Annette Acevedo, center, from the U46 family welcome center visits the "full-choice grocery store" at the Willow Creek Community Church's new 60,000-square-foot care center in South Barrington. (James C. Svehla, For Chicago Tribune / May 31, 2013)
New Willow Creek facility provides food, children's clothing, car repairs, medical care
A new $10 million care center at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington provides food, children's clothing, car repairs, and medical care to families in need -- without making them feel needy.
"They are pulling people up," said Josh Bray, operations manager at Wayside Center in Elgin, which serves homeless people who likely will benefit from the new care center.
Bray attended a grand opening Friday at Willow Creek Community Church, 67 E. Algonquin Road, along with dignitaries from several communities supporting the church's vision.
Bray said oftentimes when someone is in need and they walk into an outreach center for help, they feel like they are "in a lower-tier environment."
But Willow has "rolled out the red carpet" for people in need, Bray said.
The 60,000-square-foot addition to the church is laid out less like a thrift shop or food pantry, and more like an upscale mall, complete with cheery colors, welcoming seating areas and designer lighting.
The center was made possible through church members' tithes and donations, the services of 2,000 volunteers, and "lots of years of dreaming and praying of what outreach in the community looks like," said Nicole Burt, director of operations for the church.
The center includes a children's clothing store that looks more like a boutique, offering new and gently used clothing for children. The store collects a $5 fee per child per visit to further promote a sense of dignity in families who shop there.
It also offers a "full-choice grocery store" where families can "shop" name-brand foods. It replaces the church's food pantry in Hoffman Estates.
A full-service auto center also is on site. Volunteer mechanics help with any auto repairs and diagnostics, and labor is free, church officials said. This shop is the new location of the church's C.A.R.S. (Christian Auto Repairmen Serving) Ministry, formerly in Elgin.
New to the church's ministry are the dental and ophthalmologist clinics. Dentists and ophthalmologists volunteer their time to care for people who otherwise would not afford to receive such services. The church requests a $20 co-pay, which then is deposited into the church's benevolence fund, which in turn helps others. For those who cannot pay, the co-pay is waived, church officials said.
Tom Siewert, a dentist who practices in South Elgin and one of several who will volunteer their time to care for patients in the clinic, said the clinic provides him with a way to use his gifts, connect with the church and help people.
"I always say, 'I'm a dentist and I serve (the church),'" said Siewert, a member of the church and a dentist with more than 30 years experience. "The fact that I can do both together is a blessing. I know what people feel like when their mouth is a mess."
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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune