Hinsdale church member lends hand of hospitality

Dick Resseguie's high school Spanish is being tested in a way he never could have imagined.

Since last month, the retiree has been serving alongside fellow members of Hinsdale's Grace Episcopal Church to help care for 25 asylum seekers being housed by a congregation nearby.

"They're all about 20- to 30-year-old single men," Resseguie said of the migrants, who arrived on buses from Texas in late November.

Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park has been providing and food and shelter to them while efforts to find a long-term solution continue. When the call went out to for volunteers to help with the mission, Resseguie's heart was moved to respond.

"I just started doing it," he said, saying men sleep on air mattresses in the church's community room. "I did feel bad for the guys. They're here, they need help."

Along with taking a weekly four-hour shift, Resseguie also coordinates shift assignments for others interested in participating in the outreach.

"Basically it's just kind of watching over things," he explained. "They draw in people from all over the community who just want to help. They cook dinner or drop off food. They've got volunteers who will take (the men's) laundry and return it the next day."

On one occasion the church needed some chairs relocated for a special event, so Resseguie got out his translator to enlist some of the temporary guests for the task.

"I got all these volunteers to help move chairs," he said. "They're polite, they're respectful, they're so grateful for anything you do."

The most enriching - and educational - aspect of the experience for Resseguie is the opportunity to make one-on-one connections. The men seem to appreciate the interactions, as well.

"I've had conversations about their journey here. It was hard, very rough," Resseguie said. "They want to tell you their names. They want to contribute to society.

"I talked to one guy who was a butcher in Venezuela, and he is trying to find something. He's applied for restaurant jobs. I don't if he's going to be successful," he continued. "It does personalize it a lot more. These are humans, and they want to work."

Resseguie spent his professional life in the northern suburbs before moving to this area to be closer to family. After closing out his banking career, he spent a year honing his golf game and traveling before getting more involved in church leadership.

"My time is flexible," he said, adding that he plans to continue pitching in for the foreseeable future. "(The church) has committed to these folks until about March 15, with the intent that they'll be able to find more of a permanent residence."

Resseguie admits that the scale of the current immigration crisis "is a little overwhelming," but he just tries to his small part.

"I don't keep track of their comings and goings. I just talk to them, try and keep the place tidy," he said.

If an issue arises, volunteers scramble to address it.

"One guy cracked his tooth, so we helped him get in touch with a dentist," Resseguie recounted.

Their gratitude has magnified his own.

"It sure reinforces how lucky we are and the advantages we have, and sure reminds us of helping people who need a hand," he said. "I feel good every time I go."

- story by Ken Knutson, photo provided

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean