WEST ENGLEWOOD — After he pays the electric bills Tuesday for two women's shelters, Detroit Pistons point guard and Chicago native Will Bynum will host a Thanksgiving dinner for the shelters' residents.
Clara Kirk, founder of the West Englewood United Organization, which runs Clara's Place and Clara's House at 1650 W. 63rd St., said Bynum will pay nearly $3,000 owed to ComEd.
"God is so good. First an anonymous donor paid off my gas bill, and now Mr. Bynum has agreed to pay off the light bill," Kirk, 72, told DNAinfo Chicago.
"Things are beginning to really look up for me. It makes me feel like there is someone or somebody that still cares about Clara’s House, and that God has provided people willing to help me come up and out of the situation that I am in."
Bynum spokeswoman Shawn Zanotti confirmed that Bynum and his Chicago-based Reach|Teach Foundation, would sponsor an evening dinner after he makes the check presentation.
"He will present Ms. Kirk with a check to show his support for what she is doing to help so many women and children," Zanotti said.
Bynum, who once lived in Englewood and attended Crane High School, said his efforts go far beyond money.
“This is bigger than just paying an electric bill and giving dinners to those in need, it is about me seeing a need and doing my part to help," Bynum said. "I want the homeless and battered women who are living in the shelter to know there is someone who cares, that the situation can and will get better."
In March, Kirk owed the City of Chicago more than $41,969 in building code fines. The city settled with Kirk in August for $1,000. In October, Peoples Gas disconnected heat at Clara’s Place after it racked up a $21,026.74 past-due bill. An anonymous donor stepped up to pay the bill off.
According to Kirk, it takes about $275,000 a year to run Clara’s House, which is fully occupied, and $375,000 for Clara’s Place, which has 37 occupants, even though it can accommodate 59 people. Kirk said she did not have enough money to feed 59 people, which is why Clara’s Place is not full.
Bynum said it feels good to help Kirk.
"Clara doesn’t turn anyone away, she keeps the doors open with the heart to help, not knowing how the bills to operate will stay on. It’s an honor for me to help,” he said.
A West Englewood United board member is taking a grant-writing course to learn how to obtain more funding for the shelters.