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PADS reaches out to community as shelter season nears

Volunteers from Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County will be blanketing the community over the next two months, sharing how the nonprofit group is helping their homeless neighbors and how they can help, too.

The volunteers will be hosting informal get-togethers at coffee shops, colleges, and libraries as PADS prepares for its eighth season of providing nourishing meals, kind hospitality, and overnight housing at seven shelter sites, each open one day of the week, from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. from Oct. 15 through April 14, 2018.

Those who attend the community outreach gatherings will hear how PADS assists its homeless guests with not only basic needs but also employment, healthcare, social services, and the ultimate goal of securing permanent housing. There will also be time for questions and answers but no one will be under any obligation, according to Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS.

She explained, “We want people to not feel like they are signing up for anything, just a time to come and find out about PADS from the people in our community who make it work.”

One of those is Caren Farrell, who has served for the past six shelter seasons at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville. “I enjoy the people,” Ms. Farrell said. “So many of them are cheerful. It’s always a positive experience. What is most inspirational to me about the guests is their sense of community and how they look out for each other.”

Gregg Wehrs was a PADS volunteer for three years at United Methodist Church of Plano. “I love doing it,” he said. “You get to make friends.” He feels a special kinship with the guests, having once become homeless himself. “I know where they are coming from. You think you have it all and then you don’t.”

Volunteers Always Needed at PADS Sites

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

A poignant part of the Christmas story is a couple needing a safe place to stay for the night.

On Wednesday night, just four days before Christmas, men and women will be seeking shelter at the United Methodist Church of Plano. However, four more volunteers are needed to keep the temporary housing shelter open, according to Diane Morris, a site coordinator for Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County.

“I stood up in church yesterday and all but begged,” Ms. Morris said Monday. “Actually, I did beg for help.”

In October, Kendall County PADS began its seventh season of helping the homeless at seven churches that hope to continue opening their doors on designated nights of the week through April 16, 2017.

But this season the nonprofit organization has been consistently short of volunteers on four of those nights, according to Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS.

“I am trusting that we will have more volunteers,” Ms. Engelhardt said. “They are slowly filling in.”

Parkview Christian Academy Serves as PADS Site

By Tom Siebert, Assistant Director for Community Relations

Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville will be joining six area churches this fall in providing nutritious meals and overnight housing to the homeless as Kendall County PADS starts its eighth shelter season.

“We’re excited,” said Parkview Superintendent Deborah Benson, explaining that she has been receiving favorable feedback from parents about the school’s new mission. “The responses have ranged from very positive to ‘that’s awesome.’”

The need for a new Wednesday night shelter arose earlier this year when the United Methodist Church of Plano announced that it was unable to continue in the PADS program after six years of service. At the same time, Parkview was in the process of purchasing the building that formerly housed the Club 47 fitness facility at 202 East Countryside Parkway to accommodate its expanding enrollment, which has grown to about 350 students.

“God had blessed us with this facility so how could we not share it with the community?” Ms. Benson asked. “We want to teach Christ to our students.”

The private academy went through “a very careful process” before bringing the PADS proposal to its board of directors for consideration, she said. That included contacting representatives of the churches that have been hosting homeless shelters in partnership with Kendall County PADS since 2010. “It was all positive,” she said.

The school’s board voted unanimously to approve the measure earlier this month, to the delight and relief of the nonprofit group, which had been reaching out to the community for a replacement shelter site.

Superintendent Benson said PADS guests will be able to walk directly into the school’s gymnasium, which houses kitchen facilities and a dining area as well as separate bathrooms and sleeping quarters for women and men.

Being able to take a mid-week shower will be an added blessing to the overnight guests of Parkview. The two churches that open shelters on the weekends have shower facilities but the ones that operate during the other four days of the week do not.

The Parkview shelter site will be completely separate from the academy’s classrooms, which are occupied during the day with middle and high school students. “We wanted to make sure that it is safe for all parties,” Ms. Benson added.

The Christian academy, founded in 1997, continues to operate its prekindergarten-through-early elementary school at 201 West Center Street. The rustic building once housed the old Yorkville School and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Each of the seven Kendall County PADS shelters will 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

Several volunteers from United Methodist plan to continue their service to the homeless at Parkview. One of those is Diane Morris, who was the PADS head site coordinator at the Plano church for four years.

“I want to thank all the volunteers who supported and worked with me to provide shelter and hot meals for the homeless,” Ms. Morris stated. “I am also thrilled to hear the new site for Wednesdays will be at Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville. They will be a wonderful shelter to provide a safe, warm place for the homeless to lay their heads on Wednesday evenings. I look forward to helping out in a new capacity with the PADS program.”

Dick Velders, who served at United Methodist for six shelter seasons, will also be volunteering at the new site at Parkview.

“I was thrilled when Parkview Christian graciously offered their new site at the former Club 47 fitness center, where I had been a member for 18 years,” said Mr. Velders. “I was permitted to view the site after the academy had begun major remodeling and reviewed the facilities, which I strongly believe will work well for the PADS guests.  Now we will vigorously reach out to volunteers to help at PADS and especially the new site.”

Overnight PADS guests receive a hot meal, safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a packaged lunch to go. Kendall County PADS is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations from gifts, grants, organizations, businesses, and private citizens. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call 630-553-5073 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org.

The homeless community is also invited to avail themselves of the PADS Guest Assistance Program. The GAP is filled by social work students from Aurora University who help guests with employment, healthcare, personal issues, and permanent housing.

Brittani Dahlman interned at Kendall County PADS during the last shelter season and is looking forward to volunteering during this school year while she studies for her master’s degree in social work at Aurora University.

“I am very excited to be a part of the team working at our new site and am grateful to be working alongside many of our dedicated volunteers in making Parkview our new safe haven for guests on Wednesday nights,” Ms. Dahlman said. “I am very thankful for the wonderful people who have offered this space for the K.C. PADS program, as well as their generosity in supporting our PADS mission and working with us to provide our services to those in need.

“Parkview is truly a blessing.”

Aurora University interns help PADS expand services to Kendall County homeless

Brittani Dahlman recently received a bachelor’s degree in social work from Aurora University. She also earned an eclectic education in humanity. That’s because Ms. Dahlman, 22, served as an intern during this past school year for Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County.

I got to work with a wide variety of the human population–people with addictions, mental illness, a veteran, the younger, the older,” she said. “It was very exciting.”

Ms. Dahlman and fellow intern Andrea Spanier teamed up to develop PADS’ new Guest Assistance Program. The GAP enabled the nonprofit, homeless assistance organization to move beyond its basic mission of providing food and shelter to also assisting with employment, permanent housing, and social services.

“Andrea and Brittani pioneered this essential program this year,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS.  “They applied their learning, experience, and skills to building relationships with the guests and were able to offer direction and critical support.”

For the past seven years, Kendall County PADS has been providing nourishing meals, overnight stays, and kind hospitality to the local homeless from mid-October through mid-April at seven area churches. This was the first shelter season during which PADS partnered with Aurora University’s prestigious School of Social Work.

The two interns augmented the assistance provided by a social worker from the Kendall County Health Department, who has been helping PADS guests for several years, going to the Thursday evening shelter site and connecting them to the department’s social services.

Ms. Dahlman focused primarily on the employment needs of her clients, helping them write résumés and cover letters. She is particularly proud of one guest whom she helped land a job at the Caterpillar plant in Montgomery, where he was able to save enough money to secure stable housing.

“He just said, ‘I’m going to pull myself up by the bootstraps,'” she recounted. “And once he got the job, he started asking to work extra hours and shifts.”

Ms. Spanier, 40, had a successful career in marketing and advertising until she developed health problems that stemmed from giving birth to her daughter, now eight years’ old. “When I was sick, I relied a lot on my mom, my step-mom, and my husband,” she recalled.

Her recovery experience inspired her to go back to college and major in social work at Aurora University, where she plans to earn her master’s degree next year. Her PADS internship entailed volunteering during the school year on Tuesday nights at Harvest New Beginnings church in Oswego and on Saturday evenings at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Montgomery.

She assisted PADS guests mostly with medical issues such as eye, dental, and mental healthcare. And she successfully steered a female guest with an alcohol problem into a 12-step program.

Kendall County PADS 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 or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website kendallcountypads.org.

Ms. Dahlman volunteered on Monday nights at Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ and on Wednesday evenings at the United Methodist Church of Plano.

She begins working on her master’s degree at Aurora University next month and plans to continue volunteering at PADS in the fall. The soon-to-be graduate student hopes she won’t encounter any of her previous clients because that would mean that they had not obtained permanent housing. “But if I do see any of them, I will be happy to further help them in any way that I can.”

Ms. Spanier intends to specialize in gerontology because she wants to help the elderly, the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population. She also plans to volunteer her services again at PADS this fall, describing the work as its own reward. “The payment of social work is when that one person succeeds and you know that you’ve been a part of it.”

This article was written by Tom Siebert, PADS Assistant Director for Community Relations

100+ Women Help PADS Guests

The homeless have many hardships. In sprawling Kendall County, there is no public transportation. So the toughest challenge can be just getting to the temporary housing shelters that are provided during the colder months by area churches.

However, transportation will continue to be available to overnight guests of Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, thanks to a $2,200 donation from the local chapter of a worldwide philanthropic organization.

“Congratulations to Kendall County PADS, who was the chosen charity this quarter!” said Amber Dillbeck, president of 100+ Women Who Care of Greater Will County, which meets four times per year to hear five-minute presentations from three local charities.

“After presentations, a private vote is taken and the charity receiving the most votes is given a donation of one hundred dollars on the spot from each member,” explained Ms. Dillbeck, who heads one of the more than 400 global chapters of 100+ Women Who Care.

Last October, Kendall County PADS began its seventh season of providing meals and overnight housing to the homeless at seven churches on different nights of the week.

The shelters are open at 7 p.m. through April 15 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, 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, Montgomery.

The overall travel distance from site to site is 57 miles. Moreover, the distance between churches ranges from 5 to 12 miles, making it difficult for anyone to walk the routes, especially in winter weather, and carrying a backpack or duffel bag. About half of PADS guests do not own vehicles, and in past years, some have traversed the treacherous routes on bicycles.

But with the new funding from 100+ Women Who Care, PADS will be able to continue its contract with Yorkville Express, a local taxi service that has been transporting the guests to and from the shelters. Yorkville Express provides rides nine times per week, some days in the mornings. Four nights per week, the taxi brings guests directly to the sites.

View the full article.

Kendall County PADS expresses thanks to donors and contributors as shelter season nears end

Fifteen-year-old Sydney Gonzales wanted to help the less fortunate in her community. When she heard about Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, her compassion was directed towards the local homeless population.

“I thought about what it must be like to be out in the cold during the winter,” Sydney said. “And I wanted to do something to help keep them warm.”

So the home-schooled, National Honor Society student began asking members of her church, St. Patrick Parish in Yorkville, for donations. “I was shocked at how much I got,” she said. “It was amazing.”

Sydney received hundreds of donated items that she then assembled into “winter care kits.” The kits contained gloves, hand warmers, lip balm, and boxes of tissue.

She hopes they will keep PADS guests warm for the rest of its season, which lasts until April 16 at seven area churches. They are: Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville; Yorkville Congregational United Church; Harvest New Beginnings 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 Boulder Hill. Extra kits will be used when the next PADS season begins in October.

“It was an honor to help my community,” said Sydney, who plans to continue contributing to society in a career as a forensic psychiatrist.

Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS, is grateful to Sydney, the St. Patrick’s contributors, and the outpouring of generosity that she witnesses on a regular basis.

“Almost weekly, someone donates clothing, boots, or shoes, hygiene products, and sometimes toys to be offered to homeless guests of PADS,” Anne said. “Individuals, as well as groups, have made contributions this year.”

For instance, Suzy’s Pizza of Yorkville has been donating “care bags” of food to PADS. The Fox Valley Flyers girls’ gymnastic team collected 138 items of cold-weather clothing. Salon Giovani in Plainfield donated coats, boots, scarves, gloves, mittens, and sweatshirts. And Cub Scout Pack 348 of Oswego brought cookies one night to the PADS site at St. Luke’s church.

She is also appreciative to the Caring Hands Thrift Shop in Yorkville, which donates clothing vouchers to PADS guests. And to the Kendall County Food Pantry, under the direction of Maria Spaeth, which provides PADS guests with much-needed storage for hygiene and personal care products.

Then there are the local residents who donate their time and talent to PADS. For the past four winter seasons, hair stylist Bonnie Taylor has been giving free haircuts to homeless guests who would like a cut or trim.

“She brings her hair-cutting tools and a smile,” Anne said. And when Bonnie is not available, Angelique Reeser of Yorkville fills in to cut hair, she added.

While expressing thanks for those individual acts of generosity, the executive director did not want to overlook the many monetary donors who have sustained Kendall County PADS since it began serving the community in 2010.

“I’m personally grateful for the steady flow of financial contributions from organizations, churches, businesses, agencies, families, and individuals who have given in varying amounts–thousands from particular businesses to as little as one dollar from a girl scout.”

Churches that have contributed to PADS include Au Sable Grove Presbyterian in Yorkville; Church of the Good Shepherd, Oswego; Emmanuel Lutheran, Aurora; First Baptist, Plano; First Lutheran, Plano; Harvest Chapel Assembly of God, Sandwich; Harvest Chapel Assembly of God, Sandwich; Immanuel Lutheran, Yorkville; New Life Fellowship, Aurora; New Song Community, Aurora; Saint Aidan’s, Oswego; Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran, Somonauk; Trinity United Methodist, Yorkville; United Methodist, Millington; United Methodist, Plano; and Yorkville United Congressional.

Area townships that have donated to PADS are Big Grove, Bristol, Fox, Kendall, Little Rock, Lisbon, Oswego, and Seward.

Business donors include Wines for Humanity, Naperville; Heartland Bank; Jimmy John’s; Yorkville McDonald’s; JMS Electronics, Yorkville; Rosati’s of Yorkville; Wal-Mart; Buona Beef; and Yorkville Culver’s.

Donating organizations include the Somonauk Junior Woman’s Club; Raven Lodge # 303 A.F. and A.M., Oswego; Yorkville Education Association; Yorkville School District student groups; Girl Scout Troop 1441; Kendall Lodge # 471 A.F. and A.M; Friends of Sheriff Randall; Sunbeam Lodge # 428 A.F. and A.M., Plano; Leon Burson American Legion Post 395, Plano; Rotary Club of Oswego; Kendall County Association of Chiefs of Police; Yorkville Women’s Club; Yorkville American Legion; Plano Lions Club; Yorkville Citizens Police Academy Alumni; Yorkville Women of the Moose; Royal Arch Masons of Aurora, Chapter 22; Cryptic Masons of Aurora, Council 45; Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Aurora, No. 22; and the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ms. Engelhardt said the ongoing financial contributions allow Kendall County PADS to be singularly devoted to its purpose: “We have enough income to cover all our operational expenses. We are able to focus our time and energy on our mission of providing safe, overnight shelter, nourishing food, and warm hospitality to our homeless guests.”

Those who wish to volunteer or donate may do so online at http://www.kendallcountypads.org or by calling (331) 207-8903.

Local couple looks forward to helping homeless again

Steve and Karen Allred are greatly looking forward to the next several months, when their church will be providing meals and overnight stays to the homeless. The Allreds are site coordinators at Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego, one of seven area churches that will again be hosting the homeless from mid-April to mid-October in partnership with Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County.

“We have been blessed and this is a great way to give back,” said Steve Allred, who has been volunteering for PADS along with his wife since the shelter sites began operating in Kendall County in October 2010.

“It’s very fulfilling,” said Karen. “I always look forward to PADS night at the church.”

About 600 volunteers will be needed to operate the seven shelter sites, according to Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. Each volunteer is asked to serve 4 1/2 hours one day per month, as part of an overnight shift or by serving on the food team.

Kendall County PADS will be holding a new volunteer training session at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, September 28, at Yorkville Congregational Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway.

Several presenters will provide an overview of the local picture of homelessness; describe how the shelter program operates; talk about the roles and responsibilities of various volunteer positions; and cover the topics of safe food handling and safety in general.

“People may come and listen, without making a commitment,” Engelhardt said. “All interested men and women, ages 18 and older, are invited to find out what it means to be a volunteer with PADS.”

For Karen Allred, it means living out her Christian faith. “We know the Lord loves us so we want to show His love to others.”

Adds her husband Steve: “You want to give back–and what a better way to do it! It’s at your church. It’s a safe place to volunteer.”

The Oswego couple have been married for 37 years, have three adult children and four grandchildren, and own their own business. Serving at PADS is a labor of love for them.

“I don’t consider it a sacrifice,” Karen explains. “It’s doing something very important for people. We get so much out of it.”

Kendall homeless face tough time finding permanent housing

The homeless may face more financial challenges in securing permanent affordable housing in Kendall County than in any other metropolitan area in Illinois, according to a recent statewide study.

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Illinois is $977, said Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, which conducted the study.

“In order to afford this level of rent and utilities––without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing––a household must earn at least $39,067 annually,” Palmer asserted. “Assuming a 40-hour workweek, 52 hours per year, this level of income translates into a housing wage of $18.78.”

In Kendall County, however, that projected housing wage rises to $22.52 per hour, the highest of 15 metropolitan areas in the state, the study, entitled “Out of Reach,” found.

A Kendall worker making the state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour would have to work 93 hours in a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the county.

Kendall County Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) is sensitive to the often out-of-reach housing costs in the community, said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of the nonprofit agency. That’s why Kendall County PADS is committed to another season of providing temporary, safe shelter and nourishing food to the men, women, and children within the county who are homeless or just in need, Engelhardt said.

Since 2010, Kendall County PADS has assisted more than 300 men, women, and children, she stated. That translates into 5,794 overnight stays and 17,369 meals served to the agency’s “guests.”

From Oct. 18, 2015, through April 16, 2016, Kendall County PADS will provide homeless shelters from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. And once again, seven churches have graciously offered to host PADS guests at the following sites.

 

 

Former PADS guest gives help and hope to the homeless

Darrell McGhee used to stay at a local homeless shelter. Now he volunteers at one.

Darrell, 35, was a guest last winter and early spring of Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois. Today, he has an apartment and a job as a forklift truck operator, thanks to the help of the nonprofit organization.

“It feels like a lot of weight has been lifted off my shoulders this time,” he said, comparing a recent, cold December night to the one last year when he first sought food and shelter at the PADS site at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville.

“Every volunteer group needs someone who has been in the same situation as the people they are helping,” he asserted, after passing out clean white towels to three male and three female guests of the PADS site at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Boulder Hill, unincorporated Kendall County. “Anybody can volunteer but it’s nice to have a few people who have been here.”

Ron Freeman, the PADS site coordinator at St. Luke’s, said “it feels pretty good” to see Darrell coming back to the church to serve. Ron, who is in his sixth year as a volunteer, recalled that Darrell availed himself of the programs that PADS offers, particularly employment assistance. “I could see then that he was going to give back.”

Darrell was one of the more fortunate PADS guests because he owned a car. So every night that he was homeless, he was able to drive himself to the PADS sites operated throughout the week by local churches: 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.

Lack of transportation is the biggest obstacle to finding a job and even finding a way to a PADS shelter site, according to Sidney Williams, who has been a guest of St. Luke’s, off and on, for three years. Sidney, 67, lamented the discontinuation of a Pace bus route that serviced nearby Oswego.

“It’s hard to get here without a vehicle,” said Sidney. “Instead of getting better, it’s getting worse.”

He was able to get to St. Luke’s on this night by first taking a Metra train to the Aurora station, where Ron picked him up and then drove him to the church. Sidney said he usually stays at PADS sites in DuPage County, which operates shelters year-round.

In Kendall County, PADS sites are open only from mid-October until mid-April, due to limited funding and volunteers. Information about donating or becoming a volunteer at a local shelter may be obtained online at www.kendallcountypads.org.

Ron, the site coordinator, said St. Luke’s has hosted as many as 18 PADS guests on Saturday nights, mostly during the Great Recession. He sees the lower number of guests as a sign that the economy is improving.

“People were losing their jobs and then they were losing their homes,” he said. “Hopefully, we were able to get them in the right direction. But even today, many people are only two paychecks away from being homeless.”

Dinner on this Saturday night at St. Luke’s was salad, meatloaf, corn, scalloped potatoes, rye bread, soda, coffee, and candy cane cake.

“The food is excellent,” said guest Wilbur Hines. “And you get a chance to stay clean. This is like being in a presidential suite.”

Each PADS “suite” featured a light-green plastic mattress, clean sheets, two blankets, a toothbrush, toothpaste, towel, bar of soap, and access to a shower––which St. Luke’s is able to provide because its shelter site is the school gymnasium.

Wilbur, 61, also had high praise for the hospitality of the volunteers. “This is not an act. This is who they are.”

He does not expect to be homeless for long because he has a car and a job as a meat cutter at a packing plant in Aurora. Wilbur even has higher hopes of saving enough money to place a down payment on a house. In addition to his meat-cutting job, he says he has applied for more work at a movie theater complex and a fast-food restaurant.

He had been living in Chicago with his sister but had a falling out with his employer, also a meatpacking firm. Wilbur prefers living and working in the western suburbs as opposed to the gang-ravaged neighborhood where he had been residing.

“You don’t want to stay in Chicago,” he cautioned. “It’s a helluva place. Anything can happen there.”

Darrell grew up three blocks away from St. Luke’s and now attends nearby River’s Edge Fellowship church. He was looking forward to taking Sidney to a potluck meal at his church the next day. And he was hopeful that all of the night’s guests would eventually become PADS volunteers like he has.

“They all have to find their own way.”

By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County

Former PADS guest wants to give back

darrellDarrell McGhee knows what it’s like to be homeless, and now he wants to help those who are in the same situation that he once was.

Darrell, 35, will never forget how he felt on that cold December night last year when he walked into a homeless shelter site at Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville.

“That’s when everything hit home,” he said. “That’s when I found out everything was realistic.”

Darrell had been living with his girlfriend in Aurora, hanging out in bars, and not trying too hard to find work. He says he had “burned bridges” with his family, so when his girlfriend broke up with him, he had no place to live.

That’s when his grandmother told him about Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County. A quick call to the local police station led to a referral to the nearest PADS shelter site. So Darrell spent that first night, a Sunday, at Cross Lutheran.

Unlike most PADS guests, Darrell was fortunate enough to own a car. Therefore, he could drive himself to the six other area churches that host PADS shelter sites in Kendall County throughout the week from mid-October to mid-April.

As the PADS season was ending last spring, Darrell realized that he needed to get serious about finding a job, lest he wind up homeless again. So that’s he when he contacted Manpower, which landed him a job with a local farm equipment company.

Shortly thereafter, Darrell was able to save enough money to rent a room from an Aurora homeowner for $500 per month. He was recently laid off from his job but Manpower found him a new one, as a forklift operator. “They’ve been really kind,” he said of the employment agency.

In addition to becoming gainfully employed, Darrell has made other changes in his life. He attends The Edge Church in Aurora as well as meetings of Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program. “I’m hanging out with better groups of people.”

He realizes, however, that not everyone becomes homeless on account of making “bad decisions” like he did. “Some people are just a paycheck away from losing their homes.”

Darrell is looking forward to the upcoming PADS season, but for a different reason than the one he had last fall. He plans to be a volunteer, helping others who are in the same predicament that he was in.

He says PADS “needs people like me who have been homeless, who know what it’s like to have no place to go.” Since he works during the week, Darrell will most likely be volunteering on Saturday nights at the PADS shelter at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Montgomery.

Besides Cross Lutheran and St. Luke’s, the other participating PADS churches this year will again be Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ; Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego; United Methodist Church of Plano; Trinity United Methodist Church, Yorkville; and Church of the Good Shepherd, Oswego.

Since 2010, Kendall County PADS has assisted more than 300 men, women, and children. That translates into 5,794 overnight stays and 17,369 meals.

Story by Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County

Photo by Lisa Sharpe