“Why Chicago Shares?” from St. Clement Parish Newsletter

Chicago Shares offers a way for the community to respond to the needs of the homeless and most vulnerable among us.Through the Chicago Shares program, parishioners can purchase voucher booklets worth $5 to be distributed to those in need instead of cash, to be redeemed at participating stores and restaurants for food and toiletry items (no alcohol or tobacco products). As the Chicago Shares website states, with these vouchers, “Chicagoans can be sure their donations feed the hungry.”

 

How does the Chicago Shares voucher system work?

You see someone in need, you give them Chicago Shares vouchers, the person in need buys food and personal care items using the vouchers as currency from a participating location.

Purchasers may also donate the vouchers to Saint Clement Parish for distribution to the homeless. Saint Clement has participated in the Chicago Shares program since 1995, currently selling the vouchers on the last Sunday of the month (be sure to look for our volunteers selling them after Masses this weekend, October 26 and 27).

Saint Clement Parish’s Deacon Tim Sullivan has noticed what a difference these vouchers can make in someone’s life. Every Friday morning, Deacon Tim and parishioners provide hospitality and conversation in front of the parish rectory for those who wait in line to receive a free sack lunch made by our parishioners through our sack lunch program for the homeless. Our volunteers serve coffee, donuts and orange juice (as well as iced tea or lemonade in the summer, and hot chocolate in the winter) from 8:45am until after the 9:30am sack lunch distribution.

During his two years at our parish, Deacon Tim has noticed, “there is a very large demand for Shares from our friends who we serve on Friday mornings.” As he has met and gotten to know our “regulars,” Deacon Tim asked one recipient that he’s become “good friends” with, Jack, about his experience with the Chicago Shares vouchers; the resulting interview is below. Jack is 59 years old. He was a successful businessman who ran his own business in Chicago. After the death of his wife twelve years ago, he left the business; he couldn’t bear to go back in because of all the time he spent there with his wife. He gave the business to his children (who he still keeps in contact with), “hit the streets,” and looks after his cousin.

 

Deacon Tim: Jack, where can you use the vouchers?

JACK: There are places downtown that you can use them, but also here in this area at Luigi’s and Dominick’s.

 

DT: With the several food programs in the area from various churches including Saint Clement, why are these necessary?

JACK: On Sunday there is only one place that I know of that serves food and the Shares help to get through Sunday.

 

DT: What have you used them for?

JACK: My cousin and I have gone to Luigi’s and can get a slice of pizza and a pop with the Shares and also get food at Dominick’s.

 

DT: What do you get at Dominick’s?

JACK: We can pick up lunch meat and bread or rolls and make a “Dagwood” sandwich if we combine our Shares. We’ve also gotten a cooked chicken and have been able to split that.

 

DT: Is that your only option?

JACK: Some places downtown have food but it takes money to take the bus and get there, money that could be spent for food.

 

DT: Why are Shares important for you?

JACK: In order to survive. Using the Shares is a lot better than going through garbage cans to see if you can find something not spoiled to eat.

 

We’d like to thank all thosewho have supported this important program. Deacon Tim asks that if you haven’t participated in the past, please consider doing so by purchasing Chicago Shares vouchers after the Masses this weekend. You can give them out yourself, or turn them in to the parish office for distribution. It’s a great way to put our Catholic faith into action and help the homeless. For more information on the Chicago Shares program, please visitchicagoshares.com.

 

Chicago Shares Awards $12,000 in Grants

Chicago Shares is pleased to announce that grants of $3,000.00 each have been awarded to Care for Real (5339 N. Sheridan), Lincoln Park Community Shelter (600 W. Fullerton), The Chicago Help Initiative (155 N. Harbor Dr.) and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (651 W. Lake), all in Chicago.

Care for Real serves the greater Edgewater community through food distributions five times a week, a clothing closet, a pet pantry, client service referrals helping to make financial, social services, housing, education and health connections, a lending library and an Employment Resource Center.

The Lincoln Park Community Shelter provides interim shelter and services for 35 adult men and women each night who are experiencing homelessness. In addition to basic services such as three meals a day and a safe place to stay, they provide wrap-around case management services to guests, helping them to identify and work toward goals to return to housing and self-sufficiency.

The Chicago Help Initiative (CHI) was organized to educate the public about how to assist persons in need and, to address those needs. CHI serves meals to the homeless, disadvantaged and unemployed individuals and provides links to social service agencies in order to secure aid for medical, psychological, legal, housing, job training, drug rehabilitation and literacy assistance.

Since 1857, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul serves all those in need of basics for human dignity such as food, shelter, clothing, furnishings, toiletries, school supplies, educational support, job search help, medical, legal and dental assistance. It is said that no request for help is foreign to the society.

Funds for such grants are available because approximately 20% of the vouchers we sell are never redeemed. Since Chicago Shares does not have any paid staff and few administrative expenses, we accumulate funds that are not needed to reimburse participating merchants or for other expenses. Our board of directors has mandated that such funds be donated to organizations whose mission, like ours, includes the feeding of hungry people.

Lincoln Park Community Shelter

Lincoln Park Community Shelter

Care For Real

Care For Real

Chicago Help Initiative

Chicago Help Initiative

Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Chicago Shares Volunteer Opportunities

Make a commitment to help the hungry poor of Chicagoland. Volunteer your time and talents with Chicago Shares, a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides residents and visitors with an easy and safe way to help those on the street. No fundraising required.

Our volunteers have high personal integrity, are self-motivated, and should be able to work independently. Training is provided. Previous experience with non-profit organizations is helpful, but not required. Previous experience with the functional skill area involved is preferred.

Chicago Shares is currently seeking individuals to help make a difference in the following areas.

 

Merchant Recruiter

  • Identifies new merchants that would be good candidates to accept Chicago Shares
  • Contacts prospects (in-person, by phone and/or email) and explains the program
  • Follows-up to answer questions and encourage participation

Average commitment:  1-2 hours per week

 

Merchant Liaison

  • Visits monthly one or more participating merchants to collect the Shares presented for purchases
  • Submits a check request for the reimbursement of the merchant; picks up the reimbursement check and delivers it to the merchant
  • Serves as the Chicago Shares representative by answering questions and asking for ongoing feedback

Average commitment:  1-2 hours per week

 

Sale Location Recruiter

  • Recruits churches, other religious institutions, and non-profit organizations to sell Chicago Shares
  • Answers questions and coordinates the purchase of an allotment of Shares for resale
  • Assists in organizing the sale of the Shares at this location

Average commitment:  1-2 hours per week

 

Assistant Voucher Coordinator

  • When the Voucher Coordinator is unavailable, responds to requests for vouchers from churches and other sellers of Shares; fills orders from individual purchasers
  • Deposits proceeds of voucher sales into organization’s checking account; maintains appropriate reports and documentation
  • May require delivering to various parts of downtown Chicago including, but not limited to South & West Loop and near North Side.

(Volunteer is reimbursed for the cost of postage and paper for printing Vendor lists as needed.)

Average commitment:  1-2 hours per week

 

Publicity Committee Member

  • Meets on average three times a year (90 minute meetings) to develop ideas on how to best communicate Chicago Shares to the general public.
  • Writes (or assists in writing) press releases, draft copy for the websites, brochure and other communications; reaches out to the media and other stakeholders to increase visibility of Chicago Shares

Average commitment:  1-2 hours per week

 

Webmaster

  • Manage the web content strategy, including posting of articles and pictures.
  • Find newsworthy stories to publish regularly on the Chicago Shares website, write articles for the website, and provide an analysis of key website metrics.

Average commitment: 1-2 hours per week

 

Young Leaders Board Members

The Chicago Shares Young Leaders Board is a group of Chicago young professionals that help build awareness around the Chicago Shares mission. The goals and objectives of the Chicago Shares Young Leaders are as follows:

 

  • Build awareness around the Chicago Shares mission
  • Engage young people in serving Chicago Shares
  • Develop a communication strategy for Chicago Shares
  • Identify a tactical plan to build general awareness
  • Execute on tactics including those surrounding specific events such as the 20th Anniversary of the organization in 2013

 

Average commitment: 1-2 hours per week

 

To become a volunteer, email us at coordinator@chicagoshares.org or call us at 312-573-4494.

Chicago Shares Awards $6,000 in Grants

The Courage Program

Chicago Shares is pleased to announce that grants of $3000.00 each have been award to The Courage Program (9711 S. Kolin, Oak Lawn IL)  and Lakeview Pantry (3831 N. Broadway, Chicago IL).

The Courage Program provides assistance and advocates for pregnant young mothers and their families. Lakeview Pantry helps eliminate hunger on Chicago’s north side, and will be able to provide 15 tons of food through the grant provided by Chicago Shares.

Funds for such grants are available because approximately 20% of the vouchers we sell are never redeemed. Since Chicago Shares does not have any paid staff and few administrative expenses, we accumulate funds that are not needed to reimburse participating merchants or for other expenses. Our board of directors has mandated that such funds be donated to organizations whose mission, like ours, includes the feeding of hungry people.

Lakeview Pantry

Therefore, buyers of Chicago Shares vouchers can always be assured that their money will help those in need, primarily through redemption of the vouchers, and secondarily through grants to organizations that also serve the hungry poor.

Vouchers System Helps the Needy

This post was written by Loyola University Chicago student Raven Icaza, and originally posted here.

Richard Kaczmarek does not hand over spare change or leftovers when prompted by the homeless.  Instead, he offers what appears to be a small square ticket, good for food or personal care items at local stores and restaurants.  To some, he is known as the Chicago Shares man, but in fact he is president of the not-for-profit corporation based in Holy Name Cathedral.

Chicago Shares voucher

Kaczmarek, 73, is responsible for all phases of the operation, from recruiting volunteers, appointing board members, right down to purchasing and distributing vouchers.  The concept behind the voucher: feed those in need while preventing monetary access to drugs or alcohol.

Partnered with other churches, synagogues, merchants and a volunteer staff, Chicago Shares has become a self-sufficient operation.

“Chicago Shares was the entity that developed the shares, produced the shares and sold them to the participating churches.  The churches then in turn sell them to their congregations,” Kaczmarek explained.

Often a combination of cash and vouchers are redeemed at the merchants.

“At the end of each month, the merchant contacts us.  One of our volunteers goes to the merchant and delivers a check for the full value of the vouchers,” he said.

The participating stores and restaurants receive more business as the result.

“Most of all, they are helping people who are in need.  But financially, they aren’t hurt.  We don’t expect them to give them or us a discount,” Kaczmarek said.

With an average 80 percent redemption rate used at over a dozen locations stretching from the Loop to Lincoln Park, it appears the system is working.

“Not all the vouchers we sell are used,” Kaczmarek said.

About 20 percent of the funds from the voucher sales remain in Chicago Shares accounts.  Only a small fraction of this goes into administrative expenses such as printing the vouchers and maintaining a website.  With no office or paid staff, the remaining funds reach those in need

“We have donated $74,000 in cash to organizations that serve the homeless,” Kaczmarek said.

Since its beginning in 1992, Chicago Shares has provided thousands of vouchers which the disadvantaged can exchange for food or other items.  Ann Klocke, 76, pastoral assistant at Holy Name, set to work modeling this organization that addressed the concerns of the donors while meeting the needs of the homeless after reading about a similar project in Berkeley, Calif.

“I was on my way over here for an evening meeting, and four different times people asked me for money. You wish you could do something for these folks, and everyone should have dinner,” Klocke said.

For Ron Polaniecki, 61, volunteer and board member of Chicago Shares, the simplicity of the organization is most appealing.

“I thought it was a very innovative and simple solution to something that always bothered me– how to give something to a person on the street without fumbling for cash or pulling out my wallet, and how to be sure that the recipient would use my money for food, and not alcohol or drugs,” Polaniecki said.

It was in 2000 that Kaczmarek joined the Chicago Shares team as a co-executive director, but a passion for serving those in need stems from his upbringing in the Catholic faith.

“My work with Chicago Shares offers me the opportunity to serve God’s people in a small way by helping to feed some of the hungry poor,” Kaczmarek said.

His work at Holy Name extends to the Right of Christian Initiation for Adults, helping adults become members of the Catholic Church.

Kaczmarek also devotes some time to Learning Ally, a Chicago organization that records text books for blind and dyslexic students.  He is a supporter of a number of organizations and charities such as UNICEF, and is a freedom writer for Amnesty International.

Richard Kaczmarek

In May 2010, Kaczmarek became president of Chicago Shares, replacing its founder, Klocke.

“He has brought very good order to us.  He also has a really big heart and loves very much to help the needy,” Klocke said.

Kaczmarek notes that the needs of disadvantaged and homeless Chicagoans extends beyond spare change.

“Addiction control, education, finding a home, finding a job—those are long term,” Kaczmarek said.  “But they have got to have something to eat today, and that’s where Chicago Shares comes in.”

If you would like more information on Chicago Shares or how to purchase vouchers, visit www.chicagoshares.org or call 312-573-4494.

Mac Kelly’s

We have participated in the shares for food program for over 5 years. We have found it an excellent way to help hungry people get something to eat. We are proud to offer needy people our quality products, in a convenient, clean environment. Thus far, there have been no problems with our patrons. We appreciate the simple and very reliable process of redeeming our vouchers for a reimbursement check. The system works very well.

We recommend the Chicago Shares program to other convenience outlets, and vendors. It is very easy to participate.

It makes good sense to accept Chicago Shares.

Bryan McNamara
General Manager
Mac Kelly’s
123 West Madison
Chicago,IL 60601

Chicago Shares President Rich Kaczmarek Presents a Grant to Trish Kholodenko, Director of the Chicago Dream Center.

Chicago Shares President Rich Kaczmarek presents a grant to Trish Kholodenko, Director of the Chicago Dream Center.

On June, 2011 Chicago Shares President Rich Kaczmarek presented a grant of $3,500 to Trish Kholodenko, Director of the Chicago Dream Center. She was very grateful for the contribution and presented Rich with a letter of gratitude:

Chicago Shares Awards $7000 in Grants

Chicago Shares is pleased to announce that grants of $3500.00 each have been awarded to Franciscan Outreach Association (1645 W LeMoyne Street)  and Chicago Dream Center (1636 N California Avenue).

Funds for such grants are available because approximately 20% of the vouchers we sell are never redeemed. Since Chicago Shares does not have any paid staff and few administrative expenses, we accumulate funds that are not needed to reimburse participating merchants or for other expenses. Our board of directors has mandated that such funds be donated to organizations whose mission, like ours, includes the feeding of hungry people.

Therefore, buyers of Chicago Shares vouchers can always be assured that their money will help hungry people, primarily through redemption of the vouchers, and secondarily through grants to organizations that also serve the hungry poor.

Mike Kraynak has been selected as a new co-executive director of Chicago Shares

Chicago Shares is pleased to announce that Mike Kraynak has been selected to replace Richard Kaczmarek as co-executive director of the organization. Kaczmarek continues as president. Julie Stagliano is the other co executive director.
Mike’s selection is subject to approval by the Chicago Shares board of directors.

Chicago Shares' co-executive director, Mike Kraynak

 

Mike has been a Chicago Shares volunteer since 2002. He has served as merchant- liaison to several merchants, new merchant recruiter, and coordinator of voucher sales at Holy Name Cathedral.
Mike is employed by the U.S. Government’s General Services Administration(GSA) and recently served a seven month volunteer assignment for GSA in Afghanistan.