Her commute home from work — that’s what prompted Cheryl Bokelmann’s 17 years of service in St. Peter’s PADS ministry. Every evening, as she walked from her downtown Chicago office to the Metra station, she noticed the homeless; so many of them– some agitated and angry; some just sad. So she decided to do what she could. When St. Peter began its PADS ministry in partnership with other local churches and a community organization, she volunteered. Three years later, she became leader of the group. As she now retires from this position to pursue other areas of serving, it’s a good time to thank God for her ministry by sharing her story and the story of PADS.
Cheryl’s conversation is permeated with her love for the homeless. She’s gotten to know many of them, people who have temporarily lost their home and/or job, people who lived from paycheck to paycheck and have no one to turn to for help.
PADS provides food, shelter, and some hope. As one of the component services of JOURNEYS—THE ROAD HOME, the St. Peter PADS team serves at Our Savior Lutheran Church on Olive Street on the third Saturday of each month starting in October through April. As one of the 18 faith-based sites in the PADS program, our guests receive dinner, a bed for the night, breakfast, and a bag lunch, all provided by our volunteers in a safe, compassionate and accepting way. While PADS volunteers may not proselytize unless asked about their faith, Jesus love is demonstrated through our actions—and actions sometimes speak louder than words.
People have asked Cheryl, “Why don’t these people pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find a job?” Her response has been that most of these people are not homeless by desire. Our guests are in need of a helping hand, not criticism. “Put yourself in their position,” Cheryl says. “If you had no money, no home, no job, and nowhere to go, what would you do?” JOURNEYS and PADS provide a safety net where they can be treated with dignity, receive help, and hopefully transition back into independent living.
Cheryl has seen God at work through PADS. She has seen people transition out of homelessness and back into a normal life. She has seen many volunteers, of all generations, give their time and talent. “We all have gifts God gives us,” Cheryl says, and “We are gifted to bless others.”
For more information on serving in PADS or other ministries to the homeless, or serving in other areas of need, contact Karen Kogler, kkogler@FullLifeinChrist.org.
P.S. from the editor: Our thanks to St. Peter member Ilse Schmidt for using her writing gifts to share Cheryl’s story! If you’re interested in writing stories like this, contact Karen.