‘Civic Love’ session promotes conversation on housing and hunger in Evanston


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

“The Civic Love: Spirituality + Social Action” events are a series, with Tuesday’s session focusing on housing and hunger in Evanston.

Mika Ellison and Nghi Tran

Members of the Northwestern community gathered in Parkes Hall on Tuesday to discuss housing and hunger in Evanston, as part of the “Civic Love: Spirituality + Social Action” series hosted by Northwestern Leadership Development & Community Engagement. 

The series intends to foster dialogue at the intersection of social justice and spirituality. A previous session this academic year from the series focused on faith-based efforts to combat racism. 

Assistant Director of Leadership Development and Community Engagement Valerie Buchanan, one of the staff members who organized the event, told The Daily the session’s key message was to help NU students build a connection with the Evanston community.

“Sometimes it feels pretty isolating when you’re on campus, and you are not having easy pathways to know your neighbors, so events like this can inform us and also bring us closer together as a community,” Buchanan said. “To know how we can work together to solve social problems and be more sensitized to how we can be good neighbors, as an institution and as individuals.”

Executive Director of Interfaith Action of Evanston Susan Berube was the guest at Tuesday’s event.

Berube said during the event she originally got involved with Interfaith Action as an employment counselor. Over the past 25 years she has witnessed and created initiatives for unhoused people, such as a Producemobile that brings free fresh produce to Evanston once a month.

She said she gained new appreciation for the services Interfaith Action provides, such as soup kitchens, when she realized unhoused people were not the only people utilizing them.

“It just hit me that that service was for all of us,” Berube said. “It was for any of us who, for whatever reason, had a hard time and we didn’t necessarily qualify for government aid.”

Communication Prof. Kent Brooks, who is also director of Religious and Spiritual Life, helped organize Tuesday’s event. 

Brooks discussed his motivation to organize the Civic Love sessions and said the series sends a message to NU students to create positive impacts in their community through the smallest things.

“Even though a struggle might not be your struggle, it doesn’t mean you can’t feel for that person going through the struggle,” Brooks said. “So if we can think of even small ways, as Susan was saying tonight, just volunteering, giving out socks or toiletries, or just finding other ways to spread the word.”

Berube said community members can help Interfaith Action by volunteering at soup kitchens, as well as donating items often needed by the organization, such as toilet paper, ear plugs and phone chargers. The organization also has volunteers who set up overnight shelters, which operate through churches and a synagogue in Evanston. 

Although Berube grew up going to Lutheran Church, she said her time in an interfaith organization has widened her perspective on worship. She now attends church at multiple different congregations in Evanston. 

However, she said, there is one piece of scripture she has always kept close to her heart throughout her religious journey. 

“We should always be hospitable to everybody, no matter who they are.” Berube said. “Because you never know — they might be an angel.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MikaEllison23

Email: [email protected] 

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