Serving Our Community

Virtually all religions emphasize the practice of compassion and loving action toward others in our lives and community. Buddhism is no exception. When the Buddha attained enlightenment, he realized that not only was he enlightened, but that all beings were enlightened. It was only because of their self-centered, deluded views that people were unable to see it. He saw that people were actually seeking happiness, contentment and peace in fruitless and even destructive ways: through the endless pursuit of accumulation -- wealth, material goods, fame and fortune, even knowledge, and through a focus on self preservation and holding on to one’s own, seeking to satisfy one’s own desires and without regard to the needs, wishes and well being of others. This, he observed, was only creating more unhappiness. It was these observations about the deluded efforts of people that moved him to devote his life, from that moment on, to helping others to realize what he had realized so that they, too, could relieve their suffering and confusion. Buddha spent the rest of his life giving whatever “medicine” was necessary for each person to help them awaken to the truth of their own nature.

In this spirit, Buddhism encourages its practitioners to carry their practice beyond the meditation hall to the larger world, sharing what is appropriate for each person and situation. The compassionate actions which grow from our practice are sometimes referred to as Engaged Buddhism. We also refer to this embodiment of compassion as Kanzeon Bodhisattva, the “One Who Hears the Sounds (Cries)of the World.” The regular practice of sitting meditation (zazen) is central to our practice, as is opening our eyes to our own nature. But we also have to embody our practice in our thoughts, words and actions day in and day out. With an open mind, we carefully regard the world around us and respond in an appropriate way to the struggles, hardships, needs and suffering we see all around us, at the same time recognizing that these are none other than the faces of compassion looking back at us, guiding us toward liberation as well.

At Great Plains Zen Center, we encourage all practitioners to engage in their communities, finding opportunities to share their talents and resources with those who need them. On this page, you are invited to share and find information about volunteer opportunities in your community. We hope this will provide a way for our members, who live in various locations throughout metro Chicago, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and the Midwest in general, to participate in activities with other members and friends of GPZC. Scroll down for a listing of service opportunities in the Palatine, IL (Metro Chicago) and Monroe, WI areas. Please check back often for updates and upcoming opportunities.

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Service Opportunities Near Palatine, IL (Metro Chicago)

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Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (more info)

The Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants is a non-profit, faith-based organization of staff and volunteers called to respond actively and publicly to the suffering of all individuals and communities affected by immigration detention, deportation, and post-detention through pastoral care, advocacy, public witness and other activities.

Kathy Murtha, Business Manager
773-779-6011 x3846

Kenneth Young Center (more info)

The Kenneth Young Center is a not-for-profit, comprehensive provider of mental health and older adults’ support services. Service Opportunities include:

  • Administrative and Clerical Volunteers assist business operations staff with a variety of tasks or special projects like bulk mailings, data entry, and administrative projects.
  • Home Delivered Meals Drivers deliver hot meals to older adult clients once a week over the noon hour, ensuring good nutrition, social contact and wellness-checks for frail persons home alone.
  • Special Events Volunteers work on committees to plan and execute fundraising projects (i.e., Fashion Show Luncheon, Golf Outing and 5K Run/Walk). Committees can include: Fashion Show Luncheon, Golf Outing, 5K Run/Walk, and independent fund-raising projects.

Colette Young, Coordinator of Volunteer Services
(847) 524-8800, x182

Northern Illinois Food Bank (more info)

Feeding Our Hungry Neighbors in Northern Illinois. Solving hunger by providing nutritious meals to those in need in Boone, DuPage, DeKalb, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Will & Winnebago counties. Service Opportunities include:

  • Food Sorting & Packing (Geneva, IL Warehouse)
  • Skills-Based Volunteers (Geneva, IL Warehouse)
  • Occasional Off Site Opportunities

Volunteer Contact: (630) 443-6910

Partners for Our Community (more info)

Partners for Our Community is a Palatine-based not-for-profit agency that coordinates a variety of services for persons of low-income in Palatine. POC operates a center in which various agencies have satellite offices that can be accessed by their clientele. These include direct services, such as after-school educational services for youth, a library, and medical services and a number of other services.

Rachel Lara, Community Engagement Coordinator

Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care (more info)

Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides comfort and dignity for individuals dealing with advanced, complex illness. We are proud to be one of the oldest and largest non-profit organizations serving Chicagoland. Through our services, staff, volunteers, bereavement programs and LIFE Institute of Learning, Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care empowers people to live with hope and resilience throughout the journey with illness and loss.

Daisy Vargas

ReStore (Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley) (more info)

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that uses volunteers to build homes for low-income individuals. The local Habitat for Humanity c, that serves a region which includes Palatine, is located in Elgin, IL. The RESTORE center sells donated construction materials, furniture and appliances to fund the building of the homes. Proceeds from RESTORE have financed the construction of 56 homes in the last 11 years.

Lance Dailey, ReStore Volunteer Coordinator
847-742-9905 x6

WINGS Program (more info)

WINGS is now one of the largest domestic violence service and housing providers in the state of Illinois. Single women and women with children are able to receive temporary safe shelter through WINGS housing. Staff provides on-on-one, individualized assistance that allows women to set personal goals that will enable them to work, continue their education, and care for themselves and their children.

Bruna Srb, Manager of Volunteer Services
847-519-7820 x216

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Service Opportunities Near Monroe, WI

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Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering with any of the programs below.

Green County Family Promise (Monroe, Wisconsin)

Green County Family Promise, Monroe, Wisconsin is part of a national program that responds to the growing need to provide shelter, meals and comprehensive support services to families without homes. Thirteen congregations host three to five families (up to 14 individuals) about four times a year – for one week at a time. Overnight lodging is provided from 5:00 pm to 7:00 am the next morning. Host congregations provide overnight lodging, breakfast, brown-bag lunch, dinner, and hospitality.

The program has many volunteer opportunities. Volunteers help with cooking and serving meals, playing with children, helping with homework, staying overnight, staffing the day program, and driving guests back and forth in the program’s van to name a few. Beyond providing lodging and meals, volunteers interact with the guests, treating them with respect and responding with compassion. Volunteers also have the opportunity to get to know and work with each other.

Volunteers can choose shifts that match their availability – weekdays, evenings, or weekends. Shifts can be on a regular basis or on an as needed basis. Volunteers can work at one of the thirteen host churches throughout Green County or the Day Program which is located in downtown Monroe across from the library. All volunteers must first attend a training program which is offered periodically. This is a wonderfully successful program with a track record of helping families who are homeless achieve sustainable independence. It is also a great chance to meet and work with caring people from different churches in the community. Learn more about Green County Family Promise at their website.

Second Harvest Foodbank (Madison, Wisconsin)

Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, southwestern Wisconsin’s largest hunger relief organization, is a non-profit organization that is committed to ending hunger in 16 southwestern Wisconsin counties through community partnerships. It serves nearly 141,000 people struggling with hunger each year; 43% of whom are children. From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, Second Harvest together with its more than 225 partner agencies and programs, provided 12.6 million meals to those facing hunger.

Participants in GPZC’s Summer 2012 Practice Intensive spent every Tuesday morning volunteering at the Second Harvest Foodbank’s large facility in Madison, Wisconsin. We primarily sorted vegetables and labeled and assembled canned goods on pallets. The facility’s volunteer program was extremely well-organized and efficient. Working as a group was fun and we were impressed with the statistics on the amount of food processed and distributed in this facility to food pantries in the 16 served counties of Wisconsin.

For information about volunteer opportunities, please visit Second Harvest’s website.

CROP Hunger Walk
Every year in October, GPZC members participate in a Crop Hunger Walk to raise funds to fight hunger locally and globally. The event, initiated by St. John's United Church of Christ, is organized and carried out by a number of local churches in Monroe, including Great Plains Zen Center.

In 2015, the walkers, almost 100 in number, raised over $4,000, Zen Center members raising over $700 of that total. Roshi, along with area ministers, participated in a brief prayer ceremony and the GPZC group sang “Calling out to Hungry Hearts” (the song at the beginning of the Gate of Sweet Nectar). Walkers began their 2.5 or 1 mile walks to the sound of bagpipes. The event also included a contest in which youth groups made sculptures out of non-perishable food items. The Stateline Homeschoolers (who participated in the first Ripples class), took second place for their sculpture entitled “The Bison.” Many thanks to the walkers and everyone who donated to this good cause. Click here to take the quiz on our website to see how much you know about hunger-related issues.

For more information about the Crop Walk (including an entry form, information for youth groups, and statistics on world hunger), please download this PDF document: Click to download