By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois
Unless Kendall County PADS can recruit about 100 more volunteers in less than a month, the nonprofit group will be unable to start its eighth season of providing nutritious meals and overnight housing to the area’s homeless community.
“We depend entirely on volunteers to provide a shelter program for men, women, and children experiencing homelessness,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “Without a full staff of volunteers every night of the week, that site would not be able to open.”
Anyone interested in learning how PADS has been helping their homeless neighbors is invited to attend a new volunteer training session from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 21, at the Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, on the northwest corner of Illinois Routes 34 and 47.
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 guests.
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.
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.
One of those is Sandy Lindblom, head site coordinator at Yorkville Congregational, who has volunteered at PADS for the past seven shelter seasons.
“What I find most rewarding is how much it means to those who have received our hospitality, and how much it means to them when they are able to find jobs and housing,” Ms. Lindblom said. She added that it is particularly heartening when guests “come back as volunteers.”
Ms. Engelhardt said serving at a PADS location is “like being part of a track rally team. Shift one with four volunteers needs to pass the baton to shift two with four volunteers and then pass the baton to shift three volunteers. If any one shift is missing volunteers, that night is incomplete and cannot host.”
Speakers at the training session will also discuss the services provided by food teams, laundry exchange drivers, shift volunteers, and site coordinators. There will also be a representative from the Guest Assistance Program offered by social work interns from Aurora University. The GAP helps guests with employment, permanent housing, and personal issues.
RaeAnn VanGundy, operations manager for the Kendall County Health Department, will talk about how that agency assists PADS guests by assigning a counselor to a shelter site once per week.
“Homeless people are under a lot of stress. We try to lift their burdens in any way that we can,” Ms. VanGundy said. “If we can provide a link or a referral, that can be life changing.”
Safety issues will be addressed by representatives from local police departments and the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office.
Each of the seven Kendall County PADS shelters are scheduled to be open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. starting on October 15 and ending on April 14, 2018. 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
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) 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
“We are very grateful for the generous monetary donations that help to support the program needs,” stated Ms. Engelhardt. “But without volunteers, the shelter program cannot operate, cannot exist.”
She describes PADS volunteers as “amazing” and said that for many, service is its own reward. “Giving another human being the most basic things––a warm place to sleep and meals––is a privilege and an opportunity to learn more about others and about yourself.
“Volunteers and guests often eat together and share in conversation. Beginning to understand the life of a person experiencing homelessness can be both eye opening and personally transformative.”