Why Chicago Shares?
Chicago Shares offers a way for the community to respond to the needs of the homeless and most vulnerable among us. Through the Chicago Shares program, parishioners can purchase voucher booklets worth $5 to be distributed to those in need instead of cash, to be redeemed at participating stores and restaurants for food and toiletry items (no alcohol or tobacco products). As the Chicago Shares website states, with these vouchers, "Chicagoans can be sure their donations feed the hungry."
Purchasers may also donate the vouchers to Saint Clement Parish for distribution to the homeless. Saint Clement has participated in the Chicago Shares program since 1995, currently selling the vouchers on the last Sunday of the month (be sure to look for our volunteers selling them after Masses this weekend, October 26 and 27).
How does the Chicago Shares voucher system work?
You see someone in need, you give them Chicago Shares vouchers, the person in need buys food and personal care items using the vouchers as currency from a participating location
Saint Clement Parish's Deacon Tim Sullivan has noticed what a difference these vouchers can make in someone's life. Every Friday morning, Deacon Tim and parishioners provide hospitality and conversation in front of the parish rectory for those who wait in line to receive a free sack lunch made by our parishioners through our sack lunch program for the homeless. Our volunteers serve coffee, donuts and orange juice (as well as iced tea or lemonade in the summer, and hot chocolate in the winter) from 8:45am until after the 9:30am sack lunch distribution.
During his two years at our parish, Deacon Tim has noticed, "there is a very large demand for Shares from our friends who we serve on Friday mornings." As he has met and gotten to know our "regulars," Deacon Tim asked one recipient that he's become "good friends" with, Jack, about his experience with the Chicago Shares vouchers; the resulting interview is below. Jack is 59 years old. He was a successful businessman who ran his own business in Chicago. After the death of his wife twelve years ago, he left the business; he couldn't bear to go back in because of all the time he spent there with his wife. He gave the business to his children (who he still keeps in contact with), "hit the streets," and looks after his cousin.
Deacon Tim: Jack, where can you use the vouchers?
JACK: There are places downtown that you can use them, but also here in this area at Luigi's and Dominick's.
DT: With the several food programs in the area from various churches including Saint Clement, why are these necessary?
JACK: On Sunday there is only one place that I know of that serves food and the Shares help to get through Sunday.
DT: What have you used them for?
JACK: My cousin and I have gone to Luigi's and can get a slice of pizza and a pop with the Shares and also get food at Dominick's.
DT: What do you get at Dominick's?
JACK: We can pick up lunch meat and bread or rolls and make a "Dagwood" sandwich if we combine our Shares. We've also gotten a cooked chicken and have been able to split that.
DT: Is that your only option?
JACK: Some places downtown have food but it takes money to take the bus and get there, money that could be spent for food.
DT: Why are Shares important for you?
JACK: In order to survive. Using the Shares is a lot better than going through garbage cans to see if you can find something not spoiled to eat.
We'd like to thank all those who have supported this important program. Deacon Tim asks that if you haven't participated in the past, please consider doing so by purchasing Chicago Shares vouchers after the Masses this weekend. You can give them out yourself, or turn them in to the parish office for distribution. It's a great way to put our Catholic faith into action and help the homeless. For more information on the Chicago Shares program, please visit chicagoshares.com.