Clara’s House Receives an Extreme Makeover

One of the shining stables of West Englewood, Clara’s House and Clara’s Place received an extraordinary gift from the men and women of Lowe’s. The organization that has provided shelter to hundreds of women and children for the past 30 years received a special extreme makeover.

What initially started as a paint donation request by former newscaster and Community Affairs consultant for the Chicago Police Department, Robin Robinson, gradually turned into a massive make-over project.

The few cans of paint weren’t enough to give the place the facelift needed ,so the home-improvement retailer took it a step further —enlisting 17 Chicagoland region store employees to take on the task. Each person willingly volunteered on their own time to help renovate both buildings that house Clara’s House and Clara’s Place.

A group of female employees of Lowe’s immediately rolled their sleeves up and began work on renovating the backyard of Clara’s House — creating a clean and safe play and recreational space for its tenants. A brand new wooden high fence wraps around the massive yard, where newly fresh chips and green lawn covers what was once dry dirt.

Picnic tables and individual colorful 10×10 tents are placed to provide shade. A donated children’s multi-playground unit equipped with a slide was refurbished — giving young children a refuge to play.

The unveiling of the new renovations took place at the end of August.

It’s all very overwhelming for the Founder and Executive Director, Clara Kirk, who never expected this kind of outpouring of generosity for the organization.

“I have never had the magnitude of this level where people done this type of renovation for me. Lowe’s have been great to me to do anything on this level. They have been working at Clara’s House and Clara’s Place for about a week,” she said.

Currently, Clara’s Place has 12 families in residence. Kirk says the reason is the school connected to their building and the 13th room has become an area of the children.

Ald. Ray Lopez also has his office in the building.

Lowe’s employees from 17 stores in the Chicagoland region worked side by side with neighbors, community groups, Chicago Police Officers, local businesses, Ald. Ray Lopez and other volunteers helped with the magical build-out.

Clara’s House Shelter has provided for thousands of mothers and their children in the 30 years since Kirk started her mission by taking families into her own home. The Chicago Archdiocese eventually donated the rectory of a closed parish for the 56 bed shelter.

Kirk has lived in the West Englewood community since 1974, eventually opening Clara’s House in 1987, later Clara’s Place in 1986.

In addition, the rehabilitation work includes extensive upgrades of several areas at both locations, including the large outdoor play-yard at the Shelter and the children’s’ learning room at the Clara’s House Residence.

Local artists such as Lowe’s employee  Raquel Barragan created a beautiful mural on the third floor of the residence. The onslaught of volunteers from licensed electricians, carpenters, plumbers and landscapers — it was truly a labor of love for those who dedicated their time.

Kirk said, “God is not through with me yet. He has opened the door for me to clear the path and I can say to Him, ‘Thank you God for what you have done and thank you Lowe’s choosing the will of God to help make a better and prettier place for my children to live.”

Follow Mary L. Datcher on Twitter