Party makes spirits bright
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent November 30, 2012 2:10PM
Christmas party from 2011 at Sacred Heart Parish in Joliet. | SUBMITTED PHOTO
How to help
Send donations for the foundation’s Christmas party to Done with Drugs, 502 Fourth Ave., Joliet, IL, 60433.
For more information, call 815-274-3130 or visit www.donewithdrugs.vpweb.com.
Updated: January 3, 2013 6:17AM
Pictures with Santa Claus, gaily wrapped gifts, Christmas carols and hot dogs with chips: What child wouldn’t enjoy this?
Yet, for many children living in Joliet’s housing projects, such an event is merely a dream. That’s why, since 2008, Michael Pinnick, 50, founder of the Joliet-based, non-profit Done with Drugs foundation, has hosted a special Christmas party at Sacred Heart Parish in Joliet.
This year, Pinnick needs your help to make the Dec. 15 party happen. For the first time since the party’s inception, donations are down, and Pinnick is worried he won’t receive the $6,000 he needs to shower 200 children with a two-hour dose of holiday magic.
To date, Pinnick has only $500 to buy all the food and gifts he needs for children newborn through age 12, but Pinnick is prepared to take out a personal loan if he must. He knows firsthand what such a party means to children who have nothing.
“I’m a product of what they’re living,” Pinnick said. “There was a time in my life when I didn’t have feelings for nothing. Once I was a problem in my community, but now I want to be part of the solution. God spared my life so I can make a difference in the lives of others.”
It’s common, Pinnick said, for children in the projects to live with just one parent. They are surrounded by people who abuse alcohol and drugs. There are no Christmas trees, no lights, no presents and no visits from Santa Claus.
Such an environment, Pinnick added, zaps the hope and spirit right out of a child. When a child has no hope, he turns elsewhere to fill the void, as Pinnick did when he was a substance abuser. Something as insignificant as a Christmas party can make a huge difference to these children.
“You should see the smiles on these kids’ faces when Santa gives them a gift,” Pinnick said, “or their happiness when they take a picture with Santa and watch the praise dancers. No one comes to the projects to sing Christmas carols, but at the party, people are singing Christmas carols just for them. It’s a beautiful thing to see these kids’ mouths hanging open in awe.”
Pinnick said his normal life — living with his grandmother in Lockport and attending Taft School — was destroyed after a neighbor sexually molested him and he was sent to live with his mother on Des Plaines Avenue. That’s when Pinnick began running around on the streets and breaking into homes.
From age 16 to 38, drugs and Pinnick were inseparable, until the day Pinnick decided a 90-day in-patient drug treatment program, followed by a six-month outpatient program through the Will County Health Department, was preferential to another jail sentence. There, Pinnick learned for the first time that his addiction was a disease he could manage.
“Drugs made me bury my emotions and low self-esteem,” Pinnick said. “Alcohol and drugs let me think I was somebody other than little Michael.”
Pinnick’s Done with Drugs foundation is active in two other ways. It provides a group home for female recovering addicts to help integrate them back into society. At the home, women learn moral values, self-respect, self-worth and how to live with dignity and integrity.
During the women’s 18-month to two-year stay, they work and save money in their own bank accounts. This provides seed funds for an apartment deposit and first month’s rent, as well as some basic furniture.
Done with Drugs also offers a community service program for addicts needing to meet those hours. Under the foundation’s supervision, such individuals serve the senior citizens in their community by performing certain tasks, such as grass cutting.
“At first they don’t like it,” Pinnick said. “They grew up misinformed, that thinking of the fast buck is the way to live. When they start giving back, it touches their spirit.”
This year’s party is Dec. 15.