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Community Gathers To Help Crossing Guard

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Deb Clark

Community members are organizing to help Deb Clark, a crossing guard at Washington Elementary School in Evanston, to keep her from becoming homeless. (Credit: CBS)

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) - A potluck benefit is being held in Evanston Friday night, to keep a beloved crossing guard from becoming homeless.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the fundraiser is being held at 6 p.m. at the Lake Street Church of Evanston, at 607 Lake St. in downtown Evanston. Supporters say it’s a first-of-its-kind fundraiser for a one-of-a-kind crossing guard.

Deb Clark has spent many years greeting the children of the Washington Elementary School, at 914 Ashland Ave. in Evanston, and helping them across the street.

She has done her job for years with great enthusiasm and love for the more than 300 students at the school. The children seem to love her and her trusted canine companion Buddy back.

“Good morning, my love! Thank you so, so much! Thank you! Thank you!” she exclaims warmly as two young girls embrace her.

But Clark has fallen on hard times and is facing eviction from her Evanston apartment. She says she’s been shown papers that say the building is unsafe, and that she and her two children need to be out by the end of the month.

The prospect of homelessness is frightening for this illiterate mother and grandmother.

“I have to be out of there by Nov. 30, and if I’m not out by Nov. 30, from what I understand is she’s going to set myself out,” she said.

But Clark began talking about her problem and the Washington School community responded. Now, they have organized the potluck benefit dinner in her honor.

“She’s in need of funds to get started, just to give her a boost; put her on her feet,” said Washington School parent Deborah Klein.

Added Washington School interim principal Kate Ellison: “She’s more than just a crossing guard at our school. Our kids are connected to her, and she looks out for our children.”

A friends of Deb Clark Facebook page was also created to generate funds to help Clark supplement the $1,200 she nets working three part time jobs. Two landlords are talking with parents about possibly renting to Clark for as little as $600 a month.

“What we are offering the landlord is to supplement the rent by paying a lump sum, and then allowing her to satisfy the balance every month,” said Washington School parent Gabby Aguilar.

Clark has also had volunteers step up who have vowed to help her learn how to read. It’s all been overwhelming for the 50-year-old.

“If it helped me and my kids, the joy, so Debra can keep her smile and her happiness, and, ‘Good morning! Good afternoon!’ and ‘Have a good day!’ with all my babies out here,” Clark said. “Thank you everybody, thank you.”

Clark had been living rent free in her former apartment. Supporters say the new arrangement will help her because it is placing her on the path to self-sufficiency for the first time in decades.

The potluck will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in MacLeish Hall at Lake Street Church, which is accessed through the Chicago Avenue entrance. The Jeff Libman Trio will play free live music, and a children’s craft table will be set up. You are asked to bring a dish to share.

You can help out by going to FriendsOfDebClark.com.

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