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posted: 12/23/2012 6:03 AM

Humanitarian Service Project strives to ease pain and suffering brought by poverty

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  • Jan Bolsoni of Glen Ellyn, a member of Peace Lutheran Church in Lombard, loads presents as the Humanitarian Service Project distributes holiday packages to area families in need.

       Jan Bolsoni of Glen Ellyn, a member of Peace Lutheran Church in Lombard, loads presents as the Humanitarian Service Project distributes holiday packages to area families in need.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Mike Bolsoni, right, of Glen Ellyn, a member of Peace Lutheran Church in Lombard, loads presents as part of a Humanitarian Service Project.

       Mike Bolsoni, right, of Glen Ellyn, a member of Peace Lutheran Church in Lombard, loads presents as part of a Humanitarian Service Project.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • The Carol Stream-based Humanitarian Service Project provided holiday packages for more than 150 families in need this year.

       The Carol Stream-based Humanitarian Service Project provided holiday packages for more than 150 families in need this year.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
Daily Herald report

The Carol Stream-based Humanitarian Service Project began in 1979 when Karole and Floyd Kettering decided to help needy area families with groceries and gifts for the Christmas season.

In the years since, the program gradually has expanded to include numerous other programs, including:

• The Senior Citizen Project, which makes monthly deliveries of food and other household products to seniors in need;

• The Children's Birthday Project, which provides toys, books and other surprises for children who otherwise might not get them for their birthdays;

• and Feed the Kids, which delivers groceries to families in need during the summer.

Humanitarian Service Project co-founder and Executive Director Karole Kettering tells us more about the group and the good it does:

Q. What is your organization's mission? Whom do you aim to help?

A. The mission of the Humanitarian Service Project is to alleviate the pain and suffering that poverty brings to children and the elderly living in DuPage and Kane counties without regard to gender, race, caste, creed, color, or physical condition.

Q. Describe some of your efforts.

A. We raise funds to directly deliver support to specific individuals in the communities we serve.

We are a hands-on organization that strives to improve the condition of those in need. We serve seniors with deliveries of groceries; children with awesome birthday packages; children with food during the summer when they can't get the nutrition they need through the school meal programs; and families during the stressful Christmas holiday season.

Q. When and why did the organization start? How has it grown?

A. The Humanitarian Service Project began when my husband and I decided to share our holiday bounty with needy families in our community and approached public health nurses for a list of names. What became an annual tradition soon expanded to include friends and neighbors until our spare room was the bulging command center of a year-round operation.

We rented office space and received use of a warehouse in 1979. We named our first project the Christmas Offering.

In 1982 a second program was added, the Senior Citizen Project, in response to a need we uncovered while administering the holiday program: low-income seniors who were in need of assistance year-round, who besides having few financial resources had limited access to transportation and little family support. They were unable to obtain a healthy diet on a regular basis and were suffering from malnutrition.

HSP's solution was to bring healthy food to them via monthly home deliveries emphasizing fresh produce and also bringing other supplies so seniors would be able to remain independent in their own homes as long as possible.

That same year, HSP was recognized as a nonprofit corporation by the IRS.

In 1992, HSP added its third program, to benefit low-income children.

The Children's Birthday Project grew out of our desire to serve another population that has no control over their situation in life. As a result, the Children's Birthday Project was created to serve the needs of children whose parents were unable to afford to acknowledge their special day due to a lack of finances.

The project provides a 25- to 35-pound birthday package full of new wrapped gifts chosen specifically for them, including toys, books, school supplies and everything needed to have a party with ingredients for a cake and paper goods.

The fourth and last program, also benefiting children, was added in summer 2004. It addresses the situation of schoolchildren who receive federally subsidized meals during the school year, meals that represent most of their daily nutrition, but who do not have access to the same nutrition during the summer months when school is out.

There is a federal summer program, but sites are scattered and economically stressed families are required to transport the children to the sites several times a day.

HSP's Feed the Kids provides each family, many of whom are referred from their child's participation in the Children's Birthday Project, with a monthly 200- to 250-pound food package consisting of 15 varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables, 11 types of frozen meats, fresh bread, and four 25-pound boxes of nonperishable foods, plus nutritious snacks appealing to children.

Q. Are there other local organizations with a similar mission? What sets you apart? How do you collaborate with them?

A. Many other organizations serve this population but not in the same fashion. Seniors are enrolled in our program until they no longer need our services, which may be for the rest of their lives.

Children receive gifts on every birthday through their 11th. Families receive a bountiful supply of food to last them up to a month during the holiday season.

Q. What goals have you set for the coming year?

A. We plan to expand our services as support allows and we plan to expand our warehouse space when we overcome a flood zone issue.

Our longer-term goals are to expand the number of seniors we are able to serve within our existing community and to reach out to a wider community with satellite operations.

Q. What challenges does the organization face?

A. We are challenged with maintaining our current level of support as funds have become more restricted; and we are challenged with resolving the flood plain issue so that we can expand our warehouse.

Q. How can readers get involved?

A. There are weekly and monthly volunteer opportunities at our facility: sorting, boxing, or bagging food; wrapping gifts; delivering food or meals.

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