Housing Forward Bright Spots: Positive Stories during our Agency's Response to COVID-19

Friday, March 27th, 2020

Over the past couple weeks, there has been a lot of news about the COVID-19 pandemic–both in our agency communications and in the local and national news. We have been working diligently to take the necessary precautions and guidance to manage the COVID-19 outbreak to protect the health and safety of ourselves, our families and our clients. The seriousness of these times is clear. But there is also good news that comes out of this once-in-a-lifetime situation, so we want to share some bright spots!

Brightness in Broadview

Last week, Sandi, our Office Manager, received a call from a from former volunteer who lives in Broadview, asking her to pick-up a donation. When Sandi arrived at her home, the 83-year-old widow handed her an envelope containing $500 in cash plus more than $200 in restaurant and Home Depot gift cards. The donor said we should use this money however we needed, saying she appreciates our good work. 

Remarkable Rebekah    

When we put out the call for volunteers to help at Oak Park Temple, Rebekah came to the rescue!   She put together a meal serving team (pictured below) from her personal network and arrived on the scene. They took control of portioning and plating donated food and then cheerfully served meals two and three times a day, helping to distribute food to 60+ clients while making them feel less alone. They followed the new serving procedures put in place to protect everyone and we truly appreciate their willingness to help.

Fantastic Firehouse

A former Board member contacted Lynda wanting to help!  Since he owns a Firehouse Subs franchise, sandwiches were our first thought. Within a couple of days, he donated 50 sandwiches for our shelter clients from his Stone Park store.  When he recognized the great need, the former board member reached out to his LinkedIn network about the opportunity for people to pay it forward. A distant cousin called and wanted to donate food. She is going donate 225 meals through Firehouse Subs to help feed our shelter clients who are now in individual accommodations!

Family Foundation Steps Up

A family foundation contacted me on Monday morning and asked what the agency’s biggest challenge was related to the COVID-19 emergency. I told them about our concerns around being able to feed 60+ shelter clients housed individually in several different locations.  Within an hour, the donor offered to make a grant available to cover dinner for each of those clients for 30 days.  In an effort to support the community, the donor requested Housing Forward patronize tri-village businesses to purchase the dinners—making this a win-win situation both for our clients, and local businesses who are struggling right now. Many of these business owners have stepped forward to help us when we have fundraisers, special events, and staff celebrations.  Two days later, the donor contacted me again to say after reviewing our wish list they were reaching out to one of their clients to ask for their support. That client is donating 450 pairs of underwear!  This foundation was familiar with Housing Forward thanks to Wendy Epstein, our grant writer, who reached out to their foundation last year. 

Caring Catering

The very first night at the combined Oak Park Temple location, we had no dinner to serve. Our own Holly Rodman-Zaid called on her daughter Maya Rotman-Zaid, owner of BellaRu Catering, who donated and delivered a complete chicken fajita meal which Holly, her daughter, and granddaughter served. It was definitely a generous family affair.

Zen Call For Help

On Saturday, March 21, Terry Kinsey, who leads a large Zen Mindful Meditation Community affiliated with Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation, put out a plea to all group members. “I know that most of us are scrambling to figure out how to adjust to the unfolding health crisis and uncertainty about most facets of our lives with the coronavirus... Sophie and I just returned from Housing Forward’s shelter which is now running 24/7 at Oak Park Temple, and they are overwhelmed.  Their staff, which normally works with 24 customers has 65 to serve now, and their staff is depleted, due to illness and child/parent care responsibilities.  The shelter desperately needs volunteers. They understand the uncertainty with which we are all living and that you might have to cancel if something comes up, or if you are not feeling well.  But it would be most helpful to have new volunteers coming forward to help.  We need to support everyone in our communities…”

Housing Forward would like to express gratitude to the following:

Rabbi Max Weiss and the Oak Park Temple Congregation gave us two areas in their synagogue for our use as a 24/7 combined PADS Shelter site and daytime support center. After seeing our need for more space, they invited us to use their rotunda and hallways as well. 

Oak Park Township and the Park District of Oak Park loaded us their shuttles and the services of their specially licensed shuttle drivers to transport our clients from shelter to our Maywood Support Center for showers. 

Terry added our clients to his passengers on the Oak Park Township Senior Services van.

The Oak Park Public Library made reading materials and laptops available for loan to our sheltered clients.

Beyond Hunger made arrangements for food delivery to our shelter site.

Housing Forward staff and volunteers have gone above and beyond to anticipate the needs of our clients, and have done an amazing job meeting those needs under difficult circumstances.

Community members and our partner congregations have stepped forward to generously donate supplies and food to our offices and shelter sites. All the food donated to the 24/7 shelter site is being distributed to clients.

The Oak Park Homelessness Coalition has supported our efforts, and is recruiting members for a COVID-19 Response Team. 

Housing Forward volunteers, donors and staff have gone above and beyond to anticipate the needs of our clients.   It has been an amazing team effort under unforeseen and very difficult circumstances.

As more of these wonderful and encouraging things happen, we will be sure to share them with you.

Erik Johnson,
Director of Development and Communications
Housing Forward 
ErikJ@housingforward.org

 

 
 
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