PERU - Illinois Valley PADS (IV PADS) is starting Season 28 in their care of the local homeless in LaSalle, Bureau and Putnam counties. The Ottawa PADS shelter opened their doors on Aug. 15 and 17 people checked in the very first day. Two weeks later, the number was up to 45, near capacity.
Peru PADS opened the doors to its original building on Sept. 1 and the 5,880-square foot expansion will follow in the near future. Construction of the expansion was bogged down with rain delays at the beginning of spring. The eagerly awaited opening of the new wing will be announced and celebrated with a Donor Recognition Reception and open house after inspections have been made.
IV PADS, founded by Sister Margaret Suerth in 1991, began its compassionate journey to help the homeless by placing mattress pads on the floors of local churches. Volunteers served food donated by local hospitals. Each night the pads were packed up and moved to new locations.
From those humble beginnings, IV PADS today operates shelters in Ottawa and Peru where homeless individuals who are at least 18 years of age, as well as families, are offered a secure place to stay each night, three meals a day and laundry and shower facilities. Its comprehensive programs include case management, assessments, individualized service plans, educational opportunities, support group services, and professional referrals. Personal items such as toiletries, clothing, medicine and other necessities are distributed as needed.
“People who are homeless find themselves in shelters primarily due to the loss of income,” explained Carol Alcorn, executive director. “and 90 percent of the people who take advantage of IV PADS services are local.”
Statistically, this past shelter season, PADS served 338 individuals which included 35 families with a total of 70 children. “With the help of the community, the PADS program has served 36,050 meals, returned 90 people into independent living, and assisted 177 individuals in finding employment,” Alcorn noted. “A homeless person slept in a PADS bed 18,016 times this past year.”
Alcorn underscored that the number of families with children served at PADS have quadrupled since 2007 and doubled since 2017, which has become a critical factor in the organization’s plans for the future.
To help families with children, the Ottawa shelter has opened two years in a row on Aug. 15 and will run through end of school year to accommodate school-aged homeless children as they register for and start school at the same time as their peers. The Peru shelter will operate Sept. 1 through May 31. Daily hours of operation are from 5 p.m. until 9 a.m. this year.
In response to the alarming increase of families served at IV PADS the past decade and the lack of family-unit rooms in the Peru shelter, an ongoing campaign raised just over half the funds for the expansion. Four family rooms are nearly complete along with increased beds to almost triple the capacity from 24 to 68 as well as an enlarged classroom, expanded men’s and women’s beds, and a children’s playroom as well as an expanded dining room and more bathrooms.
Alcorn expressed her sincere gratitude for the support of the LaSalle, Putnam and Bureau county communities for the past 28 years. “It is amazing how the PADS board, staff, volunteers, and facilities have grown to serve the most marginalized members of our communities,” she said. “The PADS board and I are excited to announce our “Waking with Hope” bed sponsorship campaign and the “Expanding Our Space…Expanding Hope” building campaign to construct an addition onto the Peru shelter has been highly successful. Twenty bunkbeds have been sponsored along with all of our room naming opportunities fulfilled in just one year.”
To date, foundations, companies, churches, civic groups, and individuals have donated over $500,000 toward the $1,100,000 campaign goal which is one-half of the construction cost. Groundbreaking for the building addition took place last spring. The campaign to support this project is continuing throughout the remainder of the year to assist in the payment of this building project. Gifts to the building campaign or to the operation of the shelters can be made at www.ivpads.com or sent to P.O. Box 1012, LaSalle, IL 61301. Further campaign information can be obtained by contacting Alcorn at (815) 224-3047.
Lily Pads Resale
For 14 years, Lily Pads Resale Boutique of Peru has provided significant financial support to shelter operations, along with furnishings and household items for clients moving out of homelessness. Lily Pads Too Resale Boutique in Ottawa has been added and celebrated one year to meet the increased growth and needs of the homeless population. Volunteers are actively being solicited to assist with donation collections, readying items for resale and the actual sale of items.
The stores operate Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Donated items may be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A list of accepted resalable items are posted at http://ivpads.com/lily-pads-donations/ and on each store’s Facebook page. Donations are critical to the operation of this fundraising arm of the program. All proceeds stay local and assist the homeless in the shelters. Staff and volunteers are on hand to assist with unloading items. Larger donated items may need prior staff approval and will require advance phone calls to (815) 313-5776.
A variety of day- and night-time volunteer opportunities are available at the Ottawa and Peru PADS shelters, and during daytime hours at Lily Pads in Peru and Lily Pads Too in Ottawa. Shelter opportunities include making and serving supper and breakfast meals, putting donations away or just visiting with people who need PADS services. The shelters have cleaning, maintenance, painting and organization opportunities. Volunteer applications are available at http://ivpads.com/volunteer/.