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Words about the Value of Chicago Shares from a Long-time Giver

DSC_0616Comments from King Poor, a suburban resident who works downtown and is a Chicago Shares “frequent giver.”

“Chicago Shares offers an immediate way to give needy people a boost — people who may say to themselves, ‘Who cares about me?’ Beyond the importance of providing someone with a meal, giving Shares also means giving someone encouragement.”

And a story from the frontlines: “Three days before Christmas, I was giving Shares to someone who’d been a regular recipient over the past year. He thanked me and then said that he wanted to show me something. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of the Shares that I’d given him. He said that he’d been saving them so he could buy something special for the holidays.

It was a reminder that we never know how small acts of encouragement may help lift someone up.”

Tell us – Why do you give Chicago Shares?
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Chicago Shares’ Grants Bolster Area Non-Profit Programs

“We’re so grateful for your help in supporting those in need.” That’s the strong and reoccurring theme of the responses received to the Chicago Shares announcement of its 2016 grants.

Chicago Shares, a unique Chicago not-for-profit founded in 1993, provides meals to the hungry through a voucher program.  Each year a certain percentage of the vouchers purchased by generous people are never redeemed, thus providing a reserve of funds from which grants are made.

Recently, Chicago Shares announced that it is providing $15,000 in grants to 10 Chicago area not-for-profits that subscribe to a “help-the-needy” mission.

Grant recipients have underscored that these grants are particularly welcome now as other resources including state and local funding continue to dwindle.

Here are the 2016 grant recipients:

Lincoln Park Community Shelter
600 W. Fullerton Parkway
Chicago, IL  60614

402 North Saint Louis Avenue
Chicago, IL  60624

Care for Real
5339 N. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60640

Pacific Garden Mission
1458 S. Canal Street
Chicago, IL  60607

Fourth Presbyterian Church
126 E. Chestnut
Chicago, IL  60611

Common Pantry
3744 N. Damen
Chicago, IL 60618

Society of St. Vincent DePaul
10525 Delta Parkway
Schiller Park, 60176

The Chicago Help Initiative
440 N Wells Street, Suite 44
Chicago, IL  60654

Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Chicago
721 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL  60654

Franciscan Outreach
1645 W. LeMoyne
Chicago, IL 60622


Chicago Shares vouchers (which cannot be used for alcohol or tobacco) are safe, convenient, and easy to use. They enable generous Chicagoans to help the needy person-to person in a dignified way.

Chicago Shares has always been a volunteer program, which means there are no paid staff.

For more information on where Chicago Shares are sold and where they can be redeemed (plus information on becoming a volunteer or a merchant), please email us at, or visit


Chicago Shares Bids Farewell to Long Standing Supporter

Julie Stagliano, Rich Kaczmarek and Monseignor Dan MayallOn June 26, 2016, Holy Name Cathedral honored Monseignor Dan Mayall with a reception in the lovely Cathedral courtyard. Msgr Mayall, a faithful board member of Chicago Shares for 12 years, is being transferred to another parish in Wilmette.

Executive director Julie Stagliano and past board chair Rich Kaczmarek were there to present a certificate of thanks on behalf of Chicago Shares.

Spot-On, Practical Way to Help Chicago’s Needy

DSC_0616Seeing needy people on the streets of Chicago is not unusual.  However, the DNAinfo Chicago, February 1, 2016, article headline about the needy was: The Most Lucrative Panhandling Spots Downtown, According to Panhandlers (emphasis added).

(For the full article, click here)

The reporter’s fresh approach was used to provide a fair-minded, street level view of the challenges and personal histories of some needy Chicagoans (dubbed “panhandlers” for this article).

The article echoed what has become a mantra among observers of the urban landscape, namely, “People who are homeless have always been stigmatized, but some groups say it’s worse now than ever.”

Reader responses (for responses, click here) to this article expressed varied emotions from compassion to the needs of those on the street, to frustration with the lack of government action, to criticism of the needy for not doing a better job of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps — and an assortment of others.

Here’s one more view plus an action step.

Viewpoint:  While long-term solutions to homelessness and poverty is an imperative, we know that it’s critical to provide short-term help.  In other words, we want to help the needy meet today’s need for food and basic necessities.

Action step:  We suggest that those who want to provide immediate help to those they encounter on the street give them Chicago Shares vouchers instead of cash.

These vouchers (coupons) can be used for food and necessities – never for tobacco or alcohol – at Loop and near Loop establishments, including sandwich shops and grocery stories.

The program, which has been around since 1993, is simple and proven.

The $1 vouchers are sold at area places of worship and online.

Then generous Chicagoans can distribute them to needy people, who in turn can redeemed  these vouchers at such places, for example, as Max’s Take Out, 20 W. Adams, and the Jewel at 550 N. State Street.

The article revealed that while there are some locations that are better than others to ask passersby for change, there is no universal best location (perhaps akin to identifying the best place to get a flat tire).

What this means for those wanting to help the needy they may encounter:  It’d be wise to have a few Chicago Shares vouchers in your pocket or purse to hand out as the occasion might arise.

Learn more about where Chicago Shares may be purchased.

St. Clement’s Deacon Tim on Homelessness


This story originally appeared in the September 14-20, 2015, issue of Streetwise.  See the original here. 

By Ron Polaniecki

ChicagoShares1Deacon Tim Sullivan of St. Clement Church, 642 W. Deming Place, knows firsthand about people who are homeless and needy. He’s been in their midst, first in Detroit and now in Chicago, providing food and assistance for more than 12 years.

And among the learnings he underscores is that while homeless people are varied, many are seeking more than just a few coins in a cup.

According to Deacon Tim, it’s not uncommon for homeless people to have low self-esteem and to feel ashamed. And while they might get used to being treated without respect, repetition doesn’t make it easy. Further, he adds, even though many are pleased to chat, they may not be fast to share their stories – until they trust you. A motto, says Deacon Tim, among the homeless: “Suspicion = Safety.”

It’s no surprise, however, that by treating them with respect and offering assistance, Deacon Tim has earned the trust of many.

Flashback: In the summer of 2002 while in Boston, Deacon Tim met a woman who made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the poor. He made a mental note: Wow, this is simple and yet effective!

And then he met a homeless woman. He gave her money and went on. But something made him return to give her more money.

Deacon Tim recalls, “I asked her name, and ended by saying, ‘Pam, I’ll pray for you.’ As I walked away, she asked my name, and then said, ‘Tim, I’ll pray for you.’” That day, affirms Deacon Tim, “I saw the homeless in a new light.”

“Inspired by the woman I saw in Boston, I started a peanut butter and jelly ministry in Detroit,” he goes on. “We had four volunteers and fed 30 people on Saturdays.” Then he notes, they added juice boxes. And more volunteers. And they grew. For Christmas, they served 450 dinners. Next, they incorporated and began serving 450-500 people a week.

“When I came to St. Clement Church, four years ago, I built on the program that was already in place by increasing our assistance from twice a month to weekly.

Deacon Tim explains the details: Volunteers from St. Clement bring six bags filled with two sandwiches, two hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, a juice box and chips. Then every Friday, beginning at 9:30 we handout the bags, usually serving about 100 people.

“Before the distribution, we host a ‘coffee and donuts’ hospitality time providing an opportunity to connect with our guests,” he adds.

Who comes? According to Deacon Tim, there are truly homeless people who live on the street, others who live in shelters, and those who have a place to stay but not enough to eat. They all come on foot whether they’re from Lincoln Park or downtown.

“Each of the needy people we serve have a story,” says Deacon Tim. “One man had owned a furniture store, but then his wife died of cancer and everything changed. There are military veterans on hard times, ex-cons who want to work but who are virtually unhire-able.” The list, and the stories, goes on.

Somewhere in the conversation, Deacon Tim slips in that he once fell on hard times and was homeless himself. Later, he adds, he gained real-life insights one day when he stationed himself near a church as an “undercover” homeless person.

For Deacon Tim, serving homeless people is more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A street person he once knew died with no family. Although it was not easy to do, Deacon Tim was able to claim the body and arrange for proper burial through a generous local funeral home. More important, he adds, “I presided over a prayer service for this otherwise nameless human being.”

In addition to the obvious objections to helping homeless people that Deacon Tim hears (“it’s inconvenient, it’s dangerous”), another one is, “Don’t these people know they can apply to agencies for help?”

“Yes,” says Deacon Tim. “But a three-month waiting list does not solve today’s problem. And for those who may have disabilities, making that initial phone call can be an insurmountable task.”

Deacon Tim makes it simple: Chicago’s needy people are as a different as Chicagoans themselves. “Some have a great sense of humor; others love Chicago sports teams.”

“But what’s universal,” he says, “is their need for food (often requiring them to dig in garbage cans and scrounge in dumpsters) and their desire for dignity.”

Another way to help people in need
In addition to Friday meals, Deacon Tim reports that on Saturday morning St. Clement gives out what ever Chicago Shares it has on hand.

Chicago Shares, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1993, provides an answer to the age-old question, “Can you spare some change so I can get something to eat?”

Here’s how it works: Chicagoans can purchase Chicago Shares vouchers at area places of worship and on the web. Then, these $1 vouchers can be given to needy people. Recipients may redeem these vouchers at participating stores and restaurants for food and other basic necessities, but never for alcohol or tobacco.

While voucher sales have varied, average sales for the past three years are approximately $50,000 annually. About 80% of the vouchers are redeemed. Assuming a meal price of $5, that’s some 8,000 meals provided each year. Chicago Shares has donated its excess funds in the forms of grants to support other Chicago area organizations that help the needy.

Encouraged by the success of the program, the committed cadre of Chicago Shares ( volunteers are seeking to grow capacity by adding more places that will sell Shares and more merchants that will accept them.

St. Clement, which has been selling vouchers nearly 20 years, averages $7,000 annually in sales.
Chicago Shares is an efficient, safe and convenient way to help needy Chicagoans.

2015 Annual Board Meeting

At the annual Chicago Shares board meeting that was held on Tuesday, March 24, the following officers were elected to one-year terms:

  • Rich Kaczmarek – President
  • Ron Polaniecki – Vice President
  • Fran Kelly – Treasurer
  • Fred Augustin – Secretary

Julie Stagliano continues as executive director.

An Exemplary Volunteer


Chicago Shares Board Chair Rich Kaczmarek (right), recently joined Kathy Haberer (center) and Co-Directors, Julie Stagliano and Michael Kraynak for Kathy’s farewell dinner.

Theatrical productions, railroad operations and magazine publishing can only be successful if they have skilled and dedicated people back stage and back office. So, too, it is for Chicago Shares. And for more than a decade, Kathy Haberer has worked tirelessly as one of these behind-the-scenes people for Chicago Shares. Now, she is moving to another city and her duties will pass to another volunteer.

Kathy has faithfully served Chicago Shares in several key capacities. Most importantly she filled orders from purchasers, either individuals or institutions, and distributed vouchers to the various selling locations. She tracked vendor’s distributions and sales through a spreadsheet system, maintaining precise numeric counts of all voucher transactions. This data, presented in easy-to-read quarterly reports, provided the treasurer and directors with the information needed to guide the funding of grant awards and ensure overall sound financial management.

In addition, Kathy helped update the Chicago Shares’ website to include an online donation function, which has helped boost voucher sales.

Finally–it will come as no surprise to those who know her–Kathy made time on many Sundays to sell vouchers at St. Clement’s, thus adding to the vitality of the Chicago Shares program.

Chicago Shares is most grateful for Kathy Haberer’s generous spirit. She has indeed advanced the mission of Chicago Shares to share compassion, share comfort and share vouchers.

Thanks, Kathy! Chicago Shares wishes you the best in your next chapter.