O’Neil deflects offers of help to benefit charityFriends are organizing a CHUM fundraiser to honor activist and St. Louis County Commissioner Steve O'Neil, who has cancer.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
It seems everybody in Duluth wants to do something for Steve O’Neil and his family lately. But O’Neil has been politely saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Instead, O’Neil and his wife, Angie Miller, came up with a way for folks to party with them — and support a good cause: CHUM, the central Duluth agency that helps provide food, shelter and support for the city’s underprivileged.
O’Neil, 62, a St. Louis County commissioner representing eastern Duluth and a longtime activist against hunger and homelessness, revealed last month that he is battling a rare and aggressive form of thyroid cancer. That news came just as O’Neil learned he apparently had beaten prostate cancer after surgery in December.
“We asked what we could do for them and they said, really, they don’t need anything,” said Emily Larson, a Duluth city councilor and a friend of the O’Neil family. “They don’t need people to make meals for them or drive them ... and they said they really don’t need any donations to get through this.
“Angie said that if we really wanted to do something, let’s do this for CHUM, have some fun and make it count for a good cause.”
So a big party, the “O’Night for O’Neil,” is set for 4-7 p.m. Sunday at Clyde Ironworks, 2920 W. Michigan St. in Duluth.
Everyone is invited, and hundreds are expected. It’s free, sort of. But the goal is to get you to spend some money for CHUM. There’s a free-will offering at the door. And there will be a live dessert auction to raise some more money. There’s also a raffle, a short program and maybe some music.
O’Neil also insisted that the event be a potluck supper, so bring a dish to share if you want. Potluck events are an O’Neil hallmark.
“This is an opportunity to wish Steve well and raise money for a cause Steve believes in,” said Patty Beech, one of the event organizers. “It’s a way to support Steve by supporting what he believes in.”
“We have very good insurance through the county, so we’re doing fine that way,” O’Neil said. “So we thought, if people want to do something, let’s raise some money.”
O’Neil is undergoing an aggressive regimen of chemo and radiation therapy in Rochester and Duluth to beat the thyroid cancer and is trying to keep up on his official County Board duties.
O’Neil has long been a supporter of CHUM and once worked for the nonprofit as a community organizer.
CHUM is a human services agency overseen by 39 Duluth congregations. It began as Central Hillside United Ministry in 1973 when 10 Duluth churches pooled resources to assist low-income people in Duluth. The organizational goals are to provide basic needs services for homeless and marginalized members of the community while working to make changes that would eliminate the need for its services.
CHUM, which changed its name in 1995 to Churches United in Ministry, is now just known as CHUM. It provides social safety-net programs for emergency food, shelter, advocacy and outreach to more than 7,000 hungry, homeless and low-income people each year. Housing advocates and street case managers provide stabilization services through case management programs for homeless or imminently homeless families and single adults.