Rita Bailey: Board member
I became involved with Interfaith Action of Evanston working with the Producemobile. a few months after it was started. I now look forward to seeing all the returning workers and the clients every month. The truck gives us a good opportunity to connect with workers as well a having to hurry up and get the food ready for our clients. Seeing the smiling faces and hearing all the “Thank yous” from so many of the clients makes you know this is a worthwhile endeavor.
(Note: The Evanston Producemobile, started in 2012, serves produce and vegetables to Evanston’s most at-risk population. The project is coordinated by IAE in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the City of Evanston.)
Birch Burghardt: Board President
We had an unusually mild winter this year, which provided us with fewer chances than usual to open IAE’s emergency overnight shelter at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. I volunteered to help with the cleaning up one morning after the shelter had been open. A few men who had spent the night and were significantly better versed in taking apart and packing away cots than I was, did the lion’s share of the work and made the work fly. These men gave me the distinct sense of being a welcomed guest in their space. It was such a joy that I expect that its memory will entice me back at 6 a.m. on another bitterly cold morning some time this coming winter.
Friday mornings start at 4 a.m. for Skip Myslenski and Mary Kinney, who prep and serve breakfast for around 50 of our homeless neighbors each week.
“How long is this going to take?” Skip Myslenski asked, lowering himself cross-legged to the floor in the lobby of the Hospitality Center Entrance at St Mark’s. He and partner Mary Kinney, were between grocery runs to stock the Center’s pantry for the coming week, a job they undertake every Friday morning. Mind you, this is after cooking a hot full-course breakfast for clients at Hilda’s Place at Lake Street Church then serving up the same menu for 30-40 grateful, hungry guests over at the Hospitality Center.
Skip, whom Wildcats fans will know from his nusports.com blog, “The Skip Report,” began catering this weekly feast in the early ‘90s. Mary, a south-side Chicago native, joined him three years ago. To be clear, “feast” is not hyperbole. How else do you describe a morning meal of bacon, turkey bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes (plain and blueberry), cheesy potatoes made from scratch, plus individually wrapped breakfast sandwiches for late arrivals? Except for the eggs, the couple donates every bite. Why do they do it? “I consider myself pretty lucky,” said Skip, who has also written for Sports Illustrated, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Tribune. “So why not?” Pausing thoughtfully, he added, “I’m not sure who said it, but I’ve read, ‘The greatest of distinctions is service to others,’” he surmised.
Mary is less philosophical. For her, the greatest rewards are smiling faces — especially when clients recognize and greet them on the street or in the park. “It’s simple, really,” she explained. “When you see that connection, it’s very meaningful to me.” .