Every year I say to myself, “This may be the last year of planning UMatter…”, then here comes September with an abundance of emails and requests pouring in about the next UMatter. Before I know it I find myself in the midst of organizing, planning, running around, and excited about reaching out to people. The concept through completion of "UMatter: Chicago Winter Drive" is a lengthy and physically tiresome process - connecting to businesses, researching communities impacted with homelessness that year, connecting with dedicated volunteers to manage collection sites, and of course the all day “day-of distribution duties". Alone one will feel discouraged and tired, however one is not designed for a vision this large. It’s meant for many to come together and that alone is how we have been effective.
I say that to say this – God gave us time so that it can be used intentionally to serve Him while helping those in need. The visions you have will take time, energy, and work but it is then, when you realize the vision isn't solely about you but about how you impact others, that your strength will be renewed.
I’d like to speak briefly about two people who have been intentional about their time and were able to experience the purpose of this drive far beyond the box, Todd Belcore and Rebecca Ruiz. Each listed their employer as a host site, but their efforts didn't stop there. Before I move on, I have to make sure to paint the picture of distribution night, for those who have yet to join us: arriving to a room with hundreds of black bags filled with winter items waiting to be sorted and prepped, a section for preparing snack bags and a section for bagging toiletries. Now we’re moving quickly into teams, a number determined by the number of people going into the streets. It’s an all day task as we fight against time and Chicago’s unpredictable weather. Our teams split up and go out into different parts of the city, some spots busier than others. Either standing in the midst of Chicago weather or standing in the midst of an emergency overnight shelter – each unpredictable in its own way.
Rebecca Ruiz, a faithful volunteer since the start of the vision, has evolved into an amazing leader and partner. She lead her team to the streets of the medical district where they served many in need disregarding the bad weather. Todd Belcore, a first time volunteer, was one of four men grouped to serve 217 men inside of an overnight emergency shelter and worked diligently to provide the needs and relationship to those who found rest here, if only for one night. Both became intentional with their time serving countless hours on this night with a heart of truly being effective in the lives of others.
What they may not have realized was how much it meant to me that they had experienced the heart of the drive, past the collecting box. They were able to experience in blessing others directly, engage in conversations with people who are often judged, and look past a situation into a persons heart and, if only for one night, provide hope through warmth & prayer to the homeless community in need. Thank you for being intentional about all of your hours towards supporting this vision.
"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)