Monday, December 7, 2015

Giving Thanks

Stephanie Kuipers

With Thanksgiving just behind us and Christmas fast approaching, we’ve reached the time of year where we're all called to reflect on what we’re thankful for. When you’re working with people who have less than you do, it’s not hard to come up with answers to that question. I’m obviously lucky to have been born into the stable situation that I was, and I’m lucky that so far, I haven’t faced any major threat to that stability.

Scotty making coffee for our guests.
But, even though there's certainly nothing wrong with being thankful for what I have, I’ve always hoped that my service experience would be more than just a fuel for my gratitude about my own life. It would somehow feel cheap if the guests were merely reminders to me of how thankful I am for my privilege. And it’s worked out so far, because they are much more than that.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been touched by the thoughtfulness of the people I serve here. Helping me carry loads of laundry up the stairs, asking me if I’m okay as I awkwardly try to de-escalate a conflict, surprising me with a candle on my birthday, gladly serving dinner with us when we’re short on part-time volunteers – these are just a few examples of the compassion I experience daily, even when I do little to earn it.

I used to be taken aback to see this kindness from our guests. Then I realized that my surprise revealed my own false assumptions about people living in poverty. If I were without a home, or struggling to take care of myself and my family, or spending days with people passing me by in the street – if I was in survival mode – I always thought I wouldn’t have any emotional capacity left to empathize with strangers. If I ate at a soup kitchen, I imagined that the staff working there would be the last thing on my mind, so I assumed it would be the same for the people I serve. But guests continually show me how wrong I was, how much they do think about us. I talk about “the people I serve,” but they serve me at least as much as I serve them, and in ways that go deeper than supplying food and clothes.

The other full-time volunteers that I work and live with are likewise impactful, and I can’t write about thankfulness without mentioning them. I love being part of a community that cares about our guests at least as much as I do. Seeing my fellow volunteers consistently handle difficult situations with patience and compassion makes it easier for me to do the same. Struggling through the gray areas that come with working in emergency services is less overwhelming when others are there to process it with you. That’s not to say there are never any challenges that come with living in a house full of 11 people. But if it weren’t for our community, I have no doubt that the year would be much harder for me than it is.

Thanksgiving community night.

That is what I’m thankful for: all of the beautiful human beings I’ve met here. And I could still go on to include former volunteers who continue to be a support network for us, or staff members who make us feel welcomed and valued, or part-time volunteers who donate their time and meals to the kitchen. It turns out that the most powerful part of this experience is simply the people it brings into your life, and I know I’ll continue to be thankful for that long after the year ends.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Day in the Life: Kitchen Edition

Katie Bauser

The Marquard Soup Kitchen…a place where not only people go to get a meal, shower, or laundry, but also to see familiar faces and feel welcomed and cared about. Working in the soup kitchen is a blessing that I wish everyone could experience. We not only get to provide services to our guests, but get to know them for who they are and not just what society perceives them to be.

It is extremely rewarding to do the work that we do because you know that people are relying on you for their needs. Our days can definitely get crazy, but it is the smiles and words of appreciation that you get to see and hear every single day that make it worth it.

So what is a day in the kitchen really like? It is filled with so much more than just cooking...

Katie shows off the kitchen's biggest ladle!

We start in the kitchen at 11am every day and have 3-4 of us full-time volunteers working. On Mondays and Fridays, we get some bread, peanut butter, jelly, snacks, etc. ready for lunch. At 12pm, guests are allowed in the building and can sign up for laundry and a shower. One person begins on getting laundry and will do a maximum of 10 loads. 

Aileen finishing up a load of laundry.

Women's showers begin right away and one of us facilitates them. The guests are allowed to make themselves a lunch and hang out in the dining hall from 12pm-3pm on Mondays and Fridays during showers. Once women's showers are done, the men begin, and someone else facilitates that.

While all of that is going on, someone else is in the kitchen preparing dinner. Common main dishes may include casseroles, Italian beef, BBQ chicken, ham over rice and beans, or spaghetti. We work until 3pm to get the meal prepared, and then from 3pm to 4pm, we go on break. 

Heating food is serious business.

Once we come back down at 4pm, we complete any last-minute things for dinner, such as wrapping silverware, setting up tables, cooking any quick food, etc. Part-time volunteers arrive around 4:30pm, and they serve the food. We try to open doors for our guests at 4:15pm so they can come in, get a number, and watch TV or hang out.

Katherine checks to see whether the chicken is up to temp.

A group of part-time volunteers begin to serve dinner.

Dinner goes from 5pm to 6:30pm and guests are called in by their number, which they receive when they sign in. We typically serve 90-120 people but it can get up to 140. I love dinner time because you get to see all the guests come in and get a good meal. It’s nice because we also get time to talk with them and see how their day was.

Katie and Enrique ready to greet guests during intake.

Once dinner ends at 6:30pm, we clean up the kitchen and make sure everything is put away for the next day. We typically finish around 7pm.

Typical note-writing exchange with one of our maintenance guys, Scotty.

We serve dinner every single day of the year, weekends and holidays included. Our laundry service is on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Guests can come and take a shower on Mondays and Fridays. We also get clothing donations so we can provide guests with clothes as needed. It’s a busy place, but the services are definitely needed and get well-used.

At the end of the day, it is our guests that motivate me and make me excited to come to work. To be such a consistent face to so many people is such a reward. My eyes, heart, and mind have been opened in ways that only this experience could create, and for that, I’m forever grateful and blessed.

Group picture of the 2015-16 kitchen crew.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Working for a World Without Soup Kitchens

Aileen Mae Ryan

Growing up, I never worried about not having enough food. Every time I opened the pantry, my favorite meals were plentiful – pasta, bananas, PB&J sandwiches. I could eat whatever and whenever I wanted.

Three months into my service year at the Marquard soup kitchen, I’m rethinking my relationship with food. For too many of our guests, food is not plentiful; food is impossible, because it costs too much for guests to make their own dinners. For too many, their dinner at the Marquard is the first time they’ve eaten all day. Many don’t know what or when their next meal will be – quite a different experience than eating whatever and whenever.

Although I can’t change my privileged relationship with food, I can change my understanding of our guests’ relationships. On one hand, I understand that the food I make genuinely helps our guests. Whether I’m baking casseroles, chopping apples, or shredding chicken, I know our guests will directly benefit. Since we’re open for dinner every night of the year, I know our guests can count on me and my fellow volunteers. Our guests are some of the kindest and most compassionate individuals I’ve ever met, and I’m honored to work with such wonderful human beings.

On the other hand, even though my work feels meaningful, I wish this line of work wasn’t needed in the first place. I wish our guests didn’t have to survive on soup kitchens. I wish they could afford meals for themselves and for their families. It’s like I’m constantly throwing life rafts to sinking ships; if the ships didn’t keep sinking, we wouldn’t need any life rafts.

Knowing that people are starving on the streets, I know that I must keep serving at Franciscan Outreach. At the same time, I don’t need to accept that people are drowning. I don’t need to accept that the ships will always sink.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What Makes a Place a Home?

Emily Davis

On July 20th, I left the place I had considered home for 21 years to find a new one. I moved halfway across the country and took a giant leap of faith. Moving in and getting to know my new community, city, and work was overwhelming and definitely an adjustment. 11 new people. Different countries. personalities. stories. We all had a lot to learn. 

During opening retreat and orientation, we talked about values, spirituality, and groceries. As well as, CPR, identity, and homelessness. Throughout all of these things and my first few nights working in the shelter, I found myself reflecting on the meaning of the word "home". All of my life I had considered my beautiful, suburban yellow house in Bowie, Maryland, home and while I did go to college and consider that a home for awhile, it was not my home. So what made this place my home? Was it because I was born there? Or because it is where my family lives? What happens when I move to a new house? Is that home?

As I attempted to answer all of these questions, I realized how much of my identity I had tied to that yellow house and how leaving it and finding a new home had been difficult for me. However, what was most difficult about this realization, was recognizing what my definition of home would mean for those who are homeless. In facing the many challenges that had led the guests we serve to homelessness, what else were they dealing with because they lost their home? If leaving my home, with the ability to build a new one was so hard for me, what was losing a home like for our guests?

This realization lead me to recognize the importance of providing our guests, not only with basic shelter, but also with hospitality. Franciscan Outreach has made it possible for us to be a part of providing shelter and given us the opportunity to create a new type of home for our guests. We have to help them to find some refuge from whatever they are dealing with. And just as my community members are helping me to rebuild a new home, I am there for the ladies at the Franciscan House. Hopefully, this year I will build incredible relationships with the ladies and become someone they can depend on. We will be together for holidays and hard times and I am more than excited to walk along their journeys with them. We are all building a new home and a new family together.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meet the 2015- 2016 Community!

Full of laughter, compassion, and personality, we present to you the many characters that make up the 2015-2016 Franciscan Outreach Community

2015-16 Community-Back Row (L to R): Enrique, Rob, Tim, and Dan.
Front Row: Katherine, Konny, Aileen, Stephanie K, Emily, and Katie.

Stephanie Japczyk, originally from Chicago, is serving as this year’s Community Assistant. After graduating from Marquette University, where she studied International Affairs, Spanish, and Peace Studies/Conflict Resolution, she joined the Border Servant Corps program and served as an Economic Justice Advocate in Texas. Last year, she completed a service year with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Chicago where she served as the Program Assistant at the Chicago Religious Leadership Network.

Serving at the Marquard Center we have:

Katherine Pashkevich grew up just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduated from Auburn University in Alabama, majoring in English. Like a true southern girl, she loves SEC football and sweet tea!

In addition to serving others through her time at Franciscan Outreach, Aileen Ryan, from South Elgin, Illinois, loves writing poetry and spending time in prayer and meditation. Her faith keeps her grounded, while poetry lets her fly. Fun fact about Aileen: in her dreams she is always flying; it’s rare for her feet to ever touch the ground.

Stephanie Kuipers joins us from Lansing, Illinois. She graduated in 2013 from Valparasio University with a degree in Psychology. She is very passionate about disability rights. A fun fact about Stephanie is that she was homeschooled until junior year of high school, and then went to a small school with only 80 students total.  

Enrique Juan Paredes Gebhard is from Nuremburg, Germany. While he grew up in Germany, his father is actually from Chile! Enrique enjoys spending his time playing sports, hanging out with his friends, and maintaining his many beehives.

Katie Bauser a.k.a. Kbau$ is from Atlanta and a graduate from Georgia State University. She loves the city life and being a social butterfly. One day she hopes to travel abroad and help children in orphanages.

And at the Franciscan House of Mary and Joseph we have:

Tim Husting is from small town in the southwest of Germany. He loves sports and playing bass. In Germany, he played in a soccer club and hopes to be able to keep that up in Chicago. He is looking forward to a fun year at Franciscan Outreach!

Rob Schaumburg comes all the way from Wuppertal, Germany (the only town which transported a baby elephant in an overhead-railway and it fell down – it survived though). Making people smile even when they have no reason to is his dedication. In 2013, he spent a year in Houston, TX working with criminal juveniles and CPS kids in a second chance facility called Gulf Coast Trade Center. His hobbies are boxing and playing videogames. He is also known for his endless love for chicken, because when he feels bad, that’s his soul medicine. 

Konny Dick is from a small town near Kiel in the North of Germany. She just graduated from high school and enjoyed vaulting, a form of gymnastics on a horse. Konny also likes to hang out with friends and meet new people. That’s why she was interested in a year in a community. Also, she occasionally has a dark sense of humor that is used most often against cats.

Emily Davis is from Bowie, MD and just graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University with a degree in International Studies. She enjoys basketball and words of encouragement, which is great considering she was on her University’s cheerleading team. Emily tends to fill her free time with friends and laughter. She enjoys intellectual conversation, knitting, and swimming; however, the Red Cross would warn against doing all three simultaneously. Aside from laughter and jokes, her true joy comes from her relationship with Christ and sharing him with others. She looks forward to future and the many opportunities that lie ahead; trusting in His plan.

Daniel Adrat is an eligible bachelor from New York. He received his degree in sociology from the majestic hills of St. Bonaventure University, where the friars and rowdy college students exist in perfect harmony. He loves eating and drinking unhealthy things and going to baseball games and sometimes does both at the same time. He loves to meet new people and serving is a great way to do so. His mom calls him her S-U-N.

Back Row (L to R): Konny, Stephanie K, Aileen, Katie, Emily and Katherine.
Front Row: Enrique, Tim, Dan, and Rob. 

To keep this us all year, continue to read our blog, like our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Living & Serving in the Way of St. Francis

Exciting News!!!

We published a book in collaboration with Franciscan Service Network and Franciscan Passages!  There are 4 entries from FOV alums (Mike Callahan, Hannah Pinter, Emily Ford, and Zach Buchel).  This is a powerful reflection took connecting the writings of St. Francis with the practical, lived reality of service and community life!
"Current volunteers will find in this book an invaluable tool as they reflect on their weeks, months or year of service.  Alumni of year of service programs will recall their ministry and experiences.  People considering volunteer service will read that each of us can perform extraordinary service when we volunteer as a community." -From the Introduction

There are three ways to purchase a copy:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Everyone has a Story


"Everyone has a story." This poster has been plastered on my wall since the beginning of my year of service--a constant reminder of every interaction I have with anyone. whether I'm connecting with guests, fellow volunteers, or members of the larger community, this is something that is always int he back of my mind.  Everyone has a story.

I've changed a lot throughout this year. Actually, I don't think I've necessarily changed, but I've definitely been allowed to blossom and become my real and authentic self. This experience was my first time living far from home. Hailing from Massachusetts and going to college a little over an hour away doesn't really count. I visited home and my family twice throughout the year--once near Halloween, and once for Easter. Spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with the guests I served and members of my volunteer community are celebrations and moments I will always remember. I am forever grateful for the communities I've become a part of.

When I think about community, a few things come to mind.  Firstly, I've been living intentionally with twelve other volunteers. This community has been a pillar of support for me that has proven to be unbreakable; and we've experienced a year of service that not many others will ever come to understand. Secondly, I think of the ladies in the dorm.  Spending night after night at the shelter and making connections with the women facing homelessness is an experience that I will cherish forever. I have become a part of a beautiful community of women who have faced many challenges throughout their lives, and because of that, have incredible strength and courage. The support and love and belonging I feel with the wonderful humans I have met this year feels so indescribable. I have been welcomed into a second home.

Serving forty-five women experiencing the precariousness of homelessness was not easy.  But I would not trade this experience for anything. If I'm being honest, the ladies I made deep connections with are the reasons I kept going back night after night. Suddenly, my job wasn't about "helping" people. I wanted to go to the shelter to see Trudy's smiling face, or get a big hug from Yolanda, or see just how grateful the ladies were when I had towels for them to shower and ice cold water in the cooler. My job became being part of a web of support for the ladies, validating their feelings, encouraging them to go to treatment or sign their lease. It became sharing moments of sadness, hearing abut incredible trauma, and still seeing them as women worthy and deserving of love and life. It became about making art together, sharing cookies, and dancing to the radio.

The truth is that I have gained so much from the women I have met.  They have taught me to be strong, to keep going, and never give up. they have taught me to laugh at the little things, to thank the Universe for the life I've got, and stand up for what I believe in. I am so lucky to come from a place of privilege, that my parents have supported me every step of the way, and that I am not a paycheck away from homelessness, or that I am not stuck in a low-wage job unable to pay rent. I am so incredibly grateful and appreciative of that reality.

When you get to the bottom of it, we're all just humans. Whether we're homeless, addicted to drugs, mentally ill, all three or none at all--we're all humans. We all have a story, a reason why we are the way we are. Our families created us, our educations and socioeconomic statuses created us, the systems in place in this country have shaped us; and as long as we recognize that, and see people coming from different places, I think there are always great connections to be made. And that is what I've learned during my year with Franciscan Outreach Volunteers. Everyone has a story.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Providing Comfort

By Cara Ugolino

From my AmeriCorps year at Franciscan Outreach Volunteers, I have learned the importance of providing comfort to our guests throughout the day. 

I learned quickly that individuals experiencing homelessness do not have the luxury of comfort. I saw this through the daily stories from our guests. From the constant fear of being attacked during the night for one's spot under a bridge. To homeless women experiencing an extreme lack of comfort when they have their periods, and have limited access to expensive feminine products. To homeless individuals having a constant awareness that at any moment, the police can decide to kick them out of any public place for just existing. To having to put trust into strangers helping you when it comes to housing opportunities, dinner, laundry services etc., when so often you are used to doing things on your own. Individuals experiencing homelessness are made to feel uncomfortable every single day.

One guest that I worked with confided in me that she happened to be a transgender women. Because hormones are so expensive, this woman still had typical physical male characteristics. This is just another example of the lack of comfort homeless individuals often face. She didn’t have the resources to feel comfortable in her own skin. From the beginning we had open communication with her about what would be the most comfortable arrangement for her while using our shower services. We decided together that she would shower in her own bathroom with a woman supervisor on site. It was through this experience that I realized that working in a social service agency, we have the ability to give a client the only comfort that they might experience throughout the day. This woman fears for her life every day due to being homeless and a woman who is transgender, and we have the power to give her a safe space where she can finally feel comfort. My AmeriCorps year made me realize that I will work with LGBTQ homeless individuals, and I will do everything in my power to provide a safe and comfortable space for individuals living on the margin, that don’t have the privilege of experiencing comfort on a daily basis. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Story


My year of service has felt like a roller coaster of emotions that has had me experience both the lowest lows and the highest highs of my life—sometimes in the same day. I have learned more than I think I can even comprehend at the present time and am so, so very grateful for this experience. I am positive that my year of being an AmeriCorps member in the Franciscan Outreach Volunteer program will greatly influence the rest of my life. There are so many moments and conversations that come to mind when I reflect back on this past year that it would be difficult to focus on simply one. One of the biggest and most important reminders that I have taken away from working so closely with the homeless population in Chicago is that everyone has a story and it is extremely important that we take the time to listen and learn those stories.
I think that it is natural for people to assume that homelessness is a choice, and that it is much easier to get off the streets than it is in reality. By creating awareness, I think we can change the view of homelessness in our society, and in turn homelessness itself. Furthermore, I think we can all afford to be a little kinder and understanding to people, homeless or not.
This year has taught me how to love others better as well as how to love myself better. I have never felt more appreciated and confident in myself. Both the guests that come into the Marquard Center and the other Franciscan Outreach Volunteers have had a positive impact on me and opened my eyes to the diverse backgrounds that they come from.

I have laughed, cried, felt depleted, grown, and changed more than I would have ever imagined was possible in one year. The Marquard Center has become more than a place I live and serve at, it has become my home. The people that come here matter, and the services and hospitality we provide matter. I cannot stress enough how necessary it is that our guests have a place that welcomes them and provides a community when they are so often ignored and turned away. My hope is that they feel known and loved.

This past year wasn’t just a year of service to me; it was about further building a foundation of a lifetime of helping others. I wanted to make a difference to a population that I had not yet fully embraced and been exposed to. This year was about me diving in without reserve and broadening my perspective of the world and the individuals that live in it. I’m leaving my service site even more inspired to make a positive impact on others and confident that I will always have a home and community to come back to at the Marquard Center.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Scholarship Opportunity for Alums!

We're proud to announce a new partnership with Franciscan School of Theology in California to offer partial scholarships to alums of Franciscan Service Network programs, including Franciscan Outreach Volunteers!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time Spent Together


While it isn’t as often as we would like, where all 12 of us are together at the same time, Wednesdays are our day. In the afternoon we have reflection time together at 2 pm, and when the soup kitchen volunteers get out of work at 7 pm we have community night. We get the whole gang together. 

People often ask: 

-What do you all do on your free time when you aren’t working at the shelter or soup kitchen?

-Where have you explored in Chicago?

Below we have answers through pictures that we have taken to capture our Wednesday memories.

-Scavenger hunt through Wicker Park!

-Easter Dinner!

-Easter Egg Dying!

-Bowling night!

-Community night including pizza, a walk to Bee and Tea, and watching Jaws!

-Joy & Gratitude themed reflection!

-Italian Renaissance at dusk themed community night!

Pumpkin Carving!

Dip Challenge! 

A Community favorite! (Trips to the lake at night)

Community night to Second City! 


Dinner in Pilsen!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Fight To End Homelessness

Brett Tucker

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take place in Chicago’s annual point-in-time homeless count. One night each year, volunteers canvas all of Chicago in order to count and locate the city’s homeless. This information is then used to help determine what funding and resources local agencies will receive. During the count groups search hospitals, bus stations, alleyways, homeless shelters, and more during about a five-hour span. All volunteers receive training before the count begins, and so I gathered with 15 others at the Night Ministry in Ravenswood, where we discussed techniques and tips as well as divided into our groups for the evening. I was assigned to the Lincolnwood neighborhood, along with former FOA volunteer Patrick and Dave, a city employee. The three of us headed out at about 9pm, with stacks of surveys and a box full of gloves and scarves in hand.  

We arrived at our location and began driving the side streets in search of anyone who might be homeless. After about 30 minutes, it became apparent that we weren’t going to see anyone on the streets that night. Our area was highly residential, several blocks from any restaurants, businesses, or other public areas. We ended up driving for over two hours without recording a single homeless person.

Instead of letting this discourage us, Dave took the time to give us an overview of homelessness in Chicago. As an employee of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, Dave has taken part in the count for the past several years. Part of his job includes researching homelessness for the city, so he provided a unique insight into how homelessness operates in Chicago. He talked about the approximately 6,000 homeless individuals in the city, and the how the majority live on the streets, unable to find space in a shelter. He also talked about the various challenges homeless individuals often face, from mental health issues and physical disabilities to employment challenges and language barriers.  

As Dave spoke, he reminded me of the conversations I’ve had with the other full time volunteers. We talk often about the need for collaboration, for organizations to focus on what they’re good at and to allow others to work according to their strengths and passions. No one can end homelessness alone; we all have a part to play. The end of homelessness will be closest when we realize this fact, and share resources and collaborate with others who ultimately have the same goal that we do. 

Throughout my time at Franciscan Outreach, I’ve often been frustrated by my inability to give someone housing or provide them with a job. It’s easy to feel like we do little to help our guests in a meaningful way. My conversation with Dave helped me connect my role to the larger fight to end homelessness. The support we provide through meals and conversation is a vital step in helping someone end a life on the streets. I may not be able to give someone housing, but I can provide a little comfort along the way. We all have a part to play, and I’m beginning to see how my work here is part of the larger picture.