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St. Lukes Night Of Sharing: Putting Our Faith Into Action
By Pearl Homiak

“I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in…Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did [these things] to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:35, 40).

“Abby” (twenty-something), was in a car accident that badly damaged her knee so she could no longer work. Soon she could no longer pay her rent and was evicted. “Brenda” (fifty-something) has been battling her controlling ex-husband who continually thwarts her attempts to access needed funds for housing. Although she found part-time work, she cannot afford apartment rent. “Cassie” (forty-something) has a husband and children, but he threw her out last year. She has few skills and limited employment options. “Della” (fifty-something) has diabetes, which recently led to both a foot amputation and eye surgery. Although she was once a certified Emergency Medical Technician, she can’t work right now and has no place to live. These are a few of the many actual circumstances that bring between 10 and 20 women (and a few children) to St. Luke every Monday evening for food and shelter.

How Did We Get Here?

Last spring the non-profit agency called Public Action to Deliver Services (PADS) approached our parish with a need we ultimately could not refuse. PADS asked us to host homeless women and children on Monday nights throughout the winter beginning on October 15, 2007. Although some parishioners were uncertain about this request, many others felt it was time to put our Orthodox faith into action. God had given us a beautiful, new building and the means to pay for it. Perhaps PADS’ request was part of God’s plan for the use of our facilities.

PADS was established 17 years ago and since then has served the homeless each year by providing nightly winter-time food and shelter. PADS also provides daytime services that our homeless guests can access. Medical care, job skills and education assistance, and social services are just a few of the ways in which PADS helps the homeless get back on their feet.

St. Luke is the 30th faith community in the South Suburbs of Chicago and the first Orthodox Church to provide a winter shelter site for the homeless. Every Monday we lay out 20 mattresses, bedding, and towels (all provided by PADS) for our homeless guests. At 6:30 PM they begin to arrive. Each guest must show a PADS ID card to be admitted. At about 7:15 PM our guests are served a hot dinner provided by a Food Team, which also provides breakfast and lunch items for the next day.

After dinner the guests retire to their beds, watch a movie, read, or just chat until about 10:15 PM when the lights go out. Between 5:30 and 6:00 AM on Tuesday morning the guests are awakened so they can prepare to leave for the day. They have breakfast, are given a bag lunch, and depart between 6:30 and 7:00 AM.

How Do We Do It?

Facilitating this program at St. Luke (and other sites) requires many volunteers. At least four or five people are needed from 6:00 to 11:00 PM, two or three for each of the two night-time shifts (10:45 PM – 3:00 AM and 2:45 – 7:00 AM), and one or two for clean-up on Tuesday morning. The Food Team arrives at 6:30 PM and departs by 8:30 PM. In addition, other volunteers transport paperwork and laundry and do reminder-calling each week.

Even though our shelter site is open every Monday evening, volunteers are asked to commit to one shift per month, although some do less and others do more. As of now, 38 St. Luke parishioners have participated in Our St. Luke Night of Sharing in one way or another. PADS provides other volunteers, as needed, some of which are high-school and college students who need community-service hours for their classes. Not only do volunteers interact with the guests, but they get to know each other as well. We all work together to provide a pleasant atmosphere for our homeless guests. We also pray for each of our guests through the St. Luke Prayer Ministry, and we have selected St. Paraskeva of Serbia (who was “homeless” after her death) as the patron saint of this endeavor.

How Much Time Does It Take?

Providing time to serve others is easy to do at our St. Luke Night of Sharing. Volunteering once a month for the seven months that our site is open adds up to only about 5 hours per month or about 35 hours per year. That’s less than 0.4% of the year. (We each spend 8.3% of our time each year just eating our three meals per day).

For those of you who are already volunteering, we are gratefully thankful and so pleased to see the spiritual benefit you are receiving from our St. Luke Night of Sharing. For those of you who have not yet participated, why don’t you join us? We’d love to have you come. As you get to know Abbie, Brenda, Cassie, and Della, and our other guests, as well as your fellow volunteers, you will truly appreciate the many gifts that God has given you and St. Luke parish. Pray about this, then call Pearl or Liz W. and let us know how you can help. You’ll really be glad you did!

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