Last night, the kids and I had the opportunity to pack some lunches for the West Suburban PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) organization. This non-profit agency gives emergency food and shelter to individuals and families in the West Suburban Cook County area. They operate a shelter every Tuesday night and provide lunches for the next day. There are many PADS programs available all over with some even supplying permanent housing and supportive services for their guests. The more we researched about PADS, the more we realized that our time wouldn't just be filled with gathering food and packing for tomorrow, but that we could actually fuel someone's day with nutrients AND encouragement.
We joined a small group to help make sandwiches, decorate brown paper bags that would house the food, and then assembled everything together. JD immediately decided that he wanted to draw and color, while Illy wanted to fold the napkins that would go inside the bag. L J wandered a bit, first deciding to draw and then playing with cars and later helping to put spoons and napkins into the bags. The menu for the night was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit cups, a bag of chips, granola bar, and a bottle of water. Pretty simple upon first thought, but probably more than many eat in one day.
On the way to the location, the kids and I talked about what we'd be doing and why we were doing it. Living in the city, they see individuals in unfortunate situations quite often, but here was an opportunity for them to do something about it. Maybe not for hundreds and hundreds of people, but definitely for the 45 individuals that would be staying overnight at this PADS facility and receiving a lunch sack as they left the next day.
What was most rewarding for me was the fact that the kids were so excited to give of their time. I didn't have to convince them or bribe them. They happily went from one station to the next, asking what they could help with. Supervision was definitely needed though, as we didn't want the sandwiches smashed, the bags ripped while putting in the water bottles, or some items left out!
Overall, it was a great night. One of giving, one of reflection, one of extending hope through a simple meal. We left with a prayer in our hearts and a feeling of excitement about the possibility of making someone else's day better.
If you are interested in donating or volunteering, here is a list of different PADS organizations in IL:
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