By Larry Sachs
Federal, state and municipal governments operate costly “safety-net” programs, but many who need our help slip through the cracks and have to rely on a second tier of services (e.g., emergency shelter, clothing and food; youth tutoring, mentoring and structured activities in safe places; employment support; childcare) provided by a dedicated but under-funded not-for-profit (NFP) sector of faith and community-based organizations. Chicago’s large and small NFPs deliver essential and life-affirming services that mitigate conditions underlying poverty and crime while giving people hope for a brighter future. NFPs, by nature of their origins and missions, have boots on the ground, a finger on the pulse of the communities they serve, and an intimate understanding of how best to help people in need.
We have one of Chicago’s most historic, “devoted to service,” selfless and long-serving NFPs within LCA boundaries. The St. Vincent de Paul Center at the corner of Halsted and Webster (the current building opened its doors in 2002) merged with the Marillac Social Center in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood in 2002 to become “Marillac St. Vincent Family Services” (MSV). People in need who are both within and beyond LCA borders have been receiving vital safety-net services at the Lincoln Park MSV location for over 100 years!
I recently had the heartwarming experience of touring MSV’s Lincoln Park location with their President and CEO, Peter Beale-DelVecchio, to learn about their local and West Side services. Though their extensive programming cannot be fully covered in this brief article, I’ll highlight a few of their services and invite you to explore their rich and comprehensive website at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services (marillacstvincent.org) to learn about their history, philosophy, mission, and programs – and opportunities for us to help them help people in need.
- Early Childhood Programs: A colorful and purpose-built learning environment, playground and gymnasium serves children aged birth to 3 and pre-school 3 to 5, and provides before and after school care and full-day summer camp for school-aged children. The DePaul College of Education trains MSV educators and support staff to recognize and respond to developmental issues and ensure that children are served by best practices.
- Family Support: Employment services; access to public benefits; crisis management; clothing vouchers for job seekers; and assistance with education goals.
- Senior Care: Intensive Case Advocacy; Companion Services; home food delivery services.
- Food Pantry: Open Tue & Thu, 9am-12pm and affiliated with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. No pre-qualification requirements are necessary to access MSV food services.
- Nearly New Thrift Store: Accepts tax deductible donations of clothing, household items, etc.; all proceeds directly benefit the full range of programs available at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services.
- East Garfield Park Location: Offers most of the services listed above as well as additional services to youth, families, and seniors. These resources include Project Hope, a comprehensive program for pregnant girls and young women ages 12-24 and young parents; Take Charge for seniors; and Chicago’s first AT&T Connected Learning Center offering individual and group computer instruction on the fastest high speed internet available.
As concerned and involved citizens, we must look for and act upon opportunities to achieve a vision of government and community working together more effectively in “co-producing” healthy, thriving and safe places where all Chicagoans can live, work and play. One such opportunity is to help Marillac St. Vincent Family Services provide essential services to both nearby and more distant Chicago neighbors in need of our support. Of course LCA encourages you to support MSV services financially by going to their donation page: Donate to Marillac St. Vincent Family Services (marillacstvincent.org) but you can also learn about their many short and longer-term volunteer opportunities here: Volunteer (marillacstvincent.org) or by calling their Volunteer Manager, Colleen Mulcrone, at 312.278.4273.
We’re in this together! Please support Marillac St. Vincent Family Services and other not-for-profit organizations doing good work in and for our communities as best you can – and please stay safe, get to know your neighbors, and take good care of each other!