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Meet Carl Wolf of Respond Now in Chicago Heights, South Suburban Cook County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carl Wolf.

Carl, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Respond Now started in 1969 as a neighbor to neighbor effort to provide food for those who had an immediate need. For 33 years, Dennis Condon directed and grew the agency to be a more robust food pantry, rent & utility assistance, and prescription medications. The agency is accessible to the community, volunteers, and donors. Mr. Condon retired in 2006 and I replaced him. I have come to the agency with a deep sense of respect for what came before while growing the services that are particularly needed in this area of Chicagoland. Most importantly, however, is the ongoing access to the community, volunteers, and donors. We go above and beyond to ensure that the people we serve know that it’s an honor and privilege to be in service to them. And in fact, we thank them for allowing us to be of service. While we may provide food, housing, and medication to those in need, we receive, in return, an understanding of the world, the honor of being appreciated, and an opportunity to feel as if we’ve done well for our neighbor. It’s a task to which we are humbled.

Has it been a smooth road?
No, it’s never a smooth road. We work with people who are living tenuous lives in a country that provides such abundance to which they have no access. The contradictions are stark and we have to consider that on a day to day basis. Let alone the struggles of a non-profit maintaining a proper level of funding and yet still knowing that we are nowhere close to having access to resources that we need to build stable communities. We are a very important band-aid, a critical one. But we have to remember that we are just that. A band-aid. Band-aids have their role in healing a wound, and we play that role well but so much more is needed. I believe that is the greatest struggle of all… balancing our role with the understanding that there are larger needs in the community.

What else should we know?  What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the steps we’ve taken to provide additional services in the last ten years including SNAP Outreach, Supportive Housing Services, and Housing Counseling. We have grown as an agency and can provide the community we serve with more options. We are a small non-profit, providing health, hunger, and housing services for those who have immediate needs. And our specialty is the dignity and respect that we afford to all that we serve.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Unfortunately, yes. The far south suburbs of Chicago is an area of great unmet need. There is a sense of isolation from the rest of Chicagoland. Services are harder to access. Transportation is not as accessible. So, our presence in the far south suburbs is critical for an area that suffers a great level of poverty and hunger.

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Image Credit:
Stephanie Dowell

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