Providing Corporal, Spiritual Works of Mercy
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
November 16, 2023
BELOIT, Wis.—The first guest who arrived on Thursday, Nov. 9, seemed most interested in greeting the volunteers at Stateline Works of Mercy and catching up. He’d been out of town for a few months and, over a cup of coffee, shared where he’d been (helping his daughter) and what it was like to be back in Beloit. That need to connect was repeated with the next two guests, one of whom was quick to hug the volunteers she knew.
Then along came a gentleman with a donation of winter coats, which were happily received.
Stateline Works of Mercy is a mostly-Catholic effort to serve homeless people in the South Beloit/Beloit area. Begun by Catholic parishioners, about 95% of its volunteers come from the four Catholic parishes in Beloit and from St. Peter Parish in South Beloit, Church of the Holy Spirit in Roscoe, and also St. Bridget in Loves Park and Holy Family in Rockford.
It has been open for just over a year now, and testimonies from guests hint at the ministry’s services: “I haven’t sat on a couch in over a year.” “I feel like a new man! It’s so good to be clean.” “It is therapeutic, I am not faceless, they care about you.”
St. Peter parishioners Tom and Deb McGinniss have been active volunteers since January 2021.
“Discussions started in 2019 or so,” Deb says of the early brainstorming sessions begun by a handful of Beloit Catholics who served in prison ministry and who noted how prisoners needed support services when they were released. 
Biweekly meetings began in 2021, which led to a registered 501(c)(3) status. Tom, president of the Stateline board of directors, is quick to credit social service agencies they visited in Beloit, Madison and Rockford for helping them write bylaws “so we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Then a ”perfect for what we need” location was found in November 2021 in the United Church of Beloit annex. The former tenant, Family Promise, also begun by Catholic parishioners, is now an independent shelter for homeless families at a new location a few blocks away.
Stateline Works of Mercy volunteers were thrilled to find the already-there showers and washers/dryers. They fixed up the rooms “so it feels like someone’s living room and kitchen,” Deb says. Building on the existing structure “worked out very well,” her husband adds.
The all-volunteer ministry opened on Sept. 9, 2022. Word of its services was spread by volunteers who distributed informative cards to some in the homeless community, to police and fire stations, to local businesses, the public library and social service agencies.
To date, Stateline Works of Mercy has served over 85 people, averaging about 10 per day. The ministry is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Guests are required to have appointments for specific blocks of time. Two shifts of three volunteers do laundry while their guests shower. What began with snacks has grown into small meals that includes homemade soups in winter months. 
“In summer we switch to sandwiches, and people donate sloppy joes, brats, hot dogs, and Frito Lay donates chips,” says Deb, who adds that other volunteer-provided goodies have included casseroles, doughnuts, cheesy potatoes, baked beans and “comfort food, basically.” Guests are provided with snacks like protein bars, peanut butter sandwiches, cookies, and candy as they head back out after their laundry is done. 
The ministry also provides access to computers, although many guests, Deb notes, “like to sit and relax, (and) the biggest thing is they nap on the couch,” since so many of them don’t otherwise sleep well where they can feel safe.
“We also help with referrals to different agencies,” she says. “At intake, we try to find out what they need — medical, housing, jobs. We are getting more knowledgeable on what’s out there.” 
Three service agencies come to them once or twice a month, including one that provides mental health social workers, a food/medical program, and Legal Action. Stateline volunteers also can make appointments for their guests to receive a free haircut at a nearby beauty school and give vouchers for clothing at the St. Vincent de Paul store nearby.
Additionally, parishioners who knit and crochet provide Stateline with hats, mittens, scarves and handwarmers to have readily available for guests. 
“It is heartwarming that so many people try to help,” Deb says. “It really is beautiful.”
And finally, volunteers often include prayer and a bit of evangelization, with Bible verses and pictures on the walls and prayers as the day begins and as guests leave.
At present, some 33 volunteers provide direct services to guests, some working on a monthly, others on a bi-weekly basis. Ongoing training is provided, usually monthly, on topics ranging from mental health awareness to de-escalation to evangelization. Every volunteer goes through initial training and a background check.
“We definitely need more volunteers,”   Deb   says, expressing a wish to open on Saturday mornings. The website ( provides a tab to volunteer and a tab for one-time or $29 monthly “mercy at work partner/adopt a guest” donations.
“The guests have been so grateful. It’s really, really nice,” Deb says. “It is very rewarding for us too,” she adds. 
Her thought is echoed by St. Peter parishioner Jeanne Berner who, with her husband, has volunteered since Stateline Works of Mercy opened. Both had just retired and, she says, “God’s been good to us, and we wanted to give back (and) make somebody else’s life a little better.”
Her husband, Jeanne adds, “loves coming here.”
Chris Marinelli, also a St. Peter parishioner, sees the reason for his volunteer service as “obviously giving back and helping the community” and those in need. But the best part, he adds, “is everyone we work with, and the people who come are very nice. It is very gratifying.”
Those personal connections are important to volunteers as well as to guests. The website quotes one volunteer who summarized it well: “The people we volunteer with are great and the people we serve are grateful.  It fills my heart with joy each time I serve.”


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