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Saturday, July 13, 2013

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House News

by Tina Sipula

Emily Blankensberger

Each person who comes to help at Clare House comes to add to our ministry and add to all of our lives here and touches all those we serve.  Some of our volunteers have been with us for decades; some have been with us only a few months.  And then, occasionally, a rare and gifted student comes along who asks to do an “internship” with us for a major or class.  Emily Blankenberger is with us for the summer, and I honestly wish she was moving in and staying for the duration!   Emily hails from Chicago Heights and I had the great fortune to meet her mother, Mary Helen, this past Saturday when she came to work with Emily in the basement.  When I meet a really special young person, I really want to meet their parents, because I want to know those who helped to mold them and make them the incredible people they are.  After briefly meeting Emily’s mother, it was easy to nod and say, “Now she makes more sense.”  Please come by and meet Emily, (who rides her bike here on Wed. morning, Wed. afternoon, Wed. evening, and Sat. morning) and you will be wowed by her enthusiasm, creativity, intelligence, compassion, humor, and personalism.  (She won’t forget your name!)
     Our little garden in the back is flourishing with all the rain and heat.  Soon we will pick all the lettuce and hope the radishes, broccoli, and Swiss chard will adorn our plates as well.  If you have any extra produce this summer or fall, please share it with our folks in line by just putting it on our porch at any time, and if you have any bags to go with it, that would be great.  Our pantry mostly has canned goods and dry goods, so anything fresh from a garden is a real treat!  And Emily wants to learn to can this summer, so if you would like to learn also, contact us and we will teach you the long lost art of preserving food. 

     My oldest sister, Dorothy, passed away this spring at the young age of 67.  In her memory, the volunteer crew at the Thursday soup kitchen pitched in and erected a beautiful stone bench in the back yard of Clare House.  It has a prayer carved on the top of the bench and each time I walk in or out of the house, I think of my sister and say a little prayer for her and for all those who were so kind to memorialize her in this precious way. 
     With summer upon us, we knew the numbers at the soup kitchen would increase now that school is out, but the onslaught was a bit overwhelming our first few weeks.  We continually ran out of our homemade soups or casseroles and have had to resort to opening cans of soup to keep up with the need.  We are averaging around 100 people for lunch now.  Even though we do not serve until 11:30, folks fill the dining room by 8:30 in the morning to drink coffee (it is generally depleted by 10:00) and enjoy donuts from Denny’s Donuts, pastries from Panera’s, bread from Great Harvest and enjoy a cool and quiet safe space.  Folks play cards, read, and the children have a play box where they can color, play games and have fun.  When one comes to “Loaves and Fishes,” or works our food line, it is easy to see why Dorothy Day wrote the following:  “We cannot love God unless we love each other and to love we must know each other.  We know Christ in the breaking of the bread and we know each other in the breaking of the bread and we are not alone anymore.” 

Items Currently Needed:

  • High Protein Items
  • Soup
  • Fruit
  • Cereal and Dry Goods
  • Toilet Paper
  • Toiletries

General Information

General Information

Food Pantry Hours:
Wednesday and Friday 1:00 to 1:15 pm

Soup Kitchen Hours:
Tuesday & Thursday 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
St. Mary’s Church
527 W. Jackson, Bloomington

House Hours for Donations:
Wednesday 9-11 am and 7-8 pm
Saturday 9-11 am

We are not tax exempt…
               In keeping with the Catholic Worker Tradition, we have not sought tax exempt status since we are convinced that justice and works of mercy should be acts of conscience that come from personal sacrifice without government approval, regulations or rewards.  Therefore, gifts to Clare House are not tax deductible.

Wish List

Stamps, celery, onions, chickens, hams, eggs, cheese, lunch meat, ground beef, chuck roasts, soup base, fruit, large cans of soup, tuna, tomatoes, baked beans, chili beans, hot dogs, buns, 1 gallon baggies, 33 gallon trash bags, small heavy paper plates, powdered drink mix, cereal, vegetables, macaroni and cheese, baby food, baby wipes, baby formula, diapers, toilet paper, sanitary pads, paper towels.

·        Money for bills, taxes, and insurance
·        Gift Certificates for grocery stores
·        Coffee, coffee creamer, sugar
·        Please plant an extra row of vegetables for those in our line
·        Tickets to anywhere
·        PRAYERS!


Scenes from the Soup Kitchen

Connie Yeagle and Mary Ann Saulcy

Ann Larkin and Nancy McCriskin

Mike McNeil

Debbie Mizer making chicken salad.

Gerry Green and Tina Sipula at the Soup Kitchen

Sue Quane, Katie Saulcy, Brenna Poncin, Connie Yeagle, Laura Cain, & Mary Ann Saulcy

Jack Wilz, Gary Yeagle, Gerry Green, John Ray, Ann Larkin

Special Request:

The Clare House dining room table is an 1890's Honduras mahogany table that has been with the house for 35 years.  it is used a lot and is very special to us, but it is in need of being refinished.  if there is an expert out there who could help us refinish this lovely piece of furniture, please give us a call at the house at:  828-4035.  Thank you!

Connections and What Did I Miss?


Sister Glenda Bourgeois, OSU

Think about it.  Life is all about connections, isn’t it? Our needs, our loves, our stories, our inspirations connect us with others.
As I awaited donations on Saturday morning my mind turned to the activity that take place at the side door of Clare House. I see it as a place of remarkable connections. It is at that door that we take in donations and through which those donations are handed out making all the difference in the lives of those who queue up twice a week every week of the year.  In a real sense the side door at Clare House is a really sacred place, a place of such compassionate connection. It is a place where connections are life lines. It is a place where need connects with grace, where hope connects with nourishment, where brother connects with sister in our human family and where both connect with the tender mercies of our God whose love embraces us all.
Our twenty-first century is one in which good and evil, life and death, those who have enough and more than enough and those who are deprived live in close proximity no matter how far apart. Clare House gives us the opportunity to connect and make our world a better place. And it is such a gift to see it happening at the side door week after week. 

What Did I Miss?

Stew Salowitz

There are several definitions of the word “miss” – one is “to fail to attend” and another is “to feel the lack or loss of.” Hopefully you’ll figure out which one is accurate in these next few sentences.

I missed working last week at the soup kitchen, out of town at a convention for work. I’m sure everyone got along fine without me, but I missed being there.

I missed Elmer carrying and cleaning the trays. I missed Paul, sitting in the corner reading a thick book, and the tall, electronic musician, Abraham, coming back for another bowl of soup. I missed exchanging words with Brian and Andy and the twins.

I’d mention the co-workers I missed, but would get in trouble if I left anyone out - I’ve only been “working” at the Soup Kitchen one day a week for about two years, but in that relatively short time I’ve made wonderful connections with those people, dedicated and caring and working with a sense of humor and humility.

The soup kitchen has become part of my routine and I missed it when I missed it. (Oh, I missed my cookies, too.)

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” – Matthew 25:35

A Dinner Hour Caller

Bob Sampson

It was the dinner hour on a typically long Wednesday at Clare House and the knock on the door broke the last hour of quiet before the donation hour began. Answering the door, I found Ralph, a regular in the food line, leaning on the side of the house, the bag of groceries he received four hours earlier at his side.

Obviously intoxicated, he asked for a ride home. Clearly, he could not walk the several blocks to his house and, given his history of literally collapsing in the middle of busy streets, to send him on his way would have been risky. The decision was easy. What followed was more challenging.

As we moved toward my car, Ralph suddenly announced that he wanted to go to the hospital emergency room. “My roommate’s an alcoholic and he won’t let me get any sleep if I go back to my place,” he explained. Not sure if Ralph was going to pass out or vomit in the car, let alone become belligerent when the hospital sent him on his way, I began the drive trying to figure out what to do in the worst-case scenario—of which there seemed to be several.

We parked in the hospital lot. Ralph staggered out of the car and we made it through the door of the emergency room. I immediately caught the eye of a police officer on duty, figuring this fellow could be very important in a few seconds. As I was schmoozing the cop, a young lady walked out from behind the admission counter. “Ralph,” she said in a friendly, welcoming tone, “what can we do for you?”  Ralph, who was wobbling as he struggled to remain upright, replied, “I need a bed.”  “Have a seat, we’ll have it ready in a bit and you can keep your groceries with you,” she said.

Until that moment, I thought I had seen just about everything. But now I learned that Ralph knew exactly what he was talking about. The good folks at the hospital knew of his problem and realized he’d be better off drying out in a safe bed than on the pavement of a busy street.

Just another day at Clare House, I thought as I drove away.




Brian and Donna

Brian Bernhardt, who has been volunteering most of his life on Saturday mornings.

Donna Boelen, who has been "taking the door" for many years.

No Job is Too Large and No Job is Too Small

Bill Tolone

          Over the years, I have come to the realization that I am not the one doing God's work but that, if I make good decisions on where to be in life, God is able to work through me.  Also, I've learned that "no job is too large to accomplish" and that "no job is too small to be beneath a person's dignity."  What this all means for us at Clare House is quite clear.  When we provide food for our sisters and brothers in need, we are in a position to allow God to work though us to reach out to people.  And, we realize that whether it's a large food drive or individual people and families donating single items of food, God and we are able to get the job done.

          When we see people sitting on the front porch of Clare House and standing in line every Wednesday and Friday, we understand that the need to help is great. Any number of times, Scripture writers remind us that the "poor will always be with us" and that it is our responsibility to help them.  Of course, those people who are poor are not lacking in a spiritual way, but in a material way as they need food, clothing, shelter, etc.

          So, we are all in this together.  On Wednesday evenings when I volunteer at Clare House, we first note the number of bags of food that have been distributed earlier that day.  We use this as a sign of how many people were in line and what we need to do to replenish the supply of food-filled bags for Friday's distribution.  Sometimes, Wednesday's line was so long, Tina tells us that, in addition to the usual number (100) of filled bags, she and other volunteers had to fill 25 or maybe even more additional bags.  Then, she also asks us to fill significantly more than our usual 100 bags for Friday because she knows that the line of people will be long, again.

          Working in the basement of Clare House filling individual bags with food, it's possible to only focus on the task of doing this, one bag at a time.  But, when we learn about the great need for many bags of food, it shows us the larger picture of suffering experienced by our friends and neighbors.  It is then that we more fully realize how, one bag of food at a time, together we trying to reach out and help.

Scenes From the Clare House

Jennifer Poncin handing out baby formula, diapers, and wipes.

Emily Blankenberger and her mom, Jackie.

Richard and Donna, handing out bags of food.

Clare House Top 10 Random Thoughts

Jennifer Poncin

1.      Working in the stairwell during handout is sometimes powerful; hearing small children fussing or crying outside causes one to pray extra hard for them.
2.      There are women who come every week and hand-write thank-you cards to everyone who donates to Clare House. That’s pretty awesome.
3.      You meet the nicest people when you work, and you meet new people whenever you come at a different time.
4.      It’s never too late in your life to learn Spanish.
5.      If you give away the soy milk, you’ll be in serious trouble!!!  ;)
6.      It’s also never too early to teach your children to give to others.
7.      We go through a lot of diapers, and we always seem to be out of a certain size at any given time.
8.      The Little Library is adorable, and could use some children’s books in Spanish.
9.      You can talk about Clare House on Facebook and your friends start coming out of the woodwork to give you food and diapers to take there.
10.   You will never work anyplace that does more for others than what we do, and I’m so proud to be a part of our group.