By Mike Hogan, Dignity/Chicago
Dignity/Chicago chapter members who attended the recent national Convention in Minneapolis were inspired by the justice theme that permeated every aspect of the Convention experience. We asked ourselves what we could do to put that message into action.
One of the chapter members volunteers at the Lakeview Food Pantry, which has been operating for many years. It offers a variety of services, in addition to distributing food to needy folks in the area. It operates six days a week with two locations, one of which includes the “Boystown” neighborhood where the chapter meets for weekly worship and community-building. This Chicago neighborhood is considered “upscale” and affluent by many, yet we witnessed first-hand the extent of the need of those who rely on this food assistance on a regular basis, people whom we may not know, but who are our neighbors.
We decided that preparing the baskets of food for home delivery would be a good project. We met at the pantry the second Saturday of September, ready to offer our service. In addition to the obvious direct help we provided, two unexpected benefits occurred.
First, we were present as members of Dignity/Chicago, and the people who were with us learned more about who we are, and saw us as contributing members to the local community. The second benefit as a chapter was that those who volunteered enjoyed a meal following our service. It provided time for us to get to know one another better. This whole experience served as a meaningful way to build community.
An activity like this is something that any chapter, large or small, can do. The chapter doesn’t have to sponsor a program or run it. We were able to connect with an existing activity that supported needs present in our community. While we continue to look at other opportunities for outreach and service, our group agreed to commit to staff this activity the sec- ond Saturday of every month as our ongoing commitment to community service.
We believe one experience of service like this leads to another. We are currently planning how the chapter will be supporting efforts to secure marriage equality in the state of Illinois, by helping with phone banking and participating in a Rally Day for Marriage Equality in Springfield on October 22.
Justice flowed like a river from Minneapolis to Chicago, and our chapter and the surrounding community is the better for it.