My Fifty for 50

Some people have mentioned that my blog archives older posts and makes it difficult to see all I have done this year. This post puts all my activities in one place so everyone read them as they please. Just click on the listing to read that post.

Please help these organizations if you are able. Thanks for visiting my blog!


Bear’s Fifty for 50!

  1. Private Residential Assistance
  2. American Lung Association
  3. Elmer’s Kids
  4. Glass Slipper
  5. Blue Star Families
  6. United ME Food Pantry
  7. Fellowship Soup Kitchen
  8. Continue reading “My Fifty for 50”

USO Clark After Dark 2013

This evening I volunteered at the USO Clark After Dark block party  which celebrates America’s military service members and their families. Proceeds from the event benefit the USO of Illinois programs and services that serve over 300,000 military personnel and military families in Illinois.  It was held on Hubbard Street between Clark Street & LaSalle Street for one night only.

Like many of the summer street festivals in Chicago, there was food, drinks, vendors and live music by 16 Candles , Liquidated Damages, & Dr. Bombay.  In addition, there were games and a treasure hunt for attendees.  Unlike other street festivals, nearly every one who walked through the gates made the suggested donation of $10, and many even opted for  a VIP experience with a private tent that included a catered buffet and beers.

My assignment was gate #1 and along with several other volunteers we collected donations, handed out wristbands, and checked in prepaid guests.  The crowd was light, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves on a cool August evening.

USO of IllinoisThe celebrities included the Miller Girls who wore khaki uniforms similar to those issued to women during wartime in the 1940’s, and Chicago talk radio host, Roe Conn.  The US Army was represented with a couple of soldiers in a Humvee, and two Marines pulled up in a SUV decked out in US Marine Corp symbols including an Officer’s Sword.

It was easy work, made easier by having team mates who already volunteered for the USO. I started volunteering for the USO in 2011 as part of my Fifty for 50 goal, and I continue to volunteer with them when I am able.

A non-profit organization, the USO of Illinois is fully supported by the generosity of the American people.   For more information on USO of Illinois,  ways to  volunteer or to make a donation visit the www.usoofillinois.org website today.

Taste of Lincoln Avenue 2013

This weekend is the TOLA 30th fest and yesterday I volunteered for the organizers Wrightwood Neighbors Association (WNA).    I have attended the fest many times over the years dating back to the origins when I lived in the DePaul neighborhood.  It was nice helping them out while getting a great show in exchange.

The weather was perfect for standing in the street for 3 hours accepting donations and stamping hands of donors.  The headliner at the main stage was Dave Davies of the Kinks and I wanted to see the show, so I coordinated my times so I could get off in time for his set.

Wrightwood Neigbors AssociationThe WNA boasts that over 50,000 people may attend this weekend.  The suggested donation for entry is $7 before 4 PM & $10 after.  Each fest has a different beneficiary, and event volunteers received a t-shirt with a pie chart on the back with a breakdown.

Since 1984 over $2.5 millions has been raised for the benefit of local area public schools, libraries, parks, museums, community theaters,  food pantries and outreach programs, the 18th district police department and the 55th engine fire department are just a few.

In addition to the t-shirt,  volunteers get admission to the fest,  food  and beverages in a volunteer tent.  It was an easy day given the weather and ample volunteers so we could be relieved for breaks.  When I finished my shift, I enjoyed a 90 minute set of rock with some old friends, and a few beers.

Dave Davies played a long set and  he showed off the licks we grew up loving.  He ended the show with an encore that included  “You Really Got Me” that got the crowd jumping.

Chicago Marathon 2012

One of the causes that I helped with last year, and wanted to be involved with again this year is the Chicago Marathon. This was the 35th running of the Marathon, and this year I was asked if I would be interested in being a Course Marshal Check In Coordinator. After some thought I decided to give in a try.

As the Check In Coordinator, I had to attend an orientation last month, recruit a Co-Coordinator, send a pre-race reminder email to my team, and print out check in sheets from home. My area of the route was between the 21 & 23 miles marker, and is called Chinatown, but includes parts of Armour Square, and the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. There were 28 people registered as Course Marshals for this section including myself.

On race day I was so anxious that I woke up 45 minutes before the alarm and had a very leisurely breakfast with lots of coffee. Preparing to leave with temps in the low 30’s it seemed like I was heading to a football tailgate, with many layers, gloves and winter hat. My bus was on time and I arrived at the South Loop Hotel on 26th & State twenty minutes early.

At the hotel I awaited my team members, and as they arrived placed them on various points in the route, gave them their gear and sent them on their way. My Co-Coordinator was Paul Rudden, a runner himself, and his wife Jill stayed with us. It went fairly smoothly, but four volunteers never showed up, and two were running late so we arranged to meet them along the route.

As we approached the race route we happened to catch the first para-athletes passing the 22 mile marker at 26th & Wentworth. It is an awe inspiring moment to cheer them on as they went past. Paul and myself needed to walk our 2 miles of route to check with the Course Marshals, and at first it was easy to make our way, but as we got 1/2 mile into the route the elite runners made their way up, and we needed to get off the street because they were proceeded two motorcades that took up the width of the street.

Walking the route was interesting as I noted the diversity of the crowd. We greeted the other volunteers, Chicago Police,  and the spectators,  cheering on the participants as they came up on us. It took us nearly 2 hours to go the entire 4 miles, and we got some free coffee at 33rd & State, but we eventually settled near 26th & Wentworth where I had left some gaps due to the no shows.

Chicago Marathon Mile Marker 22
Under the 22 mile marker

The weather was much cooler than I would have preferred, but both Paul and I noted that the runners seemed to be holding up better as the race progressed. We had a man who stopped under the 22 mile marker and needed medical assistance for a bad leg cramp, but no other medical incidents as best as I could tell.

About 12:45 I walked back to the hotel to check out the marshals which included collecting their orange safety vests, credentials, and evaluation surveys. Surprisingly, everyone turned up on time, not surprisingly nearly all were too cold to hold a pen and write, but I was able to leave by 1:30. Unlike last year I skipped the after party, walked back to my bus stop and went home.

Even though my knee was hurting from all the walking it is was gratifying to be a part of this event. In addition to the athletic aspirations of the 45,000 participants, nearly 10,000 of them ran for charities, and last year they raised millions of dollars for their causes. This event helps promote and raise funds for charities locally, nationally and around the globe, and in that sense is like no other cause that I have helped.

I’ll be back next year, but might rethink the coordinator position and look for something where I can drive a vehicle or sit for the race!

Center for Economic Progress – Revisited

Today, I spent the afternoon volunteering at the offices of the Center for Economic Progress. The work was entering applicants contact information in an Excel spreadsheet. I was able add some functions that provided statistics for them.

The Center for Economic Progress is been helping low-income families apply for Federal Assistance using quick screen applications collected at various locations around the Chicago area. They followed up with telephone interviews in cases where the applicants could qualify for benefits, and guided them through the DHS online application.

The Center for Economic Progress (CEP) helps hard-working, low-income families move from financial uncertainty to financial security. In addition to tax return help, they offer financial coaching, and “Financial Aid U” that helping families understand the financial aid application process.

The CEP relies heavily on over 1,000 volunteers to make a difference helping Illinois families move toward financial security. For more information on how you can volunteer or make donation visit their website today

57th Annual Ginza Festival Chicago

This afternoon I went up the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Old Town to volunteer for the Ginza Festival Chicago. The event serves two purposes; one as a fund raiser to meet the temple expenses and the other as a way of sharing Japanese traditions with the people of the neighborhood.

I learned about this event last year from, Nancy Rivera a volunteer I met at the Glass Slipper Project, but I had another commitment last year. Fortunately, I remembered about the Festival and found it online in time to volunteer this year.

Nancy and her husband Greg work the Teriyaki Chicken tent, and as an acquaintance of hers, the volunteer coordinator put me on their team. When I arrived I met Greg and found out that Nancy recently had surgery on her shoulder and wasn’t going to be there.

At first I was told I would be taking tickets or handing out food, but they quickly put me on the grill. Grill doesn’t seem like the right word for the 25 foot trough with moveable grates/baskets.

Ginza Festival Chicago Teriyaki ChickenThey marinate and parboil chicken halves in the Church’s kitchen and bring out dozens in commercial roasting pans. From there the halves go onto 2×2 sized grates. The “grill” is an assembly line set up, and the grates slowly migrate from one end to the other, where, after a few flips, the halves wind up on half sheet baking pans and head into a holding oven.

We spent nearly 2 hours prepping chicken before the booth finally opened at 5:30 PM. Then the chicken halves were taken out of the holding ovens, chopped into four smaller, manageable pieces, served up with coleslaw and rice, and handed out. We continued to grill chicken until after 8 PM, and I can only guess that we served up a several hundred lbs of chicken.

When the cooking ended about 8:30 PM I walked over to the main stage to listen to musicians playing traditional taiko drums. It was a beautiful evening and after one last beer I headed home. Thankfully, Joe one of the other cooks offered me a ride to the Red Line, saving me about a 3/4 mile walk.

It was a long, hard five hours, the wind kept blowing smoke and ash in my face, I had to take a long shower to wash the smoke smell off, use Dawn to wash the splatter off my glasses, but the people were all very friendly and appreciative. I am glad I was able to help, and will keep this place in mind next year.

27th Annual Hunger Walk

This morning I joined almost 40 other walkers for the Union Avenue United Methodist Church Food Panty for the Chicago Food Bank Hunger Walk. We rode a chartered bus to Soldier Field and along with over 10,000 other walkers took a 5K walk to help end hunger.
Union Ave Methodist Church Hunger Walk
A few weeks ago the Pantry Director started an online team with the Chicago Food Bank and together with my personal online page, and face to face pledges I was able to raise just over $500.

The Food Bank had a fairly efficient traffic management setup and we pulled into the parking lot and queued up with other buses in a matter of minutes. The check in area was also well staffed and managed, and we walked right up to turn in our waivers & pledges, and receive a gift bag with a t-shirt & assorted snacks. The weather was cool with a slight breeze and great for walking.

The Union Avenue United Methodist Church Food Panty is an organization that I’ve been helping for the last year and I really admire and appreciate the work they do for this community. It was a real pleasure to help them this morning, and look forward to volunteering with them.

Bike The Drive 2012

This morning I woke up at 2:30 AM so I could take the train downtown to check in for the Bike the Drive. This is an event that I participated in last year as a rider, but today I volunteered as a Course Marshal. Even though I did not have to be at my station until 5 AM, check in time was 3:45 AM.

As I left my home, the local bar was just closing and I biked past many of the exiting patrons. When I arrived in the loop I stopped to pick up some coffee and got to the check in booth at Jackson & Columbus where I received a walkie talkie and volunteer t-shirt. I grabbed some water, topped of my coffee and arrived at my station at Monroe & Michigan about 4:15 AM.

The Bike the Drive is a fund raiser for the Active Transportation Alliance that involves closing Lake Shore Drive to vehicular traffic and allowing bicyclists on to bike from the loop to either the north or south ends of LSD or both legs. The Chicago Police are responsible for closing entrances and giving the organizers the all clear signal.

My station was on a street corner that was closed to vehicular traffic, but open to pedestrians and bicyclists. The intersection was managed by the City of Chicago Traffic Management Authority, and I worked with them to permit authorized vehicles admittance. Some of the vendors at the after festival had access for deliveries.

Only a handful of cars & trucks passed the barricades, but thousands of bikers rode or walked past during my shift from 4:30 to 10 AM. It started as a cool morning, but by 8 AM it got to be almost 90 and by 10 AM the temps were over 90 degrees and I was glad to head off.

After I dropped of my radio I stopped at the festival to get a complimentary pancake breakfast and a few bananas. There was a band playing, but I decided to head home and go back to bed.

It was interesting seeing all the bikes and I enjoyed working with the TMA staff who really had their work cut out for them. I’ll definitely consider volunteering next year, but may choose a location closer to home or pick a later shift!

Chicago River Day 2012

Last year I helped clean up the Chicago River at Bubbly Creek, and this year they needed a site captain for the Riverside Shopping Center so I volunteered for that.

The site is on the west bank of the Chicago River south of Archer Avenue, behind the shopping center at Ashland Avenue. It was a stretch about 1,300 feet long or just under 1/4 mile, and nearly all of it was a sheer drop-off into the river.

My neighbor agreed to be my co-captain and this morning we drove to the Riverside Shopping Center for the Chicago River Day Clean Up. We stopped for some coffee, arrived about 8:40 and waited for other volunteers to show up. It started raining just as we were leaving, but stopped about the time we were getting out of the car.

There were 27 people registered for the site, but I guess the weather dampened their spirits and only 9 showed up. Once I collected all the waivers and gave the safety speech we split up into two groups. After three hours picked up enough trash to fill up thirty-one trash bags. Everything was wet and slippery, but I’m thankful no one went in the water or got hurt.

Green Festival 2012

Last weekend Green America and Global Exchange held their Green Festival at Navy Pier. I volunteered again this year and worked the box office area as a greeter. People who attended either bought their tickets online, had complimentary passes, or needed to buy tickets. My role was to direct them to the correct line.

This year’s speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr, Amy Goodman, and Reed Alexander. There were scores of exhibitors and lots of free samples. The volunteers and guests were all very friendly, and everybody seemed to be having a good time.

My shift started at 10 AM and I was off by 2:30 PM so I was able to catch more of the show. There was even a blues band on the community stage that started as my shift was ending. Exhibitors included everything from eco-friendly soaps and cookware, to used clothes & cellphone collection drives and products from recycled plastics. Except for some aching feet I had a great time.