Food for thoughtfulness: Mokena woman keeps returning kindness
BY JAIME ANGIO For the Herald-News October 19, 2012 6:58PM
Sian Roberts founded a food ministry at International Community Church in Frankfort that helps deliver food baskets to people in the Lincoln-Way area. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 23, 2012 6:12AM
A token of kindness from a stranger came Sian Roberts’ way when she really needed it a couple of years ago.
It enhanced her quality of life.
Now, a lot of other people benefit as well, because the Mokena woman is the type to pay it forward.
Roberts, 34, was struggling at the time to make ends meet after a divorce. With three children and the holidays quickly approaching, Roberts, out of nowhere, was a blessed with a gift.
“I didn’t have a lot of money, and this woman, a complete stranger, came over at Christmastime and she brought $300 for my kids for Christmas, and it really touched me,” she said.
Roberts accepted the generous gesture and later followed through on the words of wisdom the stranger left in her ear.
“The lady said, ‘Well, help somebody else when you can.’ She just left me with that,” Roberts said.
Once a month on Monday evenings, for the past year, several local families are blessed with a knock on their door from Roberts and the Youth Impact Group from International Community Church in Frankfort.
They arrive bearing blessings. Roberts, a Lincoln-Way High School graduate, spearheads the food ministry with the youth group, and they deliver food and toiletries to 27 families in the Lincoln-Way area.
“For them to take the time out of their busy life to recognize somebody else that’s going through hard times, you can’t thank them enough,” said a Mokena mother of four and beneficiary. “Not a lot of people do that anywhere these days.”
Shortly after discovering the International Community Church in 2008, Roberts and her son became involved with the youth group. Although not a member, Roberts regularly attends services at the church and recognized there were dual ways to help people.
“I just really felt in my heart that it would be nice if we could first of all teach the kids how to serve in the community, and secondly, reach out to families in need around here,” Roberts said.
As with anything, the food ministry took a while to build. But Associate Pastor Mark Tipple already had been working with the Children’s Hunger Fund in Country Club Hills, so that provided a head start.
Roberts said she started looking for families who could benefit by asking the youth group members if they knew anyone who could use a box of food.
“One of the other things we focused on was the toiletries and paper products — because the Link cards don’t cover that,” she said. “I have personally been in situations where I struggled in my life financially, and I had to at times make decisions like ‘Do I buy shampoo or do I buy a loaf of bread?’ ”
To serve more families, Roberts literally went on a mission, acquiring donations through the church and enlisting the youth group and pastors to go door to door asking for donations.
Roberts also called the Frankfort Township food pantry looking for families to whom extras could be delivered.
Sponsors such as Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches in Alsip donated bread, and EFR Fire & Safety in Mokena allowed Roberts to use its location at 19820 Wolf Road as a drop-off site for donations.
“I really enjoy serving through the church,” Roberts said.
But she sees a need for more. Not wanting religion to determine whom she helps, Roberts recently started a nonprofit, E.F.H.: Every Family Helped.
“My vision is to help families that are struggling become self-sustaining in the area of finance, food, health and education,” Roberts said. “I want to help people be able to feel more a part of a community or a family and networking.”
To that end, E.F.H. is using social media and creating groups.
“I want to do workshops for people,” Roberts said. “I want to train up groups of people in communities. Anyone who wants to come and help, I want to grow through the nonprofit and train people to go out and take care of families.”
Roberts also still leads the food ministry.
She says she couldn’t be more grateful to the church and the “stranger” from a couple of years ago.
“Everyone is really loving here,” she said of the church, “and it just opened up a whole new set of doors for me.”
For information about E.F.H., visit www.everyfamilyhelped.org or call (708) 328-4806. For information about the food ministry, contact Roberts at (815) 713-9373 or visit www.icchurch.us.