It was a routine, even a high school student grew to like: Every Thursday morning, John O’Neill ’21 met up with his classmates—before school—at the PADS site at the Presbyterian Church of Palatine. Each time, they scrubbed down the pads, tables, and chairs all used the night before during the temporary shelter hosted by the church.
“I went and fell in love with volunteering,” says John, who started going in October when this year’s PADS season opened. “It went from volunteering to having fun.”
It’s a tradition that’s been going on for the last ten years with Saint Viator students. It was started by Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, who continues to accompany students, along with Mrs. Cathy Abrahamian.
But John has taken it one step further.
Faced with the sudden closing of the PADS site, after the “stay at home” order by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, John worried about what would happen to these people, who depended on the network of PADS shelters hosted by Northwest suburban faith communities and Journeys: The Road Home, a resource center for the homeless in Palatine.
On March 23, on what would have been the start of his spring break, John started a GoFundMe page, with the goal of raising $1,000 or enough to pay for an individual – or family – in a hotel room for three weeks. All funds are earmarked for Journeys and its services for the homeless.
In just one day, he quickly surpassed his goal. One day later, he set a new goal of $2,000 and quickly surpassed that as well.
“Due to (the governor’s order), we have many people who regularly come to PADS, living on the streets,” John said to supporters on his GoFundMe page.
He followed a lead donation made by the Clerics of St. Viator, who pledged $63,000 to house 60 people for three weeks.
"This is in line with our mission as a Catholic religious community,” said Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, Provincial, in a letter to supporters.
Inspired by the Viatorians, John says he will continue raising money and awareness of the needs of the homeless during this pandemic.
“Unfortunately, we do not know how long this pandemic will go on,” he says, “so I decided to raise money in case there was an extra family or individual who needed shelter, or if we have to have them live in these hotels for more than three weeks.”