By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
PADS of Kendall County, IL
Fifteen-year-old Sydney Gonzales wanted to help the less fortunate in her community. When she heard about Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, Illinois, her compassion was directed towards the local homeless population in west suburban Chicago.
“I thought about what it must be like to be out in the cold during the winter,” Sydney said. “And I wanted to do something to help keep them warm.”
So the home-schooled, National Honor Society student began asking members of her church, St. Patrick Parish in Yorkville, for donations. “I was shocked at how much I got,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Sydney received hundreds of donated items that she then assembled into “winter care kits.” The kits contained gloves, hand warmers, lip balm, and boxes of tissue.
She hopes they will help keep PADS guests warm for the rest of its season, which lasts until April 16 at seven area churches. They are: Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville; Yorkville Congregational United Church; Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego; United Methodist Church of Plano; Trinity United Methodist Church in Yorkville; Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego; and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Boulder Hill. Extra kits will be used when the next PADS season begins in October.
“It was an honor to help my community,” said Sydney, who plans to continue contributing to society in a career as a forensic psychiatrist.
Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS, is grateful to Sydney, the St. Patrick’s contributors, and the outpouring of generosity that she witnesses on a regular basis.
“Almost weekly, someone donates clothing, boots, or shoes, hygiene products, and sometimes toys to be offered to homeless guests of PADS,” Anne said. “Individuals, as well as groups, have made contributions this year.”
For instance, Suzy’s Pizza of Yorkville has been donating “care bags” of food to PADS. The Fox Valley Flyers girls’ gymnastic team collected 138 items of cold-weather clothing. Salon Giovani in Plainfield donated coats, boots, scarves, gloves, mittens, and sweatshirts. And Cub Scout Pack 348 of Oswego brought cookies one night to the PADS site at St. Luke’s church.
She is also appreciative to the Caring Hands Thrift Shop in Yorkville, which donates clothing vouchers to PADS guests. And to the Kendall County Food Pantry, under the direction of Maria Spaeth, which provides PADS guests with much-needed storage for hygiene and personal care products.
Then there are the local residents who donate their time and talent to PADS. For the past four winter seasons, hair stylist Bonnie Taylor has been giving free haircuts to homeless guests who would like a cut or trim.
“She brings her hair-cutting tools and a smile,” Anne said. And when Bonnie is not available, Angelique Reeser of Yorkville fills in to cut hair, she added.
While expressing thanks for those individual acts of generosity, the executive director did not want to overlook the many monetary donors who have sustained Kendall County PADS since it began serving the community in 2010.
“I’m personally grateful for the steady flow of financial contributions from organizations, churches, businesses, agencies, families, and individuals who have given in varying amounts––thousands from particular businesses to as little as one dollar from a girl scout.”
Churches that have contributed to PADS include Au Sable Grove Presbyterian in Yorkville; Church of the Good Shepherd, Oswego; Emmanuel Lutheran, Aurora; First Baptist, Plano; First Lutheran, Plano; Harvest Chapel Assembly of God, Sandwich; Immanuel Lutheran, Yorkville; New Life Fellowship, Aurora; New Song Community, Aurora; Saint Aidan’s, Oswego; Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran, Somonauk; Trinity United Methodist, Yorkville; United Methodist, Millington; United Methodist, Plano; and Yorkville United Congressional.
Area townships that have donated to PADS are Big Grove, Bristol, Fox, Kendall, Little Rock, Lisbon, Oswego, and Seward.
Business donors include Wines for Humanity, Naperville; Heartland Bank; Jimmy John’s; Yorkville McDonald’s; JMS Electronics, Yorkville; Rosati’s of Yorkville; Wal-Mart; Buona Beef; and Yorkville Culver’s.
Donating organizations include the Somonauk Junior Woman’s Club; Raven Lodge # 303 A.F. and A.M., Oswego; Yorkville Education Association; Yorkville School District student groups; Girl Scout Troop 1441; Kendall Lodge # 471 A.F. and A.M; Friends of Sheriff Randall; Sunbeam Lodge # 428 A.F. and A.M., Plano; Leon Burson American Legion Post 395, Plano; Rotary Club of Oswego; Kendall County Association of Chiefs of Police; Yorkville Women’s Club; Yorkville American Legion; Plano Lions Club; Yorkville Citizens Police Academy Alumni; Yorkville Women of the Moose; Royal Arch Masons of Aurora, Chapter 22; Cryptic Masons of Aurora, Council 45; Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Aurora, No. 22; and the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Ms. Engelhardt said the ongoing financial contributions allow Kendall County PADS to be singularly devoted to its purpose: “We have enough income to cover all our operational expenses. We are able to focus our time and energy on our mission of providing safe, overnight shelter, nourishing food, and warm hospitality to our homeless guests.”
Those who wish to volunteer or donate may do so online at http://www.kendallcountypads.org or by calling (331) 207-8903.