Food and Shelter Team (FAST) 2017-10-03T19:27:06+00:00

Food and Shelter Team

Mission: The Food and Shelter Team (FAST) explores ways to alleviate homelessness and hunger and present meaningful service opportunities and programs toward the goal of further understanding the experience and issues of hunger and homelessness through direct service and education for the UCE congregation.

Food and Shelter Team 2016-17 Brochure

Programs of the Food and Shelter Team

Refugee Sponsorship

Fair Trade Cart

Our Giving House

Soup Kitchens

Bundled Blessings

The Mitten Tree

“Our House” Curt’s Café

A brochure describing the work of Interfaith Action of Evanston and how you can participate: Soup Kitchen Volunteer Flyer


News about the Syrian Refugee Family

The Refugee Team is busy preparing for the arrival of the Haj Khalaf family who will be arriving on Sept. 8th. The family fled from Syria in August of 2012 and have been living in a refugee camp in Turkey since then.  We will soon be welcoming Khaled (the father), Fattoum (the mother), Aya, (their 18-year-old daughter) and Uday (their 14-year-old son). We don’t yet know where their apartment will be located, but Refugee One is working on that now. The Apartment team will be busy cleaning and preparing it and the Furnishings team is ready to move loads of furniture and housewares into their new home. We will welcome the family at the airport and the mentors will start visiting the family and showing them how to do basic tasks such as grocery shopping, shopping for school, using the pharmacy, riding the “L”, etc. Mentors will also arrange for social outings for the family, so they get to know their new home city. We will mentor the family for a 6-month period.

Thanks again to everyone for their generous support (time, money, kind words.)  Additional donations are welcome, simply make a check to UCE with a notation that the donation is for refugee resettlement fund. Thank you, all!

By | September 1st, 2016|Categories: food and shelter team|0 Comments

Syrian Refugee Family Team Needs Volunteers

The team working on sponsorship of the Syrian refugee family is gearing up for the next stage. We’ve raised the necessary funds, now we are gearing up for the arrival of the family in mid-September. But, we still need help!

Mentors: We need 5 more volunteers to sign up for this role. Our mentors will visit the family at least 6-10 times over the next year. Each mentor visits once every other month, although additional visits will be necessary in the first few months. It’s possible that our family won’t need help for an entire year, but we ask that mentors prepare for this possibility.  Mentors will help the family get used to living in the U.S., showing them how to shop in a grocery store, use the CTA, or explain other everyday parts of life. Mentors also arrange for social events to help the family become more familiar with the Chicagoland area and to have fun together.  If you want to ease this family’s transition, please contact Jane Kenamore at [email protected].

Furnishings team: This team had already done a great deal of work, but needs some additional help during the family’s move-in period (most likely mid-September). We need one additional volunteer who would help organize the moving of furniture and housewares into the family’s apartment. For more details, Contact Marilyn Wroblewski at [email protected].

Providing rides to appointments  If you could help take members of the family to appointments with your car. please contact Jeanne Kerl at [email protected].  We are anticipating that they will need this help, so we are asking for several people to be on call.

Many thanks to all of our gracious, generous donors and to the volunteers who have already put in lots of time in preparation for the arrival of the family.

—The Refugee Family team


By | July 21st, 2016|Categories: food and shelter team|0 Comments


The Fair Trade Cart and F.A.S.T. are happy to announce that we are now supporting a new enterprise at Chute School here in Evanston. This is in addition to our yearly donation to help selected Chute families at the holdays. Our contact is UCE member Randy Barrengos who is a social worker at the school and here is what Randy wrote to us to describe this project.

“For the past couple of years, Chute has had a garden club led by two or three dedicated teachers, that had about 12-15 kids attending each week for part of the school year. This year we decided to expand the student’s work in the Chute garden to include other healthy lifestyle activities. Hence, we have renamed our club, Actions For Healthy Eagles Club. (Eagles are our school mascots). At the first meeting, we had 25 students attending. Our club activity that day was picking kale from the garden, and preparing the kale and other ingredients to make healthy smoothies. The kids were totally into it and I was personally surprised how they took a risk and actually drank their smoothies that had healthy kale in them!!!! We also had the students fill out a survey about what they would like to do in the club. We are very excited about our new club and some of the great activities we are putting on the calendar which includes having guest chefs cook with the students, professional yoga teachers for yoga classes, nature walks to the lake, and our list goes on.”

Randy tells us now that the club meets three times each month and averages between twelve and twenty students at each meeting. They have already had sessions with a cook and a yoga instructor. She welcomes ideas, donations, and volunteers who can share a healthy living skill or talent with the students for one or two class sessions. Contact Joan Retzloff at [email protected] to share your ideas for the club.

By | June 12th, 2016|Categories: fair-trade, food and shelter team|0 Comments
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More Information


September/October: Welcome Kits –Regular size soap, toothbrush, tooth paste, conditioner, baby powder lotion, shampoo, razors, washcloths, shampoo

November: long underwear and socks

December: no collection-Mitten Tree

January: Canned tuna, chicken, salmon

February: Diapers

March: Tuna, salmon, chicken

April: Hearty canned soups/stews

May: Card games, kids small games or puzzles


The Giving House is under the care of the Van Dyke Covenant Group for this year. We publicize, and see to it that there is a sponsor every month. The sponsors (often a Covenant Group) volunteer for a given month, and are responsible for 2 things. 1) matching the amount of product in the Giving House for their month, and 2) getting it to Hilda’s Place along with the existing contributions from the house. However your group decides to accomplish this is entirely up to you. We will count up the contents, call you with the amount you need to contribute on the LAST DAY OF THE MONTH, and when you are ready, we will choose a time to consolidate all of the items for your group to deliver. We will need a contact from your group.

This is an excellent activity for Covenant Groups. It is simple, rewarding, team oriented, and not too expensive. ($10.00 to $20.00 a person) If you have a problem with the cost of your particular month, just let us know. We will help out.

The collection and counting of the Giving House items is made on the last day of the month by us. Please let us know if you have any questions. We hope you will choose to volunteer.

If you wish to participate, or have any questions please contact Johna Van Dyke at [email protected].


The refugee project is busy at work. We had a great turnout at our Potluck on May 2nd and many people have volunteered to help. We are now ready to seek congregation-wide volunteers.

We will sponsor a Syrian family in September. We are working with Refugee One, a Chicago-based organization that has helped thousands of refugees settle in Chicagoland. Refugee One will handle a wide array of responsibilities. The UCE Refugee Committee’s responsibilities are to:

* raise money for rent/utilities/ and other necessities (approx. $8000-$10,000).
* gather furnishings and housewares for the family’s apartment (Refugee One finds the apartment and provides mattresses and bed frames).
* provide mentors for the family for at least 1 year. Mentors orient the family to basic ways of life in the U.S.: how to take public transport, how to shop for groceries, etc. Mentors also practice English with them and may take them to appointments, and to share social outings so they can get to know Chicago.
* prepare the apartment: clean, paint, and get the apartment ready to move in.
* meet the family at the airport and stock their pantry with at least 2 weeks of supplies and prepare them a welcoming meal.
* provide tutoring to help family members learn English.
* provide clothing for winter
* help the family understand the American school & higher education systems.
* help the family find a house of worship, childcare, etc.

Refugee One has language classes and helps refugees find jobs. Refugee One partners with local employers–so they get jobs pretty quickly in most cases.

What can you do? We will be launching the fundraising effort and will notify the congregation. We want you to share the funding page with your friends and co-workers. We need volunteers, please consider joining one of our volunteer teams. A volunteer sign-up chart is posted on the Food and Shelter Team Bulletin Board.

Questions? email: Jeanne Kerl ([email protected]) or Carol Nielsen ([email protected])


UCE is co-sponsoring a Syrian family, in partnership with RefugeeOne, an organization working with the US State Department. We hope that the family will be housed in Rogers Park but we will not know until early September exactly where they will live.

There are two main parts to this project: the first phase is raising funds. We have set up a website hosted by Refugee One to begin the fundraising. We cannot commit to having a family until we have raised the $8000 that will be required for six months rent and utilities. Please visit our fundraising site to make a donation.

You may be contacted by one of the UCE Refugee Committee members to ask for your support. All levels of donations are welcome.

The second phase is preparing for the family’s arrival hopefully sometime in September. We will also be helping the family learn English, navigate the school system, find a job, and learn the everyday living responsibilities of life in Chicago.

There is a role for you! Please make a donation. Sign up at the UCE Social Action Bulletin Board to help on one of the teams. Questions: contact Jeanne Kerl ([email protected]) or Carol Nielsen ([email protected]). We look forward to working with you to change the lives of a refugee family.


UCE’s soup kitchen work is part of an Evanston-wide system that provides a meal every day of the week 365 days a year. Several are coordinated by Interfaith Action of Evanston, and others are run independently by congregations. A schedule of all the offerings is available here.

During the fall and spring, UCE hosts Wednesday dinners when our neighbor Beth Emet is celebrating holidays and unable to host. We serve dinner and provide a sack lunch. This fall we are hosting on September 16 and 23 .

During the summer, we host three Monday lunches at Second Baptist and just completed our third on August 17th.
Like many of the congregations that host regularly, we aim to offer “radical hospitality” and believe that community, respect, and dignity are as important as food. We serve a nutritious and delicious meal we would be glad to have ourselves. We use tablecloths and real silverware, and often have piano music from our own Robb Geiger. We have practices to make our guests feel welcome and at ease.

Here are a few questions and answers we often get asked:

Who attends the soup kitchens? Some of the guests are homeless and depend on Evanston’s soup kitchens, warming centers, and shelter. Many others have housing but don’t have income for enough food. Some may even have the basics of housing and food but come for the community meal. All are welcome.

Why don’t we substitute at UCE more often for other churches? Our dates helping Beth Emet each year are determined by their rabbi and the Jewish calendar. Other congregations don’t need a substitute location because they don’t have the same limits on holidays as the Jewish congregations. They do offer the opportunity for outside groups to serve on their schedule, which you can read about at the Interfaith Action page linked above.
Why do I have to bring the casseroles hot on Wednesday? Our kitchen facilities don’t support heating up 10 casseroles from the refrigerator. We know cooking on Wednesday afternoon isn’t convenient for everyone, and really appreciate our cooks!

Why is there sometimes so much extra food? The number of people who attend the soup kitchen dinners varies unpredictably from 75-140 depending on weather, the beginning or end of the month, and the economy. We want our guests to relax and be sure there will be plenty of food. We almost always offer seconds and plastic containers for taking leftovers. If we still have significant leftovers we bring them to Hilda’s Place.

Ready to get involved? You can sign up on the volunteer page to cook, purchase food, or volunteer. There are also opportunities to serve as coordinators in the kitchen, security/hospitality, and clean-up. If interested, contact me.

I have been coordinating the Wednesday soup kitchens for almost 10 years. I have used my skills in planning and organizing to help others, plus learned new skills and made great friends. Come join us, we have lots of fun!
Janet Hartmann