Society of St. Vincent de Paul Chicago

SVdP Helps Kids Get Ready for New School Year

The visible work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is personal service to the poor. Nowhere was this more evident than at the SVdP District 9 back to school event held at St. Gall Parish in Chicago.


More than 60 Society members, volunteers and sponsors came together and distributed free school supplies and food to approximately 960 needy families, including 1,800 children, on August 20, 2014 in the St. Gall Parish parking lot at 5513 South Sawyer Avenue. 

"There's such a need in the neighborhood. These people are barely making it. A lot of them are working people, but they just don't have enough funds to provide the necessary school supplies for their children," said Barbara Lakomiak, president of District 9.

Mid-August hazy sun and heat did not deter families who waited in a line that stretched three blocks long. They came from all over the area—Ashland to Narragansett and from 65th to 28th street.

Back to school essentials such as backpacks, folders, and pencils were distributed to children in grades one through 12. Children in need of a trim were even treated to the traditional back to school haircut courtesy of Lucy De La Luz Beauty Shop. "I'm just so grateful that what we talk about in church and what we teach in school is put into practice here," said St. Gall Pastor Gary Graf. "St. Vincent de Paul allows the church to be alive and well—and seen—allowing us to put into practice, our faith," he said. 

A separate food line for families in need provided fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, cereal, snack bars, canned goods, and meat. 

Donations came from many other St. Vincent de Paul parish conferences, individuals, and businesses such as Five Below in Countryside who donated $600 worth of school supplies. Supportive individuals like Alderman Edward Burke stopped by to mingle with the families and volunteers, and toured the recently renovated SVdP District 9 food pantry at St. Gall. "Anyone who sees this has to be impressed. The folks who volunteer with this group are really God's angels," he said.

For many years, Alderman Burke has been a generous donor and supporter of the food pantry allowing St. Vincent de Paul to help those in need in the community, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This was the eighth year the SVdP District 9 food pantry and several other SVdP conferences joined together at St. Gall to help families get their children ready for the new school year. But every week, families who are struggling to make ends meet must rely on the food pantry here. The St. Gall pantry serves approximately 500 families a week or 7,000 individuals a month.

"Most of the people are from this area, but we don't have borders; we don't close this pantry to anyone who is hungry; we just help them out," said Liz Arreola, founder and director of the SVdP District 9 food pantry.

To donate food or make a financial contribution to the St. Vincent de Paul District 9 food pantry and/or annual back to school event, please call 312.655.7182.  

Ald. Ed Burke (center) with St. Gall pantry volunteers Bill Waddell & Liz Arreola 
Stylish backpacks and healthy snacks to start the new school year!  Kids from 6 to 17 received school supplies. 

St. Vincent de Paul Back to School EventSpecial thanks to Al Schoen, M. McDonald and the following SVdP conferences for their generosity: St. Bernadine, St. Catherine, St. Damian, St. Daniels, St. Francis Xavier, St. George, St. James, St. Stephen, St. Symphorosa, St. Turibius, and St. Zachary. 

St. Turibius

Fourth annual back to school event

St. Turibius Back to School EventPens, pencils, notebooks, rulers, crayons, backpacks and other back to school essentials were distributed to 65 school children ages 5 to 18 on July 29, 2014.

"The kids were really excited about getting the backpacks," said Barbara Lakomiak, event coordinator and president of District IX. "And with the extra money this year from the St. Vincent de Paul Tools for Success Program and St. John Brebeuf in Niles, we were able to give them everything on their school list."

35 Vincentians, children and teens helped out including client-friend Kathy Velazquez and her six children. They have been helping Barbara out every year. "Whenever Barb calls and needs help with something, we jump for her. My kids know that if it weren't for Barb and St. Vincent de Paul, there are times we wouldn't have a meal," Velazquez said.

Barbara, wanting no recognition for her efforts quietly goes about procuring all of the school supplies from discount vendors and online resources. "I do it for the kids," she says.

Six conference members from St. John Brebeuf in Niles were also on hand to help out including Bob and Joan Czerlanis. "When we were looking for other parishes to twin with, we chose St. Turibius because we were very impressed with their food pantry operations and what Barb does here. The whole district works well together," Bob said.

St. Turibius is located at 5646 South Karlov Avenue in Chicago. To learn more or to donate please call 312.655.7182. 

St. Turibius back to school event








Joan Czerlanis helps student pick out school supplies








District IX President Barbara Lakomiak making sure everyone gets what they need for the school year


St. Turibius teen volunteers 








Back to school teen volunteers 








St. Turibius students ready for the new school year







St. Gilbert

Vincentians and parishioners from St. Gilbert Parish host first mobile food pantry event

Fresh produce, meats, and non-perishable food items were given to 146 people, representing 544 family members in Grayslake and its surrounding communities on June 28, 2014.

 "Serving over 100 people on the first event is considered a successful day," said the driver of the Northern Illinois Food Bank's mobile pantry.

Funds raised through a special collection at the church provided the $1200 needed to bring the mobile food pantry to St. Gilbert's Parish for a day. The people receiving the food were extremely grateful both for the assistance and the kindness shown to them by the members of St. Gilbert's conference.

St. Gilbert Parish is located at 301 East Belvidere Road in Grayslake, Illinois. To learn more about the mobile food pantry or to make a donation, please call 312.655.7183.

St. Gilbert Mobile Food Pantry Event  St. Gilbert mobile food pantry volunteers  Northern Illinois Food Bank Mobile Pantry