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Saturday, May 3, 2014

House News


     The worst winter of our lives is finally behind us, even though it snowed again in April.  We are still holding our breaths.  One of the most vivid memories of this past winter was when I was driving to the soup kitchen in a snow storm, sliding down Mason Street toward the church.  Walking down the middle of the road were folks headed toward St. Mary’s, wrapped in blankets.  They were slipping and struggling to make it to the warm space where they could be safe out of the storm and I was thinking how many were escaping the storms that rage in their lives.  Dorothy Day used to say that the folks who came to their soup kitchen in New York did not necessarily come just for the soup; they came for the compassion and love they could not find elsewhere.  It is definitely true in our dining room, where incredible volunteers come together each Tuesday and Thursday and offer a welcoming hospitality to each individual that crosses the threshold.  Many have mental challenges.  Some come burdened with small children.  Some come in dirty and smelly from living outside in the “tent city” or from lack of soap or clean clothes.  I take in a deep breath and sigh, “Ah, the sacred smell of poverty,” when I walk into the door, and feel a sense of peace in this place where all are treated with dignity and grace.  Someone once told me that “hunger knows no season,” and it is true.  Our lines have remained long, and our soup pots have been steaming on the stove all winter and will continue into the welcomed spring.
     We had a small going-away luncheon for two of our faithful volunteers, Shae Davidson and Johanna Haas, who had worked at Clare House for over 6 years.  It was a tearful good-bye, as they have been so faithful handing out food each week and working so hard each Wednesday morning, unloading trucks of food and working in the basement.  I originally met them at a talk I was giving at a church in Normal, and they asked if they could come to volunteer.  Shortly before they moved to Southern Illinois, they both nominated me for the “Grabill-Homan Community Peace Prize,” and I was selected for it.  I am honored by their nomination, (a real surprise gift from them), and am humbled by being selected by the committee.  We wish them peace and hope they come back to visit us often!
     Several large food drives have added to our pantry lately and have helped to fill up the bags for our many brothers and sisters.  Many thanks go to Country Companies for their large collection, to Grove Elementary School 4th and 5th graders who have collected nearly 200 bags of food, and to Holy Apostles Church, which does an annual Lenten collection for us each year.  And thanks to those who have remembered the poor during their personal or family Lenten sacrifices.  One family which has been involved with Clare House for over 20 years decided to refrain from going out to eat for the 40 days of Lent and donate that money to those who are hungry.  What a great idea!  To all who have come to help in any way, -  with the case of toilet paper,  the toiletry items collected from motel travels, the frozen chickens for the soup kitchen, the canned goods, cereal, the dried beans and shampoo, we thank you for each and every item.  No gift is too small for each offering is greatly appreciated by all who come to us in need.
     When you are planting your gardens this spring, please put in an extra row or two so we can also pass along fresh food to folks.  To be able of share fresh produce is a wonderful thing for the many people who come to us with compromised health.  Throughout all the summer and autumn months, you can put fresh produce out on our porch any time of day.
     We pray the Easter Season remains in your hearts and homes and that in His rising, we are raised up and renewed each day by the Spirit that is within us.  

- Tina Sipula


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