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Saturday, November 1, 2014


House News

 By Tina Sipula

     It is difficult to believe that we are approaching our Annual Holiday Food Drive, but even more difficult to know that it is our 20th anniversary of this incredible endeavor.  It all began over 20 years ago, when I went in to talk with Dan O’Brien about our need for a van to haul food.  He had never heard of Clare House, so after we had talked for several hours, he called me and offered to have a food drive for us.  The first year, it took us 6 weeks to raise one semi-truck load of food.  At the time, that was all we needed to keep our doors open and feed everyone for a year.  Now, we raise 9 semi-truck loads of food in 3 weeks, and with the efforts of thousands of people and generous hearts, everyone who comes to us is fed.  I have no doubt the loving community of Bloomington/Normal and the surrounding area will again respond and we will raise the amount of food needed to keep our doors open.  We thank everyone who contributes in anyway – be it with donating food, working with us at the doors of Schnuck’s or in the warehouse to sort food, or those who go door-to-door collecting in neighborhoods.  We especially thank those who sponsor us: Extreme Motors, Schnuck’s, and B-104 radio station.  The food drive runs through November 26, and food can be dropped off at either Schnuck’s Supermarket, or at any Extreme Motors dealership.  If you would like to volunteer to help in anyway, please contact Mike Marvin at:  309-829-1518.   

     Most of the volunteers at Clare House and the soup kitchen have been with us for a very long time.  One of the longest members of our Clare House family, is Verneal Frank.  Verneal first started working at the house in the basement in 1989.  Her children and her husband then got involved, and her incredible organizational skills made a huge contribution every Saturday morning here at the house.    I soon discovered Verneal loved gardening as much as I do, and we worked together for many years in whatever plot of land we could find – in several community gardens, in a piece of property at St. Luke’s Union Church, and for the past several years, Verneal worked the large community garden at Jacob’s Well Church.  She rose early to plant, to weed, water, and pick produce to put on our porch and to share at the soup kitchen.  She hauled boxes and boxes of fresh-picked produce, washed and froze many bags of tomatoes for us and was a tireless worker who always had a smile on her face and was willing to work.  Recently Verneal and her husband, Franz, moved to Florida. 

It is with a heavy heart I am reminded that nothing lasts forever, but how blessed my life is and Clare House is, that the Frank family came into our lives and enriched us with their love and generous hearts.  We wish them well in their new home and life in Florida, but know they will come to visit us,  and perhaps we will harvest a few vegetables upon their return next year!  Now we have Mary Beth Jeckel who has taken over the responsibilities in the garden at Jacob’s Well, and she is looking for helpers for next year, so if you would like to help grow nutritious food for our folks in the line, please let us know, as she would love the help!

     This past summer our food lines were the longest we have ever had, and the numbers at the soup kitchen were incredible.  The 2008 recession is not over in our neighborhood, as we are giving away and feeding more people than ever before.  Some local pantries have closed or changed how they distribute food, the government has cut food stamps, many of our folks are handicapped or unemployable, some people work part-time in minimum wage jobs.  All the while, the cost of food, clothes and the basic necessities of life continue to rise.  And most people don’t know that toilet paper, toothpaste and soaps cannot be purchased with food stamps.  (How goofy is that!)  The fact remains, we are feeding more people than ever before, and the coming holidays will bring more people looking to put a nice meal on the table for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Help if you can.  The smallest contribution goes a long way for someone who has little or nothing.  They depend on your kindness and generosity in these difficult times. 

     We give thanks to all who contribute in any way.  In the words of Joseph Thomas Nolan, “We thank you for abundant days, for all the richer life your Son has promised, more than eye, taste, and even autumn can provide.”

Verneal Frank sorting food.
Verneal Frank, watering the garden.




By Mike Marvin

Once again, volunteers are asked to help sort and box donated food products from collections accepted at Schnuck’s stores and other locations throughout our community in the month of November.   I became involved with Clare House in the summer of 2008.  I have coordinated the sorting and boxing phase of this huge food drive from that time.  Making the 20th annual event my seventh year involved with this charitable work. 

Over the years, I have found that the most rewarding aspect of this work for me is witnessing the tremendous giving spirit and joy I see in the eyes, and hear in the voices, of all who are involved with this segment of the drive.  I know that it is genuine because of the high percentage of volunteers that return year after year.

If you would like to experience this joy and serve you neighbors in need at the same time, you are welcome to join us.  Groups, families, and individuals are invited to participate.
We work from 5 PM to 7 PM on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Mondays in November; and the 1st Monday in December.  For more information, contact:   Mike Marvin at  or  309-829-1518 .  Mention that you read this article In the Clare House Newsletter.

20th Annual Holiday Food Drive - through the years...


By Trish Tilton
Clare House Volunteer for almost 14 years.

I don’t have money to contribute.  I am not talented in any particular way.  I am only a small drop in the ocean of life.  I do have some time and effort I can contribute. 
So I come to Clare House on Wednesday nights to help the crew bag groceries.  I do not see the faces of those who benefit from my efforts, but still I feel the gratification of the small contribution I can make to the cause.  I could be in the line myself one day, you never know.  Life changes so quickly.  We are not in control.
We are all connected.  We are all one.  We are all part of the same energy. 

“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
I will not refuse to do the something
I can do.”  Helen Keller

5 Cardinal Rules for Life

1. Make peace with your past, so it won’t disturb your present.
2. What other people think of you is none of your business
3. Time heals almost everything.  Give it time.
4. No one is in charge of your happiness, except you.
5. Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them.  You have no idea what their journey is all about.


By Madeleine Callahan

I nominate
the woman whose beloved husband died
and so she put on her shoes
every Wednesday
to hand out bags of food
in honor of their love.
She cried for eight weeks
in that narrow stairwell
while we chatted about the extras
we were throwing into the bags.
I nominate the moment
when her one bag ripped open,
chaos of peas, pumpkin,
fruit salad and tea bags
slipping down the steps –
that moment cured part of her distress
as we laughed till we couldn’t breathe.
A certain peace colored her lips and cheeks.
Her back was no longer curled in.
I nominate all volunteers
who struggle faithfully
through loss because
of their existential pursuit of peace.



By Sister Glenda Bourgeois, O.S.U.

             Fall has always been pie season for me.  I think of the favorites, apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and even cherry pie.  As we gather round the table in a spirit of hospitality we share the pie that is scored in equal pieces.  Each one is able to savor a piece of the pie.
I am also reminded of another reality as I think of pie eating.  A pie represents a whole.  It is the sum of the parts or pieces that make it up.  The other reality that comes to mind as I think of a pie is another whole of which we are all a part.  We share our beautiful earth home and its seemingly infinite resources.  We live at peace when in a spirit of hospitality we can all have a piece of this pie: however, we all know that in too many instances today our earth home and its resources are cut very unequally.  Some have more than they need and leaving others with little or nothing.  Clare House is very aware of this sad situation and tries to be a peacemaker and equalize the situation by ongoing service at the Loaves and Fishes kitchen and the food pantry.  It is because of the generous donations that you continue to make, everyone who comes can enjoy “a piece of the Pie.”  at the beginning of yet another annual food drive we are certain that we can count on you to provide hospitality to all who come to our table.



By Brian Bernhardt

From sixth grade until my senior year in high school I helped, along with my three older brothers, on our Saturday mornings at the Clare House making bags, checking dates, and bringing in deliveries (the amount of things I was able to bring in certainly changed in that small amount of time!)  All those hours in service, with good people, who cared for the less fortunate in our community really changed me for the better.  It is safe to say I would not be here, in Buffalo, New York, going to a college seminary in which I am thinking about being a Catholic missionary priest, if not for my many 9 to 11’s spent at the Clare House.


By Bill Tolone

"You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians, 9:11)

Fr. Joe Kelly was the Pastor and Director of the Newman Center on the Illinois State University campus for many years.  He also introduced Tina to the Catholic Worker Movement and co-founded Clare House with her.  Larry Quane, an emeritus professor  at ISU who assisted Joe at the Newman Center has written a book, "Journey of a Faith Community--The Homilies of Fr. Joseph Kelly--The Lessons We Learned, the Lessons We Live."  In his book, Larry stated that Thanksgiving was Joe's favorite holiday.  In his Thanksgiving homily, Joe told us that "This annual celebration has a warmth and richness singularly different than other holidays.  There is not the worry and clutter of gifts, even though that insanity begins in earnest the next day.  There is within the traditional mechanics of Thanksgiving an invitation to reflection, to pause amidst the demands of life to evaluate life itself, to re-embrace the good that has been given and to be thankful for the richness that goodness has brought to each of us."  And, "Thanksgiving has the best chance of touching again the goodness within each family tradition, by hindsight to know anew the blessings of God that are present.  Thanksgiving is a time to be reflective and grateful."  What wonderful thoughts for us to consider as we reflect on the meanings of our missions at Clare House.

As you well know, our traditional mission at Clare House is to provide food for our less fortunate sisters and brothers, and this mission intensifies during each Fall season with our annual food drive.  This year, the demands for food have been great;  so, our efforts must meet these needs.  And, we also give thanks to those who donate food throughout the year.

In addition, for the last 2 years, Clare House has embarked on a new mission.  Since July, 2012, we have become part of the Little Free Library system which has spread throughout the United States and even into some other countries.  You may have noticed what looks like a "bird house" in front of Clare House and in several other Bloomington-Normal neighborhoods.  During this time, I have collected children's books at church and garage sales, along with donations from friends and family, to give to children who accompany their parents and grandparents on Wednesdays and Fridays to Clare House for food.  This has been an extremely rewarding experience for me, for which I am very thankful.  To see the smile and look on a child's face, and also on their parent's and grandparent's faces, is so heartwarming.  Each child and family is special and I've been able to get to know them, and they get to know me, as I offer them a book.  By talking with people in line, I now better understand who they are and what their needs are, which go beyond a bag of food or a book.  A kind word to share the day, the weather, how they're feeling, and how they've been doing if I haven't seen them for some time is worth so much.  And, for this I am eternally grateful to our sisters and brothers in line who have welcomed me into their lives.

As we continue this new "free library" mission at Clare House, I ask all of you to join with me.  If you have children's books that your children or grandchildren have out-grown, please consider donating them to us.  Besides being kind to children and their families, we are "paying it forward" by encouraging them to learn to read which is so important for their future, in school and in life.  My email is: and  I will be glad to pick up your books.  Thank you.



¨ Money for bills, taxes, and insurance
¨ Gift Certificates for grocery stores
¨ Coffee, coffee creamer, sugar
¨ Tickets to anywhere
¨ Someone to work at the Soup Kitchen on Tuesdays from 7:00 am  – 1 pm with special help mopping floors.  For more information call Gerry Green:  309-825-9774.
¨ Professional snow removal business to volunteer their services to plow driveway, parking lot and shovel walks and porch.


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.