general operational procedures.
New volunteers will also receive a PADS volunteer manual and will be assigned to an experienced volunteer who serves 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 program is free and there is no obligation to sign up as a volunteer.
As the shelter season nears in mid-October, a new volunteer will be notified by a site leader to confirm the week and time slot he or she will be serving at PADS. After the volunteer receives confirmation for day and time, he or she will be encouraged to view a training session through a link on the Kendall County PADS website.
The PADS board of directors thanks those who are returning to help as well as new volunteers. There will also be review sessions held for returning site coordinators and other volunteers at each of the seven area churches that host shelter sites.
PADS nights and sites throughout the shelter season are as follows: Sundays at Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville; Mondays, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville; Tuesdays, Harvest New Beginnings, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego; Wednesdays, United Methodist Church of Plano, 219 North Hale Street, Plano; Thursdays, Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville; Fridays, Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego; and Saturdays, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Boulder Hill.
Overnight guests at PADS receive a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a packaged lunch to go. They also receive help with employment, social services, and housing referrals.
PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded by donations received through grants, gifts, private donors, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate may call (331) 207-8903 or visit the website at www.kendallcountypads.org
During the 2015–16 Kendall County PADS season, guests stayed overnight a total of 1,162 times and received 3,486 meals. Several guests stayed for a night or two, some for a week or more, and others stayed over for several months––or even the entire season. Men stayed 616 nights; women stayed 545 nights. The 2015–16 season, for the first time, had no children using the shelters. In addition, the evening meal was served 114 times to dinner guests who did not spend the night. Since PADS began in the area in 2010, the organization has sheltered 346 individuals (men, women, and children), translating into 6,957 overnight stays and 20,972 meals.
Hospitality to the guests is a priority at PADS. In addition to providing food and shelter, the most important provision is a safe, caring, and respectful environment for PADS guests. The spirit of hospitality not only calls for physical nourishment and protection from the outside elements, but also includes the concept of mutual equality between guests and hosts. It is PADS’ desire to provide an atmosphere that removes the stigma of “charity,” which can be damaging to human dignity.
Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS, noted that volunteering for the organization is a sacrifice. “You give up a favorite television show, surrender some time with your children or spouse, and you lose a few hours of sleep each month.”
Anne expressed gratitude that PADS volunteers “give selflessly” to their shift, food tasks, and laundry exchange, adding that site coordinators provide even more by ensuring that the shelters are well stocked, volunteers are lined up each week, and problems are solved.
“At every site, I feel the positive energy pouring out in the form of smiles, kind words, focused attention, listening and talking with our homeless guests,” she said. “We rejoice when we learn that one of our guests has finally been hired, made her appointment with her counselor, or has secured a permanent place to live.”
Ron Parrish hopes that the rewards of being a PADS volunteer will be even longer lasting. “The most important thing is for the Lord to someday say to me: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”