In early April, twelve employees from the Lou Malnati’s downtown Naperville location participated in an event hosted by the PADS (Providing Advocacy Dignity and Shelter) Organization at St. Margret Mary’s Parish in Naperville. PADS is an organization that helps out the less fortunate by finding housing and providing support for the homeless in the Chicagoland area. Each Thursday St. Margret Mary’s works with PADS and provides a meal, a warm bed for the night, and any supplies that have been donated to the local homeless.
When we pulled into the church parking lot my attention was immediately drawn to a minivan that had piles of donated clothes and supplies towering out of its trunk. I was speechless at the generosity. As my team and I got out of our cars, we started to walk in and no one really knew what to expect, including myself. We were met at the door by a member of the church named Tom, and the pastor, Father Paul. Tom gave us more background information about PADS. We were put to work right away and directed to a back room where all the beds, pillows, and sheets were located.
In the church there were four separate family rooms with a total of 28 beds and a larger main area where there were 40 more. There were also bins of hygiene products, clothes, and stuffed animals that were available for the families’ use. As we were setting up the beds, the families started to arrive and we started to comprehend just how unfortunate these families are.
I was making a bed and a little girl, no more than 6 years old, started to follow me. She had the biggest smile on her face and helped me straighten out the sheets on the bed I was making. She and I talked for some time while making beds until her mom called her over along with her rest of the family. It was at that point that I realized how good it felt to be giving back to the community and also how happy I was to have my coworkers experience this with me.
We finished making the beds and the families started to settle in. While we were waiting for the food from Lou’s, we had about 30 minutes of playtime with the children. My coworkers and I, not knowing how to approach the children, were nervous to walk over and interact with them. To our surprise, it was very easy to engage with them. Another member of our team, who has children of her own, was the first to walk over to the table where all the little kids were playing. The rest of us followed and watched the children play games and saw how their smiles continued to grow as we talked and laughed with them.
As the food arrived, we all walked out as a team and helped bring the items inside. We noticed that all eyes were on us as the food arrived and that made me realize how hungry these people were. They quickly lined up and were very thankful and patient during the serving process. My team and I focused all of our attention on helping the people get what they needed. Almost everyone got up for seconds until they had their fill.
As everyone ate, I talked with one of my managers and another employee who was working next to me. We all agreed that if we saw these people outside of the church, we wouldn't even notice that they were homeless. This realization helped show us how such a widespread problem like homelessness can be so easily ignored. Later one of the members of the church came over and told us that we did a great job and that made me feel good about the effort that we had put in towards helping those experiencing such hard times.
After dinner it was about time for us to leave and my team and I came together again to clean up. We shook hands with the members of the church and said goodbye to the families. Everyone thanked us again for sharing our time with them.
Walking to our cars, we all were smiling to ourselves knowing we took time away from our busy schedules to make a difference in our community. We all mentioned that there is so much more that we can do for people in need, such as having a donation box at work for toys, stuffed animals, clothes, and hygiene products.
When reflecting back on the experience I realize how proud I am to be a part of the Lou Malnati’s family, because we came together as a group to make a difference.
Contributed by Sarah H.