Gary Gardner, Chicago Jesuit Academy
I am a volunteer tutor at Chicago Jesuit Academy, a school for boys in grades 3 through 8. The school is located in Chicago’s west side Austin neighborhood and aims to provide educational, social, and counseling support to improve chances for a student’s success in high school and college. My day consists of a combination of classroom support in a variety of subject areas and one-on-one assistance with homework and reading skills. My volunteer efforts have given me a greater appreciation of the struggles faced by inner-city youth. Although my contributions are small compared to those of teachers and staff, developing relationships with the students through academic support and encouragement is very rewarding, and makes me feel like I am making a material difference.
Don Gimbel: Faith and Fellowship, Oak Park
I volunteer with Faith and Fellowship, a one-woman agency that is a religious outreach to people with mental illness in residences in the west side of Chicago. We work out of the old convent of St. Catherine-St. Lucy Church in Oak Park. I lead prayer times, and for one residence, a math class, at three west side residences. I also participate in structured prayer services with residents of two facilities at the church’s old convent. For me, meeting and praying with residents is strengthening and nourishing. The deep faith of some, in the difficult circumstances of their lives, is to be deeply pondered. At one of my recent prayer services, the theme was “What is your foundation?” Everyone said that ultimately their foundation was God (or Jesus), but one said, “These Thursday meeting are my foundation. I look forward to them. I can talk about these things [his desire to move on in his life and the frustrations in trying to do this].” It is times like this that you can see God working in our lives.
John Meade: Catholic Charities Northwest, Des Plaines
This is about my service at Catholic Charities in Des Plaines where I have served the past nine years.
My primary role is to greet people as they arrive for food from the pantry, register them if this is their initial visit, and have them sign for the food we provide.
I enjoy interfacing with clients, briefly chatting with them and giving them an encouraging word. I realize that I am not changing their lives, but I do want the kind words to give them hope for a good day and a better tomorrow. Some are embarrassed to seek food, but I assure them that we are here to assist them in whatever way we can for as long as they need help. I remind them that we all depend on others to help us through life and one should not be ashamed to be assisted by others.
I reflect what it must be like to seek food from a pantry, but I do not really know what that feels like as I have not walked in their shoes. I thank the Lord for the blessings he has given me and for the opportunity to help those in need. I often reflect on Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel which says if we provide food to the least of the Lord’s people, we do it to Him.
Read more volunteer profiles in the archives.