In my life, I have learned there are people whose live's are so perfect they tend to invent problems and conflicts just to get attention and make their lives appear to be a bit more interesting.
Then there is Clara Kirk.
At 72 years old, with little means of her own, this beautiful little woman with a heart of goodness and kindness, continues to help those who otherwise would literally go without. And no, not go without luxury cars or the latest electronic gadget, but literally without food and shelter.
Clara - recently honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Illinois African American Family Commission - founded Clara's Place and Clara’s House 26 years ago in Chicago’s struggling Englewood Neighborhood. Here, with minimal resources, she does her best to provide food and shelter to abused and homeless women and children.
I recently became aware of Clara when last month local news outlets reported that she owed tens of thousands of dollars to the gas company in order to get the heat turned back on at both shelters housing dozens of destitute women and children.
Then today, Clara said that a stranger, who asked to remain anonymous, simply called her on the telephone and said (they) wanted to donate the $33,000 owed to get the heat turned back on at both shelters.
“They dont want any recognition, they don’t want their names attached, they just wanted me to say thank, and I do, I thank them very much," she said in a recent phone interview. "(The donation) made me feel like I was on top of the world. I’m still in business ... God has sent me someone to take the reigns and help me from the struggling position I was in and give me breathing room, and (help me to) move forward.
Clara believes a higher power put that phone call into action.
“ Without God I would have had no help,” she said.
Clara, who worked her way up from a school bus attendant to a teacher’s aide in the Chicago Public School system, is the mother of five children, grandma, and great-grandma to so many little ones she couldn’t recall the number.
She has lived in her beloved Englewood community since 1974 where she and her late husband Hughie, began caring for the neighborhood children early on.
With no income for herself, no paid employees, Clara who also serves as a pastor at the Universal Temple-Christ, 5539 Damen Ave. in Chicago, says she will continue to live and work in the community she loves.
Though this is not the first time, and likely not the the last time the shelters have or will have had financial troubles.
In a google search I found a number of stories over the years about Clara fighting to keep her shelters open.
If Clara can stay in there and keep fighting the good fight, then we all can do our part.
I have always believed that phrase "There but for the Grace of God, go I" and once again that phrase has popped into my head.
I have a roof over my head and my children have all that they need, but at anytime, I know that could all go away.
So, I asked Clara what could I ask my readers to do to help Clara’s House and Clara’s Place.
“Whatever a house needs, believe me I need that,” she responded. “I would be so appreciative."
Here is a list of what she needs to care for the women and children she shelters:
- money - grants, donations, fundraising events
- food of all kinds - but number one need, Clara said, is meats for families to cook hardy dinners, as well as any other dinner, lunch or breakfast foods and fruits and vegetables.
- cleaning supplies
- shampoos and conditioners
Clara said the shelter van, used to drive the women and children around, also is in great need of repairs including new brakes. Clara’s own personal vehicle was stolen last year and she has yet to buy a new one, so she uses the van as well.
(Remember, the holidays are coming and Clara also needs help in making the holidays special for her homeless families.)
“I am so grateful and thankful for all the donations I have received regardless of who they came from, where they came from and how they came...I am mighty, mighty grateful, so are the children from Clara’s House and Clara’s Place.”
Still with the struggling community that surrounds her home and all of its strife and financial woes, Clara says she will never leave.
"I love God, I love the community and I love children,” she says of her motivation to remain in Englewood.
Those who want to donate may do so by calling Clara at her office at 773-778-2811 or drop off or mail donations to:
1650 West 63rd Street
Chicago, Illinois 60636
So next time we fret over what we don’t have, let’s ask ourselves do we have a roof over our heads? Do our children have all that they need? Are we warm? Are we fed? Are we safe?
Until next time love each other....Bittersweet
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