Orland Park non-profit provides help, support to homeless across Chicago
CHICAGO - During Chicago's harshest winter months, a caravan of support pours in from the southwest suburbs.
The group was started by one woman eight years ago and included a friendship that changed her life forever.
For Doreen DeBoer, helping the homeless is more than a passion. She believes it is her purpose in life.
"I'd been a homeless veteran for about three years. She supplied me with a tent to live along the Chicago River, before the VA acknowledged that I was a homeless veteran," said Bob McMahon, a volunteer.
McMahon believes he was touched by an angel, and her name is Doreen DeBoer.
From homeless children to veterans, drug addicts and loners, DoBoer has loved them all.
"As a little girl, my mom and dad would take us to the shelters. We would sing and serve food and even back then I just felt a connection," said DeBoer.
DeBoer founded the Orland Park non-profit, "All God's People."
Once a month, the group caravans to Chicago.
"I've met guys that were lawyers, doctors, businessmen. You know, different walks of life. You wouldn't be able to tell who or what they come from unless you sit and have a conversation," said Dennis Green, the non-profit’s barber.
Conversation sparked an unlikely friendship between DeBoer and a homeless woman named Melinda.
"This woman became part of my heart," said DeBoer.
The friendship grew into a weekly appointment.
"Every Sunday, I'd bring her back to that corner, and I'd watch her walk away knowing that she's going to be sleeping on the streets, and it was heartbreaking," said DeBoer.
Melinda became sick. Her hard life contributed to her illness.
Soon after she passed away, DeBoer founded Melinda's House, which is a safe space for women. A dozen have passed through the doors and gotten the help they needed.
"We had one lady that we actually got to put through real estate school and she passed the exam recently and we're excited for her," said DeBoer.
The volunteers of All God's People hand out clothing, food, hygiene products and most importantly, hope.
"All the people in her organization, everybody that volunteers with her, they're saints. They're all God's people," said McMahon.
The organization has also provided dentistry and medical care to the homeless. It is run entirely on donations, and no one takes a dime in pay.