Rev. DeAndre Patterson, pastor of Miracle Revival Cathedral in Maywood, with parishioners and organizers of an annual resource fair and parade the church hosts. The event’s primary planner, church member Bonnie Stegall (pictured below with her daughter and granddaughter), said this year’s event may be the last one she organizes. The church’s plans for the future, however, are only just heating up, say its founder.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 8:58 p.m.
For the last 11 years, Bonnie Stegall, 73, has organized an annual homeless awareness fair and parade on the grounds of the Miracle Revival Cathedral, 2010 S. St. Charles Rd. in Maywood, the church she attends regularly.
Last Saturday, dozens of people lined up to receive produce donated by the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and hundreds more received free drinks and cooked food, book bags stuffed with supplies, health screenings and information from numerous vendors.
It’s a family affair. Stegall’s children, grandchildren and fellow church members typically pitch in. And she gets a ton of help from Dr. Greg Gaither, who co-organizes the annual event.
“I come every year,” said Stegall’s granddaughter Darry Cameron, who brought her daughter Alani to the event. “I think it’s inspiring that she’s trying to help people in the community.”
But even all that support hasn’t been able to keep at bay the inevitable. Time catches up to even the most dedicated.
“She’s getting older and it takes a lot to do this every year,” said Tiffany Burns, Stegall’s daughter, as she bagged heads of corn in the church’s first-floor foyer.
“We wanted last year to be her last (event) since it was the 10th year, which we thought would be nice, but she wanted to have another one,” she said. “She starts planning at the beginning of the year, making phone call after phone call and putting everything together. It take s a whole lot, but she just keeps on.”
In addition to numerous vendors, the event also typically attracts popular community acts like the South Shore Drill Team, the Proviso East and Proviso West marching bands, among others.
This year’s annual event, Stegall conceded, may, indeed, have been her last. Her age, she said, is creeping up on her. But for the church in which her original idea for the event was hatched, her last resource fair is just prologue to even more positivity to come.
Stegall said she first stumbled on the idea to plan the annual resource fair and parade after a series of tragic encounters on her way to church one Sunday.
“I saw this homeless lady sitting on the bench at 25th and St. Charles and she was full of feces,” said Stegall in an interview last month. “She was maybe in her late 40s, early 50s. She looked like she had lost her mind and it didn’t appear that anyone was looking after her.”
That same morning, Stegall said, she encountered a little girl who appeared to be 5 years old walking listlessly into a barbershop and a teenager who appeared to be a prostitute. Emboldened by those sightings, Stegall charged into the office of the church’s pastor at the time and asked him to help her do something about what she’d just witnessed.
“I went into the Bishop’s office and told him our people need help,” Stegall said.
The pastor, Bishop Willie J. Chambliss, didn’t need much convincing. Chambliss, members say, founded the church nearly 50 years ago on just the kind of empathy and commitment Stegall exhibited.
“When Bishop started the church over 47 years ago down the street, his mission and his drive was always for the community,” said Rev. DeAndre Patterson, the church’s current pastor and a Gospel music recording artist who also pastors a church on Chicago’s West Side.
“He wanted to make sure the community knew Jesus,” said Patterson, who himself grew up in Maywood under Chambliss’s influence.
“The community got help and (Chambliss) was feeding people food, but the spirit of the Lord said the people need a little bit more than just natural food,” he said. “They needed spiritual food, so it’s always been a community church.”
Chambliss, who sat at a table near the entrance of the church with his wife Irene, looked out onto the parking lot activities. He was satisfied at what his legacy had produced, but he’s still looking to the future. There’s more work to do, he feels.
“It’s a joy to know that we’ve been here to help the community and the people, and that the members have been community minded as well,” said Chambliss, who retired from pastoring in 2013.
“We have programs that reach out to the community in every respect,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to get a building (across the street from the church) for homeless veterans. We’ve had some people come out from Washington a couple of weeks ago who will help us do what we’ve been praying to get done here in the community.” VFP