Daily Herald correspondent
Kathy Millin, director of the Palatine Opportunity Center, refers to a grass-roots organization of volunteers as her angels.
On any given day, she can turn to this little-known group for everything from help in finding a single mother a job to providing a crib for a new baby, or basic necessities for homeless teens at Palatine High School.
They call themselves Palatine Assisting Through Hope, or PATH, and last month they held their seventh annual "Day of Giving" that served nearly 1,500 people from Palatine Township.
What started out as an effort to provide outerwear for children heading into winter, has grown to offer a staggering amount of donated clothing, toys and refurbished bicycles to families struggling to make ends meet.
"It's our volunteers who make this possible," says Rich Tyack of Palatine, who works behind the scenes to mobilize people from the community, along with his wife, Ramona, and Debbie Rohrwasser and Andy Konopka. "They all are driven to give back to the community."
This year, they drew 270 volunteers who came out to Sanborn School in Palatine for the staging area. Using some of the vacant classrooms during the Thanksgiving break, they sorted through the truckloads of donated goods,
Their work helped to set the stage for the actual Days of Giving held Nov. 23 and 24 at the Palatine Opportunity Center.
The Center has been working to empower families in Palatine Township area since 1999. Services range from providing medical help, counseling and support, to ESL, tutoring and workplace skills from Harper College.
Its services reach families from throughout Palatine Township, including in Palatine, Inverness and Rolling Meadows, as well as parts of Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg and South Barrington.
Volunteers returned the day after Thanksgiving, to convert rooms in the Opportunity Center into shopping areas, organizing items by age, sex and approximate size and spreading them out on tables and on racks.
"We had an amazing turnout over the course of the two days," Tyack says.
Of the 1,500 they served, 760 of them were children, who now will be adequately clothed for the cold winter ahead.
In addition to the clothes, they also raffled off 82 bicycles refurbished by staff members at Mike's Bike Shop in Palatine.
Once the rush was over, and the last person came through, they bagged the leftover items and donated them to Women in Need Growing Stronger, or WINGS, which serves victims of domestic violence and their children; and the emergency shelters run by Public Action to Deliver Shelter, or PADS.
"These are volunteers who do not look for any attention," Millin says. "They truly perform their work as good Samaritans, they love their neighbor and will go to almost any length to bring happiness and basic needs to families and individuals in crisis."
There are more than one dozen social service agencies that provide care to clients at the Palatine Opportunity Center and all of them, at one time or another, Millin says, have reached out to the PATH team for help with a local family.
"They would all agree that this organization can work miracles," Millin adds, "for they have the respect of the community. People that know of their work will support them through donations and other assistance."