MORRIS – While many people choose to stay wrapped up under a warm blanket in front of their TV during the recent polar vortex, a handful of people have been braving the cold to make sure everyone has somewhere warm to sleep.
Don Trejo has been volunteering as a site coordinator for P.A.D.S., Public Action to Deliver Sustenance, since they opened their nightly shelter in various churches in Morris six years ago.
“It’s about compassion,” Trejo said. “I don’t want anyone to sleep in the cold. I don’t do it for the thanks, I do it because I don’t want anyone to freeze to death.”
Freezing to death is a real possibility this year, and is one of the main reasons P.A.D.S. president Brent Newman not only volunteers on the board, but also has gotten up in the middle of the night to work at the shelter.
“Winter months are so brutally cold that people literally die,” Newman said.
It takes 300 volunteers a month to keep P.A.D.S. running.
“Anybody can do it,” Denise Gaska, executive director of We Care of Grundy County said. “They just need to come and sit so someone has a place to be warm.”
Joe Alaimo, a current guest of P.A.D.S., came to the shelter after his basement flooded knocking out power and the water heater in a house that was due to be foreclosed anyway.
“All the people that work at P.A.D.S. are nice people and they do the best for you,” Alaimo said. “In the daytime I can go to McDonald’s, a warming shelter or the library, but at night I’m thankful there is a church to go to.
“It means a whole lot that people take the time out of their night to make sure we have a warm, safe place to sleep and plenty to eat.”
For some guests P.A.D.S. is just a stop over to a better life.
Mike McGuire was living in Joliet when he landed a job in Morris. With no where to stay, P.A.D.S. allowed him a warm bed at night and a hot breakfast before going to work each day.
“I never thought about programs like this until I ended up here,” McGuire said.
By his second week at work they changed his shift from days to over nights and again he was stuck with no where to sleep.
“I would work midnights and then go to McDonald’s and slept a little bit while I was there, but I was afraid they would kick me out,” he said.
A couple of volunteers got together and gave him the money to get a room until he got his first check.
“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” McGuire said. “It was the week of Christmas and it’s not a good time to be homeless.”
McGuire has a home of his own now, but still goes to P.A.D.S. most nights where he is able to get a hot meal and one of the other homeless guests gives him a ride to work.
“It works out for us,” he said. “I”m able to help him with gas money and he makes sure I get to work on time.”
Gaska said often times the guests get together and help one another out.
“We’ve had quite a few success stories,” Gaska said. “A good number, especially toward the end of the season they get jobs or move. We had a whole car load one year get together and move to Texas to find work at the end of the season.”
Gaska said she hears many people who worry about where the homeless will go during the day, but until they get the nights solidly covered it’s hard to address the day time issues.
While there is a need for volunteers each night of the week, Gaska said Saturday and Thursday nights are the most troublesome nights to get covered.
“We’re averaging about ten people a night, which is higher than it has been,” Gaska said.
To volunteer at P.A.D.S. call We Care of Grundy County at 815-942-6389.