Thursday, January 31, 2013

"You work at a Homeless Shelter? Good for You!"

In the wake of a trauma, a wise person once told me that “our lives can change with every breath we take…we’ve all got meanness in us, but we’ve got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good.”. Now, granted, that wise person was Natalie Portman in Where the Heart Is, but I still think that it holds true. Tragedy is happening every single day, heck at this very moment there is probably a tragedy occurring somewhere in the world that we will never know about, so I always have to remind myself that there is goodness too. Many great people in the world want to be good, and the luckiest people in the world actually have the opportunities to go out and do good things.

When people learn that I work at a homeless shelter, the responses can vary, but almost everyone seems to admire this about me. Why? Maybe because to so many people, I am making a sacrifice; I may not be paid nearly as much as them (so I often have to forgo a manicure in exchange for groceries), or because I do not work in an environment where coworkers will go out for a few beers at the local watering-hole during a lunch break (rather, we have potluck lunches in the office or bring sack lunches to eat during our monthly Book Club).

Am I really making a sacrifice because I am missing these things? Sure, I have to go to a friends' house to watch HBO and, on a number of occasions, I have had to be very creative with why my rent check cannot be cashed on time (“no really, raccoons in the bank, wiring chewed right through…yes, it happens…”), but nothing about my job has ever felt like a sacrifice. I am still able to enjoy vacations and have amazing coworkers that encourage these travels (see you tomorrow, San Francisco!) and I will take Betsy’s gluten-free pastries or Erin's homegrown, garden fresh vegetables over a lunch-time Miller Lite any day.  

So, while I will still always nod my head and thank people when they say: “A homeless shelter? Good for you!” (or if I am feeling spunky, respond with “yes, I am pretty ah-mazing”), I would like to use this moment as a declaration of how I really feel about working at a homeless shelter.

I am absolutely the lucky one to be working at LPCS. I spend every day with people who love their jobs. Yesterday, I led a Creative Writing Class for our Guests and we had the most amazing time laughing together while reading each others' attempt at a haiku. I coordinate a Volunteer Program that has so many people calling to provide meals and spend dinner with Guests, that we actually have a wait list! Above it all, the best part of my job at a homeless shelter is that I have the opportunity every single day to access the good in me (I bet you were starting to wonder what the point of that first paragraph was, weren’t you?).

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am not often polite about the last chip in a bowl, I always voice my 2 (okay, my 10) cents when deciding on a movie to see, and I would definitely not make a sacrifice on where I work, either. I love my job, and what I receive working here is infinitely more significant than anything I have given up.

Thank you to anyone who thinks it is great that I work at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, I think it is pretty great, too.  

By: Meghan Freebeck, Community Relations Manager

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Story of a Graduate - Zyg

Graduate Trip to Washington, D.C. (Zyg is third from the left)

My name is Zyg Dabrowski. I have been a father, a brother, and a son for most of my life. I have raised one daughter and two sons very successfully; I am so proud of all three of them. I am sixty years old and a devout Catholic all week long. God is always in my life. Still, my life has not been an easy one.

HVAC – Refrigeration had been my trade for about 35 years, however because of the arthritis in my legs that is has caused over time, I cannot do it anymore. About 9 years ago, I took a job in Florida with a government contractor. After three destructive hurricanes, common sense told me to leave and be close to my family again. After many attempts to find work around Chicago, I discovered there were no jobs for people in their late 50s.

With no money and family help running out, homelessness became the only option. My brother told me about the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. With all my pride now gone, I asked LPCS for help and they were there for me. After several weeks of waiting for a bed to become available, they finally had a space for me.

They brought me back to being human. They gave me structure to follow, a roof over my head, and food to eat. There was medical help and the ability to go to church as well.

As a Guest, it was apparent to all of us that LPCS had the support of the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church community and many other groups through the many volunteers we saw preparing dinner, packing sack lunches, and staying overnight.

I was able to stay four and a half months until I located a studio apartment. When I moved out, they helped me with a CTA pass and referrals for medical help. I couldn’t have done this myself. There is no other place like LPCS in the city.

Today, I’m on social security disability and trying to give back to the community. I wake up with the want and desire to help others.

Thanks for listening to my story.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why YOU should become an Overnight Volunteer in 2013

Do you ever find yourself sitting in a tiny dorm room, wishing that you could get away from your roommate for the night? Or maybe you don’t have cable in your apartment and want to watch ESPN in the evening? It is possible that you are looking for a meaningful way to give back to the community and volunteer more in 2013 but don’t have much time during the day. We have the solution! Become an overnight volunteer for LPCS! It’s a great way for you to get to know the Guests on a more personal level and give in a fun, meaningful way. 

A typical overnight shift looks like this: You arrive at 9pm. Usually by this point, the Guests are finishing up their daily chores and winding down. Some of the Guests might be watching TV while other Guests are reading on the couches. Feel free to join the Guests and watch a movie or play some board games in the common area at this point. At 10pm, you turn off all of the lights and the Guests will retreat to their beds. (For any Guests arriving after this time, you can buzz them in from the private volunteer bedroom). After all the Guests have arrived, you can go to sleep (or read a book, watch a movie, work on a computer, whatever you would like!). In the morning, we often have volunteer groups that come in to cook breakfast so you can eat a hearty meal (did I mention it’s free? Hint, hint all you college readers out there) with the Guests! You will always be free to leave by 6:30am (or later if you choose) so you can make it to your daily activities on time. 

As many of you know, LPCS survives and thrives because of the continued support of our volunteers. Without which, Guests would not have food on their plates or a roof over their head. It is entirely because of the continued time given by out Overnight Volunteers that LPCS is able to remain a 24 hour facility where Guests have a safe place to stay. Please help us thrive by becoming an Overnight Volunteer! 

All you need to do is email the Volunteer Coordinator ( to find out when our next orientation is or schedule a shadowing. We really value our overnight volunteers- without them; we would not be able to be a facility that is open 24/7. So what are you waiting for? Email Dana at and sign up today!

By: Dana Furuyama, Volunteer Coordinator

Monday, January 7, 2013

(Not-so) Random Acts of Kindness

Every week I am responsible for the LPCS blog. Most of the time, this means writing something about our Guests/Grads, anything unique that is occurring at LPCS, or items in the world that relate to our Mission and Values. For the past few weeks, in an attempt to stay lighthearted and positive, I have written about the generous donations we received over the holidays and our amazing volunteers, while simultaneously feeling heartache as I read other articles in the daily news.

I am not often one to sit quietly as people discuss gun control, the terrifying rate of homicides in Chicago, or the devastating massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Do not worry; I do not plan on spouting my own political agenda (this time…). Instead, I would like to use this week’s blog to make a very special request of everyone.

In honor of the 26 boys, girls, and teachers that lost their lives too soon, please attempt to do one small act of kindness for each. If everyone contributes something small to make the world a better place, then, simply enough, the world would become a better place. Below are 26 (not-so) random acts of kindness that you can do today to help achieve this:

1.      Deliver fresh-baked cookies to city workers
2.      Collect goods for a food bank
3.      Volunteer to be a tutor in a school
4.      Sing at a nursing home
5.      Offer a couple of hours of baby-sitting to parents
6.      Call or visit a home-bound person.
7.      Transport someone who can’t drive
8.      Send a treat to a school or day-care center
9.      Adopt a homeless pet from the humane society
10.  Host special programs or speakers at libraries or bookstores.
11.  Volunteer to read to students in the classroom
12.  Write notes of appreciation and bring flowers or goodies to teachers or other important people, such as the principal, nurse, custodian, and secretary
13.  Write a thank-you note to someone who has influenced you in a positive way
14.  Give coffee to people on their way to work in the morning
15.  Give blood
16.  Drop off a plant, cookies, or donuts to the police or fire department
17.  Pay for the person behind you in the movie line
18.  Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading a car
19.  Write a card of thanks and leave it with your tip. Be sure to be specific in your thanks
20.  Let the person behind you in the grocery store go ahead of you in line
21.  Buy cold drinks for the people next to you at a ball game
22.  Distribute kindness bookmarks that you have made
23.  Give a bag of groceries to a homeless person
24.  Send a letter to former teachers, letting them know the difference they made in your life
25.  Organize a clothing drive for a shelter
26.  Provide books for a day care or school

Please share any of your own personal random acts of kindness or share something kind that someone else has done for you recently. (Comment below, post on our FB Page, or tell me personally in an email). Thank you for your kindnesses.


Meghan Freebeck