ENGLEWOOD — A nonprofit organization sponsored its first major fundraiser this year to prevent one of its shelters from experiencing extreme hardship as it has done for years.
On Thursday, "Clara-Thon," a three-hour live telethon, was held at Kennedy-King College by the West Englewood United Organization, which runs Clara's House and Clara's Place, two Englewood shelters for women and children.
According to Rosilind Sculfield, executive director of the WEUO, the fundraiser netted $20,000 in checks, and online pledges and those made via text are still being tabulated.
"We had to start somewhere if we are ever going to be self-sufficient without worrying how this bill or that bill will get paid," Sculfield said.
All money raised will go toward Clara's House, 1650 W. 63rd St., which had its gas service disconnected in October and was on the verge of having its electric service also disconnected until a NBA player Will Bynum stepped forward to pay the past due balance off. An anonymous donor paid off a past due gas bill of $30,000 to have the service restored.
Clara Kirk, a 72-year-old grandmother, founded the shelters 26 years ago in her Englewood neighborhood, where she has lived for more than 30 years.
"I can't say thank you enough to my board and all the wonderful donors and supporters who helped make this event a success," Kirk said. "Our next step is to get some grant funding to help pay bills and and employees. I have been operating these shelters without grant funding for some years now. God is the reason why both remain open."
Clara's House is a transitional shelter where women stay up to 120 days, and Clara’s Place is a 13-unit apartment building for long-term occupants. The shelters service nearly 300 women a year, Kirk added.
Kirk said 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, and 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.
Edward Calahan, founder and president of Calahan Funeral Home Inc. in Englewood, said he donated $200 plus in-kind services.
"If we don't help each other out then who will? I came to show my support to Clara Kirk and the excellent work she is doing to help struggling families," Calahan said. "One thing I do not see a lot of especially in Englewood is businesses using their influence to inspire the community."
In addition to his funeral home business at 7030 S. Halsted St., he also operates the Calahan Foundation out of the same building. On Saturday, the foundation will host its fifth annual toy and winter coat giveaway starting at 10 a.m.
"This time of year families are hurting and that's why it's important for businesses to do what they can to help local customers," added Calahan.
Local residents, including Mae Ya Carter-Ryan, a seventh grader at Wendell Green Elementary School in Auburn Gresham, provided entertainment. The 12-year-old Bronzeville resident sung a cappella for the audience.
"That's my baby," said her proud mother, Ina Carter. "She has been singing songs of glory ever since she could walk."
WGCI-FM personality Tony Sculfield and TV journalist Robin Robinson served as the hosts.
"I love Clara Kirk and all that she does to help women. That's why I am here lending my services," Robinson said. "Giving back when God has blessed you with so much should be a natural reaction for people."