A very Rosie Christmas for homeless family
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media December 15, 2011 10:01PM
O’Donnell said the gift was from a donor at Hesed House homeless shelter, where Chytil and her two young sons have lived since August.
“What’s in there?” O’Donnell said on the show that aired Wednesday night. “Keys to a two bedroom apartment! Pretty amazing right? Don’t thank me honey, thank Kevin – go give him some love.”
Chytil gave Kevin Fitzpatrick a big hug. Fitzpatrick grew up in Aurora. He is an investment advisor at Stifel Nicolaus & Company in Geneva. He established a matching gift program at the shelter. Fitzpatrick said he stepped in when the prospects for an apartment from another donor didn’t come through.
“I thought this was a great opportunity for me to give more. I am so blessed and fortunate,” Fitzpatrick said. “It hits really close to home.”
Chytil was selected to share her story on “The Rosie Show,” which airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The show was taped last week at the former home of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. The family was transported into Chicago by limousine for the show. About 20 staff members and children from the shelter had tickets and were in the audience for last week’s taping.
Unaware of the gift awaiting her, Chytil had agreed to go on the show to be an advocate for the homeless. The Chytil family, along with about 20 other families in the TLC program watched a tape of this week’s show.
“I knew it was a Christmas show for children, but I never thought in a million years they would hand me keys for an apartment for one year,” Chytil said. “They were gold keys on a key ring with a red ribbon. I knew these weren’t car keys.”
It was O’Donnell’s Christmas episode and the theme was “Holiday Dreams Come True.” O’Donnell was decked out in red and white and surprised her audience of mostly children when the curtain opened to a set trimmed in twinkling lights and holiday wreaths.
O’Donnell, whose show premiered in October on OWN, is known for her philanthropy. The daytime talk show host shared in the first segment of how she was bullied in her youth but found refuge in the people she admired, including singer-actresses Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand.
Chytil and her two young boys, ages 12 and 9, live in the shelter’s Transitional Living Community, one of the shelter’s ministries for individuals and families who are between homeless and returning to independent life.
“When you are raising a family, you think of always having work,” the single mother told O’Donnell. “You never think of coming to a homeless shelter.”
Chytil said the family lost their apartment in Florida when she lost her job at a shopping network. They returned to Illinois and lived with a relative for a year. She is working a seasonal job paying minimum wage at a retailer and has a second interview at a health care provider. She has always worked in customer service.
O’Donnell also spoke with Ryan Dowd, Executive Director of Hesed House. Dowd said the shelter has been housing up to 250 clients per night. The gift to Chytil was a welcome bonus.
“It was fantastic to see Maureen’s face when Rosie told her that Kevin was giving her an apartment for a year. She started crying, but happy tears. It was great,” said Ryan Dowd, Executive Director. “Kevin is so generous. I wasn’t surprised at all when he donated an apartment. I can’t think of any better dream coming true for the holidays than getting your family out of homelessness. We are all so excited for Maureen and the boys.”
The family will move in sometime in January.
“It’s the best gift ever,” Chytil said. “But when I started donating my time by telling my story, it was to help (recruit) volunteers for the shelter and be with the kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the Harvesting Hope program.”
Other families in the TLC program cheered and applauded when they learned the keys were for a two bedroom apartment for a year.
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