Batavia family leads bus trip to help homeless in Chicago
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media December 23, 2013 4:23PM
Randy Simonian of Batavia, who commutes to Chicago for work, mobilized about 40 people Saturday morning to distribute warm coats and supplies to the homeless on the streets of Chicago. "There are so many people who are less fortunate that need a little e
Updated: December 23, 2013 6:46PM
The Simonian family literally invited a busload of friends over to their Batavia home to share their spirit of giving to the homeless on the streets of downtown Chicago.
“There are so many people who are less fortunate that need a little extra love,” Randy Simonian said.
Over the weekend, about 40 family friends and individuals boarded a chartered bus packed with warm winter coats and backpacks filled with daily essentials to help the homeless.
Simonian works in downtown Chicago and rather than merely passing the homeless on his regular 25-minute walk from the Ogilvie Transportation Center to his office, he actually has gotten to know them through his gestures of kindness, whether it is a warm hat or a sandwich.
Simonian’s three daughters were getting to know the individuals by first name just through conversations they had with their dad when the family decided to do something bigger.
“It is in his nature to help others,” his wife, Kathy Simonian said. “His mother has stories of him as a kid being so happy because he gave away his new wool coat to someone who didn’t have one. He makes us all want to do better.”
Simonian, who works for a corporate production company, mobilized people on Facebook to join the family in a “Helping 100 Homeless” campaign.
By Saturday morning, the dining room was filled with new and “gently loved” coats.
“These are going right to the men who live on the streets and refuse to go to the shelters,” he said.
The family room was filled with backpacks each with a hat, pairs of gloves and socks, a toothbrush kit, snack bars and handwritten notes from Batavia third- and fourth-graders.
“My youngest daughter Elena wrote a note to one of our homeless friends, and he still had it in his pocket six months later,” Simonian said. “We decided to get notes from 100 students to put into the backpacks. The messages make you want to cry.”
“We usually adopt a family for Christmas, but we don’t get to meet them; now we’ll be able to share our joy and hope in person,” said Elena, 12.
Their first stop in the city was at the American Medical Association Plaza in Chicago across from Trump Tower, to give out 100 coats and backpacks, as well as hot pan-size pizza purchased through donations.
Spare Wheels Transportation Co. donated the chartered bus for the round trip from Batavia to Chicago. Any remaining coats and supplies were to be donated to a Chicago shelter.
Friends said Simonian’s heart is in the right place year-round.
“Randy is the happiest person I know. He’s full of joy and good wishes all of the time,” neighbor Richard Cox said.
“When Randy posted his message Help 100 Homeless, that is what really grabbed me,” family friend Niki Theros said. “We started having coat drives in the neighborhood and got the kids involved.”