Your Everyday Hero, Karen sheds light on the growing problem of homelessness in addition to her personal solutions to feed the homeless.
For example, every night in Illinois, an estimated 14,000 people experience some form of homelessness. One of her solutions, to help solve the problem is by educating everyone by giving presentations and telling some stories of the homeless that she meets.
About Karin Skalitzky
Prior to finding her passion to feed the homeless, everyday hero Karin Skalitzky, was recognized as an expert writer, editor, and content strategist with extensive experience in leading teams. Her goal was to elevate thought leadership by subsequently, combining her deep industry knowledge with strong communication skills. Therefore, it is said that Karen crafts compelling narratives that engage and transform. Thus, this former school “turnaround coach”, as she is called, is committed to advancing equity and changing the narrative of what is possible.
But writing and doing presentations is not all that Karen does. Just stop in at the Inspiration Café in Chicago and see for yourself. The Inspiration Cafe provides restaurant-style meals to homeless or low-income men, women, and families in a therapeutic community that promotes dignity and respect. All meals are cooked and served by volunteers, of which, Karen is one.
Consequently, Inspiration Cafe is open only to participants in Inspiration Corporation’s programs or individuals enrolled in case management with partner agencies, all of whom are working on stability by increasing income and/or becoming permanently and stably housed. In addition to offering meals, Inspiration Cafe operates a food pantry that is open to Inspiration Corporation participants. Our hero Karen, tried “waitressing” but realized she was better at other things. Therefore, she started going around to the different tables and talking to each person, as a result, she learned about the life stories of these homeless patrons.
A book to help feed the homeless
In addition to presentations, Karen wrote a book telling these stories – A Recipe for Hope: Stories of Transformation by People Struggling with Homelessness or grief and despair. These transformative stories in Recipe for Hope are shared by men and women involved with the Inspiration Corporation. These first-hand accounts of their life story challenge our preconceptions of homelessness. Moreover, it demonstrates how this problem that impacts millions of Americans affects people regardless of race, creed, or economic status. All proceeds received from Karen’s book, Recipe for Hope, are donated to benefit the homeless.
How did writing a book come so easily to her?
Her career started in education in 1991: first as a teacher, then a reading specialist, and ultimately a school turnaround leader. For over twenty years Karin coached principals, teachers, and district leaders to transform underperforming schools into the kind of schools all children deserve. It was deeply spiritual work—inspiring people to see they were more than who they thought they were. And, the children and communities they served were that much more too. Hero, Karen Skalitzky is a speaker, writer, and spiritual director, as well as, a former educator. She believes we can find the sacred in everything and everyone, in any moment and any place. That is to say, even in laundry rooms, in our cars, walking down the street, or wherever one might be at that moment.
Cafe patrons inspired her book
Karen says she didn’t intend to write a book until she started talking to the Inspiration Café patrons and learned their stories of homelessness. She wandered from table to table listening to decided, she says, to have every chapter a virtue. That was pretty deliberate in terms of homelessness. People have incredible life stories… it was an experience they were having and it didn’t make them who they were.
Karen says the people that she interviewed taught her many, many things but she thinks the most important thing they taught her, in terms of homelessness, is that it’s just a result of circumstances, a period in time in your life. It’s not who you are and not your identity or defines one in any way.
She believes homelessness does not define who you are. Consequently, she says she became a part of their lives in a way she never could have imagined…she considers them family and hopes that they consider her family too. As a result, Recipe for Hope was born…a book of hope.
The inspirational cafe
The Inspiration Cafe was originally founded in 1989 by Lisa Nigro, a Chicago police officer who began searching for a personal response to the homelessness she encountered. She began by loading up a red wagon with sandwiches and coffee to distribute to homeless individuals on the streets. Today, the Cafe is still the heart and soul of the thriving organization, which has grown up around it.
The Inspiration Cafe is affiliated with Inspiration Corporation, which is a Chicago nonprofit that offers social services. In other words, services in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. Inspiration Corporation helps people who are affected by homelessness and poverty to improve their lives and increase self-sufficiency through the provision of social services, employment training and placement, and housing to the homeless.
People come to dine at the Inspiration Café to be a part of the community, to be known and welcomed at the table. The entire café staff is part of the Inspiration Café…the cooks, wait staff, and more.
Well known staff
Consistency allows them to get to know everyone. A great thing about the cafe existing and serving breakfast is that you get to know people really well and therefore, you get to see them on a regular basis. People in the kitchen are working really hard and are part of the cafe. Flipping pancakes..yum, yum and scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, and more. I can smell the aroma of fresh perked coffee and bacon right now, can you? Everyone working in the café as part of their training program. What great skills they are developing.
The book and cafe working together to feed the homeless
She says Recipe for Hope taught her how important it is to listen to her cafe customer’s story and have their stories be told. Listening to and writing about their stories lead her to feel she was apart of people’s lives in a way she never imagined. She hopes they consider her family as much as she considers them family. As a result, many people have come to the cafe and have rebuilt their lives.
Some Cafe customer Examples
An example, one woman said she hoped her story would be read by someone who needs it. She wants to reach that one person who it will help find there way.
Another success story Karen interviewed had been homeless. Her young son would never know that his mom was once homeless. In a blue Superman t-shirt with a tiny red cape Velcro-ed to his shoulders, he raced back and forth across the lecture hall, tirelessly, his giggle trailing behind him. The wonder in his two-year-old eyes was contagious.
A gentleman was happy to share his story of successfully regaining his life due to the training he received at the Inspiration Café. Yet another woman felt her story hand to be told, HAD to be told! Saying if she helped just one person it would be worth it..a story of hope, that there is HOPE! Believe and Don’t give up. While Karen is definitely “Your Everyday Hero”, these storytellers are too. How inspiring! As a result, all the interviewers wanted to give back something that had been given to them. They wanted a chance to tell their stories of hope, change, and possibility. That is to say, they wanted to help someone else.
Video Production: Rocko Productions
Review Written By: M. Cardinal
Date Written: Mar 24th, 2020
Feed Homeless FAQs
Food banks and food pantry programs provide food for the homeless and underprivileged in other ways: Food banks distribute food to organizations that serve free meals, including homeless shelters, while food pantry programs package foods to hand out free to those in need.
If you do not have the time to help serve the meal, you can still help by sponsoring a meal or making a donation of $3, the average cost per person per meal; we will serve 60 individuals so just $180 will provide one complete meal to all residents.
In terms of food, canned foods in good condition and dry, non-perishable goods like rice are great items to donate, while perishable foods like bread and milk are not. Many organizations that distribute food to the homeless also have infrastructure and programs in place to distribute clothing and other items.
Eating at Charitable Food Services
In many cities, there are charitable food services. These are places like homeless shelters, drop-ins, and soup kitchens, which provide food for people who are poor, including people who are homeless. These programs take many different forms.