Hope’s on the Way began as a response to the needs of people in the New Orleans area after the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina hit southern region of Louisiana and Alabama starting in August 23 of 2005 and wreaking havoc for more than a week.
The Carmelites who have their headquarters in suburban Chicago had mission posts which were damaged and the Chicago Diaconate responded by recruiting volunteers among deacons and the lay community to use their talents to help rebuild a school, monastery and homes in the New Orleans area over the next 3 years.
In total, 11 missions were organized to complete this work. This work was continued in response to Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey. The group took on the name of Hope’s on the Way and began to pattern itself after second response organizations with continuing ministry supported by the Mennonites, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists and other denominations.
In this regard, we have found our work to being truly ecumenical. Dietrich Bonhoefer writing in the 1930s observed that ecumenism will only be successful when Christian Denominations work together. As we have sat down to break bread with brothers and sisters of other denominations, we have found a unity in realizing that we are all serving the people of God in this work. This work breaks down barriers that have separated Christians of different persuasions but a common belief in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Buckets of Hope
This work has lead us into two additional ministries. The first is “Buckets of Hope”. Most Christian denominations have a buckets program that addresses an early second response to natural disasters. That is people need access to cleaning supplies. Buckets of Hope is a program where 5 gallon buckets are shipped to disaster areas when it has become safe for people to start the cleaning process. Each bucket contains 14 common cleaning items. We have partnered with organizations such as Catholic Charities, local disaster coordinators, The International Union of Operating Engineers and various moving companies to move filled buckets to a place of need. HOTW raises the money to purchase buckets. These buckets are then distributed to local parishes in the Chicago Archdiocese. Parishes have either fund raise to purchase the items for the buckets or distributes buckets to families to fill them on their own. To date, we have shipped over $70,000 worth of cleaning supplies to disaster areas.
Sheds of Hope
HOTW was trained in this program which was begun and run by the Presbyterian Church’s Mission to North America. The focus of this mission is to build an 8×8 foot shed for people to use to store items as they are cleaning up after a natural disaster. This program has two different methods of accomplishing this. One is to build sheds on site and the other is to prebuild sheds and have them available as kits to ship to a disaster site when needed. We are looking for locations that would be willing to donates space for prebuilding sheds as Kits.
Ongoing Renovation of Ministries within the Archdiocese of Chicago
In 2014, Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago at the time, requested that HOTW consider helping with “disasters” within the Archdiocese of Chicago. He asked us to expand our definition of disaster to include ministries that did not have the financial resources to rebuild and renovate the structures that house their ministries. We have built bunk beds, painted and tiled floor at the Franciscan Homeless Shelter on Harrison in Chicago; painted in Cardinal Stritch Retreat House, built out a kitchen and dining room in St. Nicholas Rectory in Evanston, painted, tiled and built out a kitchen and dining room at Zacchaeus house (a ministry to homeless men and those recently incarcerated), rebuild a convent to house unmarried mothers and women who have been victims of domestic abuse for Aid For Women; done maintenance work on washers and dryers at Rebecca’s House also part of Aid for Women; built out offices, a cafeteria, showers bathrooms and a dining area for Emmause House, a nondenominational ministry to gay prostitutes, painted, drywalled, updated electrical systems, built chair dollies, installed 80 new windows and remodeled the front porch for St. Mary’s Retreat house whose primary ministry is to conduct 12 step retreats for addicted populations.