October 1, 2011

Sunday, October 2nd, 4:00pm
St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake
7100 North Ashland Blvd., Chicago

Bring your pets (or photographs of animals who do not travel well) for a joyous and fun-filled afternoon as we honor our animal friends.

The service will be held in the church. Animals will receive individual blessings at the altar. A reception with treats for the 2-and 4-legged will be held in the church hall after the ceremony.

All species are invited to join us, but animals must be on a leash or in a pet safe carrier.

(773) 764-6514


Prayer for Peace

December 30, 2010

The last several months have been busy ones – for our volunteers, our supporters, and our clients. Somehow, time just seemed to slip away and now we find ourselves at the year’s end with a post long overdue.

As we do each year during our December distribution days, we gave simple gifts to pantry clients and their pets – treats for the 2-legged and the 4-legged, tugs for the dogs, and catnip squares for the cats, all inside a reusable canvas shopping bag.

This year, we served more than 100 people and their pets – some needing help only two or three times, others month after month as the economy took its toll and other changes made it difficult if not impossible for people to care for their pets.

Julius received eye surgery and was able to move from animal control to a shelter.

Donations to our Edna C. Riley Neuter/Spay and Wellness Fund made it possible for our furry clients to get basic veterinary care and, if needed, neutered or spayed. Additional targeted donations allowed us to support feral cat TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) in Rogers Park.

Additionally, our supporters responded to special requests to fund much needed medical care for some wonderful dogs so they could be transferred from a downstate animal control facility to shelters.  And, they once again chipped in to buy supplies for Burmese refugee school children in St. Paul’s parish.

This little dog was among the first to arrive for the Annual Blessing of Animals and Pets.

The Annual Blessing of Animals and Pets at St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake was well attended. The service was held in the church, followed by the blessing of the new Saint Francis of Assisi statue on the church’s grounds and a reception with treats for all.

You can view more photos of the afternoon’s activities in our Blessing 2010 Picasa Web Album.

It seems appropriate to end this year and begin the next with a few lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

A sincere thank you to all of you who continue to support AniMeals.   May you find peace and joy in the new year.

Please join us on Sunday, October 3rd, for our Annual Pet Blessing

October 2, 2010

Please join us for the Annual Blessing of Animals and Pets on Sunday, October 3rd at 4:00pm at St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake, 7100 N. Ashland.

Bring your pets (or photographs of animals who do not travel well) for a joyous and fun-filled afternoon as we honor our animal friends.

The service will be held in the church. Animals will receive individual blessings at the Altar. You then are invited to join the Reverend John Heschle to bless the new St. Francis of Assisi statue on the church’s grounds. A reception with treats for the 2-and 4-legged will be held in the church hall after the ceremony.

All species are invited to join us, but animals must be on a leash or in a pet safe carrier.

Students need a little help, too

August 8, 2010

Summer is nearing an end, and school is just around the corner.  According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, “Illinois families already shell out more money for K-12 textbooks than parents anywhere else in the country, but now they face even steeper bills after the state wiped out funding for schoolbooks.”

For low-income students and their families, textbook fee waivers help, but do not go far enough to get kids the supplies they need.  Have you seen a list of supplies?  It’s endless – folders and notebooks, pens and pencils, markers and sketch pads, paints and crayons, calculators and dictionaries. 

Last year, many of AniMeals’ supporters pitched in to help out Burmese refugee school children in St. Paul’s parish.  These tireless volunteers and donors took the list of supplies and they shopped, and they shopped, and they shopped.   The supplies were distributed to the students right before school started; extra supplies were given to Field Elementary School in Rogers Park for other students in need.

This year, we would like to help out the Burmese kids, who are doing great by the way, and the kids at Field School again.   We are asking you to chip in what you can to get these students off to a great school year!   The best part is that you don’t have to shop.  Judith and Celeste, who work with the Burmese refugee children, will take care of the leg work.   So, please take a moment to visit our ChipIn page or click on our PayPal link and ask your friends, family members, and colleagues to do the same!

Pet Memorial Service, May 30, 2010

May 27, 2010

Father Heschle blesses the ashes of a young man's pet at the Memorial Service in 2009.

Please join us for a liturgy of thanksgiving and remembrance for our departed animals and pets on Sunday, May 30th at 4:00pm at St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake, 7100 N. Ashland, Chicago.

Please feel free to bring your pets’ ashes and photos for individual blessings.  You may light a candle in memory of your pets.  Animals that accompany you must be on a leash or in a carrier. 

A small reception will follow the service.

Another successful day

March 28, 2010

Another successful Wellness and Vaccine Day was held today for AniMeals’ clients at the Tree House Humane Society’s BDVM MacLean Clinic.  Clinic staff members Doug, Jenn, and Jodi worked on what would have been a well-deserved day off.  Dr. Sarah Stredney and Dr. Jason Doukas generously donated their services.  Meg, Scott, and Dave provided transportation and a little bit of dog wrangling.    

Jenn and Nece after Nece's exam.

Seven cats and seven dogs received wellness exams, vaccines, Revolution, nail trims, ear cleaning, microchips if needed, and lab work if recommended by the veterinarians.  Capturing the day in photos was a bit difficult because, frankly, there was a whole lot of wiggling going on and wagging tails that just could not stop moving!  You can see a few of those tails by checking out our Picasa Web Albums.

We would like to extend a very sincere thank you to Doug, Jenn, Jodi, Dr. Stredney, Dr. Doukas, Meg, Scott, and Dave – their names bear repeating – for giving up part of their day and to supporters of the Edna C. Riley Wellness and Neuter/Spay Fund for making this Wellness and Vaccine Day possible.  For information about the Fund and a list of some of the animals helped so far, please see our Riley Fund page.

Where does the time go?

March 26, 2010

A very happy moment at the 2009 Blessing of Animals and Pets.

Too much time has passed since what was then our upcoming annual Blessing of Pets and Animals was announced.  The October service was well attended with many familiar faces and many new ones.  Proud parents took photographs of their pets as they were blessed by Father Heschle, and we managed to take a few, too, which you can find at our Picasa Web Albums

The months since the Blessing have been full of activity.  Students at the East Prairie School (Skokie) organized a pet food collection drive during November.  Pet Supplies Plus customers contributed food to a collection bin in the weeks before Thanksgiving, too.  One of our volunteers busily sewed catnip squares and dog tugs to include in the holiday gift bags we prepare each year for clients and their pets. 

Our holiday gift bags are simple, but this year we were reminded just how much a simple gesture of kindness matters.  On our distribution day in December at Chicago Uptown Ministry, the Ministry’s food bank was full – a reminder that agencies simply cannot accommodate all the people who need their help and sometimes must turn people away.  But everyone who needed pet food received it, along with their holiday treats.  Later that afternoon, we received the following email from someone who has since become a volunteer:

“I was sitting next to a very distraught woman today while waiting to see my doctor.  In trying to soothe her, pets came up, and she said that she was able to get food for her cat but not herself today.  She said the pantry had these wonderful bags of things, including a catnip square.  I told her I knew who ran the pantry and that I would pass along her appreciation.  Really, she kept mentioning the Christmas bag over and over.”

December was busy not just with holiday preparations, but also with arrangements for veterinary care for a number of the pets we serve.  A donation at the end of 2009 made it possible for us to provide free neuter/spay services to AniMeals’ clients at Tree House Humane Society’s BDVM MacLean Clinic in December and to sponsor a free Wellness and Vaccine Day at the Clinic early this year.  This donation was made to establish the Edna C. Riley Neuter/Spay and Wellness Fund in honor one of the founders of AniMeals.  Please visit our Riley Fund page to learn more about Edna and how this fund benefits clients’ pets.

Guy relaxes on Angela's shoulder after seeing the veterinarian at a Wellness and Vaccine Day.

The Wellness and Vaccine Day was a big success and another one is scheduled for this Sunday, March 28th.  The Day is again made possible by Tree House and the BDVM MacLean Clinic, Dr. Sarah Stredney and Dr. Jason Doukas – both donating their services, our volunteers, and the Riley Fund.  Organizing neuter/spay and wellness days takes a bit of advanced work – registering clients and getting paperwork signed and in order; verifying their appointments with them and confirming transportation arrangements; taking carriers to clients at least one or two days prior to their appointments; preparing carrier cards; planning driving routes; and transporting pets to and from their appointments. 

As March comes to a close, we will continue making the most of what we have to serve the people and pets who need AniMeals.  And, we will prepare for our annual Pet Memorial Service, which will be held on Sunday, May 30th at 4:00pm at St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake, 7100 N. Ashland, Chicago.  For more information, please visit our Events page.  Although it is a more solemn occasion, it is nonetheless a meaningful one as we celebrate the animals that have brought so much joy to our lives.

Save the date!

September 12, 2009

In 2002, Will Clinger and his co-hosts from Wild Chicago, the popular television show that took viewers on a tour of Chicago’s urban jungle, filmed The Annual Blessing of Pets and Animals at St. Paul’s Church by-the-Lake, which became one of the unconventional places and people to appear on the show. 

A year later, Clinger, Mindy Bell, and Harvey Moshman wrote Wild Chicago: The Companion Guidebook to the Wildly Popular Television Show (Globe Pequot, August 2003) that profiled their favorite Wild Chicago features.  The book includes St. Paul’s Blessing, over which the Church’s Rector, the Reverend John Heschle, has presided for many years.

They described the early moments of the service perfectly.  “The service began appropriately with the hymn “All Creatures GrDogs waiting to be blessed at St. Paul' and Small,” followed by a prayer that was greeted with many hallelujahs in the form of barks, meows, and tweets.”  And so the service begins every year.           

After several readings and prayers, people and their pets line up in the central aisle of the Church.  Father Heschle blesses each animal individually, followed by a splash of holy water.  He must put his priestly duties and love of animals above his personal safety because, well, we all know how much cats love water!  The service is followed by a reception for the two-legged and the four-legged. 

Since Clinger’s visit in 2002, hundreds of people and animals have walked down the aisle to be blessed by Father Heschle and enjoy the gathering that follows.  Clinger and friends wrote that “As for the pets, they sensed a certain spiritual enlightenment.  Either that or they were happy about the snacks.”  We think it may be a little of both.

The Annual Blessing of Pets and Animals will be held on Sunday, October 4th, at 4:00pm.  For more information, please visit our Events page, or, find us on  We look forward to seeing you there.

Caring about children, too

September 10, 2009

The connection between violence against animals and violence against people has been well documented.  According to the American Humane Association, founded in 1877 for the prevention of cruelty to children and animals, pet abuse is a high indicator that other types of abuses, particularly child abuse, are also present in the home. 

Children and animals are among the most vulnerable in our society, so it comes as no surprise that those who care about animals also care about children.  In fact, Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, advocated on behalf of Mary Ellen Wilson, a child in New York City in the 1870s, whose foster mother was imprisoned for abuse.

Poverty, like violence against animals, also is an indicator of violence against children.  Earlier this year, in her Child-Watch Column for the Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman discussed the impact of the economic crisis on children at risk.  According to the experts Edelman cites, “economic stress puts already fragile families, like those facing domestic violence or substance abuse, at even greater risk.” 

Almost 30 million children in the U.S. live in poverty.  More than a third of Illinois’ children and almost 60 percent of children in Chicago live in low-income families.  And, according to the USDA, more than 12.4 million children lived in food insecure households in 2007.  The World Food Summit of 1996 defines food security as all people at all times having access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.  Food insecurity, it follows, means not having regular access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life. 

Food insecurity unquestionably affects children’s academic performance.  According to Reading, Writing and Hungry (2008), food insecurity “depresses both the starting point and the upward trajectory of a child‘s education from the moment he or she enters the kindergarten classroom.”  Child Food Security: The Economic Impact on Our Nation, a report published by Feeding America, concludes that “Even children considered marginally food insecure—meaning that they had enough food but their families struggled to meet their needs—lagged behind their peers”. 

As indicated by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), public school enrollment rose 26% between 1985 and 2008.  Of the nearly 50 million students who attend public schools, more than 400,000 attend one of the 660-plus public schools in Chicago.  Tragically, many of these children will experience the consequences of food insecurity as they return to the classroom or begin their first year of school.  Fortunately, many resources exist to help them and their families.  Unfortunately, sometimes even this is not enough.

There is something each of us can do to address food insecurity, poverty, and abuse. There is something each of us can do to help children and their family members, including their pets – get involved in a local food bank, mentor a child, become a pet-assisted therapy or humane education volunteer.  September is Hunger Action Month.  Did you know that giving up one latté can provide nine meals?  Check out Feeding America’s Give-a-Little Calculator to learn how small changes in our lives can make a big difference in the lives of others.  Take the time to give up something small to give kids the start they deserve.


August 23, 2009
Clients and volunteers unload pet food at Uptown.

Clients and volunteers unload pet food in Uptown on August 19th.

According to Feeding America, 36 million Americans struggle with hunger.  Of those 36 million, more than one-third are children.  The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s network of pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters provide food to almost a half-million people In Cook County each year.  Chicago Uptown Ministry is one of those pantries and one of our pet food distribution sites.  On Wednesday, I was reminded why I love Uptown so much.

Uptown has a rich history.  It once was home to movie palaces and dance halls.  The Green Mill and the Aragon thrive still.  In the 1960s, though, the deinstitutionalization of state hospital patients impacted neighborhoods across the country, and Uptown felt the effects disproportionately to other neighborhoods in Chicago.  Meeting the health care needs – both physical and psychiatric, of the chronically ill remains a challenge today.  

Uptown has been in the news lately.  Residents have been concerned about their safety.  A video of a recent brawl involving at least thirty people was posted online and, obviously, did nothing to quell concerns.  People are angry at Alderman Hellen Shiller.  I do not live in Uptown, so I readily acknowledge that my perspective is different from that of the people who live there, or at least of the people who are upset with their Alderman. 

Alderman Shiller said in an interview earlier this year, “Embedded in the community is the opportunity for people from all walks of life to have a good quality life and realize their fullest potential.”  That is why I feel so inspired and so humbled when I am at Chicago Uptown Ministry.  The staff, volunteers, and clients care about each other.  They are a community.  They are part of Uptown’s community.  And, even in the midst of despair, there is the hope for something better. 

A new client registered for AniMeals on Wednesday.  She said, “I don’t want to get in trouble.”  Trouble for asking for help?  Trouble for wanting to provide for her cats?   It was a big step for her, a difficult step to take, but she did it.  She is one of many people who are reaching out for help for the first time.  And, of course, there are the chronically ill and those who are caught in a cycle of poverty who just cannot make it on their own.

Chicago Uptown Ministry and other agencies do the best they can in these difficult times to help people in need.  And, we do the best we can to help them care for their pets, who are members of their families and members of our community, too.  Please visit our Donate page for information about making a gift today.  Make a call to your local food pantry to see how you can make a difference in your neighborhood.  Contact your local animal shelter to find out how you can pitch in.  Everyone needs a little help now and then.  Especially now.

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