Diane Nilan, founder of Will County’s first homeless shelter (Will County PADS), returns to Joliet early next week to be honored by her alma mater, University of St. Francis, on Wednesday evening, 7:00 at the Sue Turk Theater. Nilan has been chosen for the Sister Clare Award, given to honor “… women of vision who have transformed the world in their time…who make a positive, transformative impact in the community; inspire and serve as role models for other women; and are committed to …society.”
When asked how the University of St. Francis could help her nonprofit organization, Nilan suggested a collection of items for both Daybreak shelter and District 86’s homeless student program. Items needed include: diapers, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, shower gel, razors, underwear, socks, and sweatpants. Additionally, District 86 needs school supplies and packs of kids’ underwear, kids’ socks, and gift cards. Drop-off: 1433 Essington Road, Joliet or bring to Wednesday evening’s event.
In September, before leaving on her latest trip, she visited with Courtney Suchor, Daybreak shelter director. “I was delightfully impressed with the scope of their program,” Nilan observed. “But I shudder to think of all the families they must turn away.” While in New York City at a conference in January, Diane also connected with Alice Manning-Dowd, District 86’s homeless liaison. They knew each other when Nilan was working with Chicago area districts on implementing the federal homeless education law.
“These 2 essential programs serve a hidden population in the community,” Nilan pointed out. Her work with HEAR US Inc., the organization she founded in 2005, takes her across the country chronicling the plight and promise of invisible homeless children and youth. “It takes a lot to shock me, but I’m astounded and appalled at how widespread family and youth homelessness is nationwide,” Nilan lamented.
Marilyn McGowan, an Associate with the Joliet Franciscans and HEAR US board member who’s known Diane since they were in college, nominated her. “I have been inspired by what this one person is trying to do through her work,” McGowan said. She is encouraging people to donate to a matching fund created in honor of Nilan’s Sister Clare Award that will support HEAR US’s unique and essential work. Donations up to $10,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000. Information, including the article and donation link, may be found on www.hearus.us.
The Sister Clare Award will be presented at 7 pm followed by a reception. Nilan, returning from months filming and speaking across the country, looks forward to reconnecting with families and friends she knew in her 20 years living in Joliet. She’ll stay her motorhome on the USF campus Tuesday through Thursday so she can speak to students on the topic of family/youth homelessness.
Her dream for her return to Joliet? A generous community response to the collection of items for homeless families. “May the pile be as high as the piles of snow that afflict the area!”
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