Volunteering 'a calling' for area real estate agent Dale Taylor received the Humanitarian of the Year award from Re/Max Northern Illinois.
Dale Taylor describes the volunteer work he does for South Suburban PADS, which provides shelter for the homeless, as "a calling." In the summer of 2005, the New Lenox real estate agent helped pitch in when the nonprofit was tasked with helping care for 100 Louisiana residents who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and being housed at the Tinley Park Mental Health Center. Within a few weeks, Taylor found himself managing one of PADS' shelter sites, which he continues to do today.
The Frankfort resident said it has "turned out to be one of the most rewarding activities I could do in my volunteer time." An agent with Re/Max 10, Taylor was recently the recipient of the 2016 Humanitarian of the Year award from Re/Max Northern Illinois for his work with PADS. Taylor said he doesn't know who nominated him for the award, and he had no inkling he was getting it when he attended the real estate firm's 40th annual awards ceremony in February at Chicago's Navy Pier. "It was a total surprise to me," he said.
Re/Max Northern Illinois represents more than 2,200 sales associates at 105 Re/Max offices in the northern one-third of the state, according to its website. Taylor has been with Re/Max since 1995.
South Suburban Public Action to Deliver Shelter was established in 1990 in response to a growing number of homeless individuals and families in the south suburban area, initially partnering with a handful of churches to provide overnight shelters, according to the organization's website. Today, South Suburban PADS has 24 shelter locations in 16 communities, mostly at churches, and also operates the Country Club Hills Wellness Center, which has 77 apartment units offering longer-term housing for PADS clients.
Dale Taylor said he began volunteering for South Suburban PADS when people displaced by Hurricane Katrina were housed at the Tinley Park Mental Health Center.
Shelters rotate from night to night, with PADS providing one shelter each day dedicated to women and children, and another for men, Taylor said. Taylor, 58, volunteers one night a week as a men's shelter site manager, and the gymnasium at St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago Heights, with a capacity for 50 people, averages 35 men staying overnight, he said.
Volunteers provide dinner, breakfast and a bag lunch for shelter guests, Taylor said. Some shelter residents have their own transportation or rely on the Pace bus to get to whatever church they'll spend the night at, but PADS and its volunteers will also shuttle people, Taylor said.
In talking about the continuing need for the services PADS provides, Taylor paraphrases Matthew from the Bible, saying "the poor will always be among us" and that he knows "there are people who end up in circumstances beyond their control" who find themselves suddenly homeless. "So many people are just a paycheck away" from financial calamity, he said.
Taylor said that a lot of the men who are regular visitors to the shelter have regular jobs but "can't come up with enough of a security deposit (for an apartment) or show they are credit-worthy enough to get housing."
Along with eating meals with the men at the shelter, Taylor said he spends the night as well, sleeping on the thin pads on the gym floor alongside them and offering a sympathetic ear. "I'm their brother when they need me to be, and I'm their friend when they need me to be," he said. "I'm sensitive to what they're going through."
PADS works to connect its case workers with shelter guests "to work with them to find a long-term solution to their housing needs and help them cope with other issues that may have led to their homelessness," Taylor said. In many cases, Taylor said, the men who are coming to the shelter also have a mental illness and are leery of meeting with a case worker.
Taylor, a former vice president of the organization, said his upbringing instilled in him the desire to volunteer. "My parents emphasized giving back, having a life in which you help somebody," he said. "You know it's a calling because, no matter how hard it gets, you never give yourself permission to quit." firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @mnolan_j Copyright © 2017, Daily Southtown
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