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posted: 8/27/2014 7:51 AM

Churches Support the Homeless Community with Summer Meals

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Tracie Padal

Several local churches have banded together to feed homeless and low-income families in the suburban community.

Since 1989, Northwest Suburban PADS, Inc. has provided support for Cook County's homeless residents between October 1 and April 30 each year--but food and shelter are not merely seasonal needs. Recognizing that many individuals struggle with food insecurity throughout the summer, Jeanne C. and Mike R. of St. James Parish initiated a monthly summer supper program in 2012. "The panic many guests feel at the end of the [PADS] season had us looking for ways to fill the gap during the summer months," explains Jeanne, a co-director of the program.

The program has since expanded, with more and more local churches--including Congregational United Church of Christ, Our Saviour's Lutheran, All Saints Lutheran, First Presbyterian, St. Mark Lutheran, Kingswood UMC, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, and Presbyterian Church of Palatine--opening their doors to this cause. Suppers are now hosted two Fridays each month, one Saturday and Sunday per month, and every Monday and Wednesday night from May through September. The summer suppers bring together volunteers from many faiths and people from many walks of life--but as Jeanne observes , "[Members of] the family of God are more alike than different."

To complement the summer suppers, Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights launched a weekly sack lunch ministry in 2012. Congregational United Church of Christ (CUCC) took over coordination of this program in 2013 with Faith Lutheran joining the group. The lunches are prepared and packed by volunteers, then dispersed to those in need. This summer, CUCC has distributed sack lunches each Tuesday at noon at the corner of Evergreen and Eastman at North School Park.

Twin sisters Laura and Linda Janus have played an integral role in keeping both programs alive. The Janus sisters are longtime members of the Congregational United Church of Christ, where they actively serve on the Hospitality Ministry team. "We love cooking and providing meals in a social setting," explains Laura. "We love to entertain!"

The supper or sack lunch provided by these programs is often the only meal diners may receive on a given day. Noting this, the Janus sisters strive to be generous with both the quality and the quantity of the food they serve. "Our approach is to provide meals we would want to eat," says Laura. The Januses regularly offer an empathetic ear in addition to sustenance. Each supper attracts an average of 45 guests, and 15-20 individuals benefit from the sack lunch program each week.

Congregational United Church of Christ (1001 W. Kirchoff Road, Arlington Heights, IL 60005) is an open and affirming institution that welcomes everyone. To learn more about the Summer Supper and Sack Lunch programs, contact CUCC at (847) 392-6650.