Home > Letters from Chana > Letter From Chana Bernstein


Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Saret owes its existence to so many wonderful people. Some have moved out of state, passed on, leaving so many wonderful memories, and some of you are still here, helping us help others. Today we want to acknowledge those people for helping us in 2016.

During the holiday season my thoughts go right to our clients and their children who have so little but who we have been able to help each year. It breaks my heart and sometimes my soul to see how many millions of children have nothing. Our clients have food thanks to the wonderful food pantries in DuPage County but most of them can barely cover their bills and often, they don’t. This is the time that I play the role of Santa Claus. I interview moms, asking them how much they need to get their children the jackets, shoes or boots, soap, shampoo, and things they would love to own and try to figure out how we can best help them this time of year. We purchase gift cards from Wal-Mart, Jewel, Trader Joe, Aldi, Dollar Tree, Gasoline stations, and even Good Will which saves people a lot of money.

Year after year, we have divided our donated funds in December between those who needed specific economic aid like repairing a car, paying off a water bill, helping with rent, and the Christmas Drive which caters mainly to those families I just discussed. Those gift cards help moms buy their children basic necessities and, if any funds remain, then yes, a game or a toy. Some years we have been able to give out over $5000 for the Christmas drive and occasionally we have gone as high as $10,000. We don’t have a clue as of right now what we will be able to give out for this Christmas. I leave it in your hands and hope to inspire you right after this with a story that is so touching.

I also wish you could volunteer and join me in visiting our families as I do. Meeting the mothers and fathers who are hurting right now with unemployment or underemployment. Our clients’ incomes range from zero to $733. Sometimes up to $1600. We prioritize the poorest of the poor in our aid programs.

Those who made all this possible month after month are:

From Naperville, Mary and Huma From Wheaton, Cathy, Pat and Don, Marilyn, and Vimala and Michael. From Glen Ellyn, Ruth and Steven, Marci and Ken, Karen and Mike, Karen, Eva, Gloria, and Valeria. From Downers Grove, Gale and Nancy. From Lisle, Kathy, and Vernon. From Wayne, Ed, and Nancy. From Lombard, Janet and Paul.

We also want to thank the following charities and churches that joined hands with us this year when we needed additional help to keep families safely sheltered in motels or in their homes. They are, St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville which worked very closely with us, St. James in Glen Ellyn, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Southminster Presbyterian Church in Glen Ellyn, Salvation Army, Open Doors, Peoples Resource Center, Love Christian in Clarendon Hills, Dupage County Human-Services Department, Etz Chaim Congregation in Lombard, Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, The Glen Ellyn Walk in Ministries, and the Downers Grove Walk in Ministries of Hope.

Please enjoy reading the story we want to share below.

Chana Bernstein
President, SARET Charitable Fund


(This story is dedicated to a couple from Wayne, IL)

This is the story about a mother and her daughter whose plight brought about the establishment of the Barbara K. Brent Aid Fund in June 2005.

I received a call Yolanda Morales in the Spring of 2004. She had been referred to us by the Downers Grove Ministry of Hope which is an aid organization supported by churches in East DuPage County. At that time, they could only help Yolanda with smaller needs, such as gasoline or Jewel cards. She was about to lose her apartment and could not receive any additional help from any of the other aid organizations.

When I met her, she could not move her neck and walked very slowly. I called my chiropractor, Dr. William Johnson, still practicing at over age 70, who had done miracles with so many patients. He called me after the evaluation and told me that her neck, connective tissues, and muscles were so inflamed that no adjustment could be done. He did provide massage and other therapies and offered further visits at no charge.

Up to several months before her injury she had worked two jobs, one at the local hospital cleaning medical equipment, and on weekends she worked at a laundromat. She was walking down a hospital corridor when a roughhousing employee accidentally tripped her, causing her to injure her knee, elbow and, most seriously, her back and neck. She received some medical care, but the doctor writing the diagnosis ignored some of her complaints and she didn’t receive either proper therapy or financial compensation. Workers Comp claims can take years to resolve and Yolanda needed immediate assistance.

Yolanda was bed ridden with agonizing pain so it fell to Taylor, her ten-year-old daughter to do most of the chores her mother usually did. Taylor would also have to care for the Chihuahua they had just received at Christmas which they named Chiquita, or Chiqui. This tiny dog became part and parcel of this family unit. They were inseparable.

After a couple of months, due to her physical limitations, she was assigned to work at the hospital resale shop, sorting clothes, a task that did not exert too much stress on her body. However, they let her go after six months because, as she admitted to me, she had to work very slowly. Without income and in no condition to just walk into any place seeking work, Yolanda was out of options and desperate.

After a meeting with Dr. Johnson Yolanda stopped at my house on her way home. SARET had just started to organize a small group of beaders which met at my house. I explained how we could teach her how to bead. We needed her help because we were attending some of the French Market locations and had begun to expand our jewelry sales. We would pay her per necklace and per set of earrings. We would also pay her $10 per hour if she wanted to sit at the French market and interact with customers. She was relieved to learn about this opportunity and preferred making earrings, as they did not take as much time and was easier on her. She made hundreds of earrings. We were averaging a few hundred dollars per weekend, so we put all those funds towards Yolanda’s rent and another member of the beader group.

Yolanda and Taylor assisted on the weekend French markets in Wheaton, Elmhurst, and Geneva. We did notice that many people were attracted to our booth because of Taylor and the little dog that sat on her lap. That interaction gave us the opportunity to explain how the proceeds went to help disabled clients and our mission to custom design our aid bases on the severity of need. We did manage to meet the goal of paying Yolanda’s rent during the summer and fall, but what were we going to do to in the winter without jewelry sales?

In September 2004, our board was preparing for our 3rd Ethnic Dinner Dance. Each year, we selected a country, found a dance troupe, and selected a key note speaker. The participants were invited to learn folk dances from the respective countries. The first gala with 120 guests was a stunning event that many people continued to comment on for months and years later. The raffle and Silent Auction organized by board member, Dagmar Grunewald, was a one of a kind event. The dancing was dedicated to Israeli folk dances and with the help of the Lombard Rabbi’s wife, Tammy Bob, and her friend, Marcy Siegel, a dance teacher herself, we had three large circles filled with joyous people dancing the famous Israeli Hora and two other very popular Israeli dances. Our key note speaker at the first event was the inspirational Bob Wahlgren, founder of Bridge Communities telling us the amazing Bridge’s story. Sadly, Bob just passed away October 23, 2016 and was one of a handful of DuPage county housing aid pioneers who really made their mark on promoting housing aid. That program was filmed and will be available to view through a link to our web site.

Our second dinner dance in 2005, was dedicated to Greek dancing. The keynote speaker was Mary Ellen Durbin, the executive director of Peoples Resource Center. She had secured not one but two large centers in Wheaton and later in Westmont. That organization is another miraculous undertaking inspired by the founder, Dorothy McIntyre, bringing an array of programs which assist the poorest of the poor in DuPage county as they provide food, computer training, art programs, and English lessons for refugees and new arrivals.

The podium for our third Ethnic Dinner Dance was going to be given to our clients. We initially asked Yolanda to share her story, but she was too humble and shy, so her adventurous and pretty daughter, volunteered to take over. Taylor wrote her ideas down and I typed them up for her. Taylor described what life was like after her mom was injured. By the time she finished her story, there was not one dry eye in that room. Dr. Johnson came up to speak, wiping his eyes also. He was planning to discuss what do patients like Yolanda go through when they endure skeletal injuries involving severe pain and lifelong limitations. He could not discuss Yolanda’s personal case, for confidentiality reasons, but what he shared, helped the audience understand what Yolanda was living through. Pamela Brown hosted that evening and the program ended with the Fermi labs folk dancers teaching the audience several Greek, Bulgarian, and Macedonian dances.

A couple of weeks after this event, I received a letter from a Wayne couple, who joined two of our board members, Dagmar Grunwald and Shirly Mayer. Those two women, incidentally, played an important role in helping me expand the charity from a budget of $14,000 a year to $60,000 a year. The couple wrote a heartwarming letter advising us that they were so moved by Taylor’s story, that they want to help Taylor with her needs. They would donate $700 each month for rent and an additional $200 per month for her personal needs of either food, clothing, or to attend classes and activities she wanted to attend.

This was truly a thanksgiving and Christmas miracle combined. Mother and daughter were elated.

In the middle of a freezing January 2005, Yolanda had to leave her apartment because the rent was raised. We found a small house for her in Glen Ellyn which belonged to a woman I befriended. She was moving to Arizona but wanted to rent her little house on Elm Street until the market improved. She agreed to $700 a month, and thanks to Nancy and Ed, the family remained there for several more months. During those months,Yolanda continued to make earrings and we attended a few craft shows.

About one year after our ethnic dance gala, Yolanda learned that her mother, a diabetic, had lost her sight and was now fully blind. Mom, daughter, and Chihuahua moved back to Texas to take care of Yolanda’s mother. I have attempted to find Yolanda and even requested the help of a friend who is a detective, but the leads he gave me were not successful. Taylor would be 22-23 years of age this year.

Ed and Nancy, however, continued to assist our charity with a $700 monthly contribution and that contribution supports four rent subsidies to this day for four disabled families. Without those subsidies, these four families, would have become homeless. Sometimes, just $100 means the difference between meeting one’s rent or not.

We need many more couples like Nancy and Ed, to expand our aid to the ill and disabled with rental aid programs. The government is moving far too slowly and nothing compares to grass roots style programs like the ones Saret Charitable Fund provides.

We wish and pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving make this Christmas more joyous to our SARET Families.

Peace and thanks!!!

Chana Bernstein, President
SARET Charitable Fund