By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
‘Twas seven-days before Christmas and all through the night most of the children were at home as their parents filed one-by-one late Monday night into Saint Sabina Church, where they stuffed toys into large black bags during Father Michael L. Pfleger’s annual church membership toy giveaway.
Much like a musical director, Father Pfleger was busy giving instructions to his elves––his armor bearers. It’s a scene that has been repeated for nearly 13 years. Looking at the piles of toys, Pfleger commented, “There is a man who every Christmas spends about $10,000 buying toys to just bless people.”
“This is a very difficult season, and many people want to give toys for their children but they can’t,” he explained. “We set this up. Rather than to give the toys to the kids, we give them to the parents so that their children will think they are getting the gifts from them and not the church,” Pfleger said. “It’s a blessing. We say every week ‘be blessed and be a blessing,’ and we have to live that ourselves as a church, to be a blessing, if we want other people to do it.”
When asked what is his Christmas wish for the city of Chicago, Pfleger remarked, “I wish as a city that from elected leaders down to the youngest child, that we decide in 2018 that every one of us will do everything we can to have no killings.
“This has to be the first point of an agenda. We have a lot of issues, poverty, failing schools, unemployment, a tremendous list of problems, but I think it starts with life. People have to be able to live and not be afraid,” he said.
“We also have to make sure that we provide them with a safe life but also give them the things to help them be full … things they deserve as an American citizen, and that we strive one day to have the South and the West side look like the North Side,” said Pfleger.
One little boy looked hard and long at the array of toys and when he finally made up his mind to select one proceeded to open up the toy. He wasn’t about to wait seven-days for Christmas. The elves looked on with humor but his siblings helped him open the package.
One of Father Pfleger’s elves in particular stood out. He was 14-year-old Chazz Clark who said being stationed at the same spot (by the exit door) that his father, the late Vince Clark, Pfleger’s special assistant, was assigned to for so many years, “is a pretty cool thing to be doing what my dad did.”
And, just like his father, who died in a tragic car accident in January 2016, his son added, “I enjoy giving back and helping people in my community.” Chazz, who wants to be a professional baseball player, is also a drummer in the Saint Sabina band.
Spreading holiday cheer, Father Pfleger distributed the first round of toys to the public last Saturday. The remaining toys, which range from dolls to tennis rackets, will be donated to the Social Services Catholic Charities on west 79th street. Toys remaining from that giveaway will be given out on Christmas day when Saint Sabina Church will feed more than 500 homeless people and their families in the Saint Sabina Bethune Hall adjacent to the church.