Every Sunday evening throughout the year (with a few exceptions due to holidays), the Etz Chaim Social Hall is transformed into a temporary refuge for some of the less-fortunate men, women and children of DuPage County. As a PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) site, we provide a nourishing hot dinner, a safe and warm place to sleep, breakfast and a bag lunch. We also provide a human dimension- conversation and personal interaction. Some of our PADS guests avail themselves of everything that we offer; others come only for the meal. All are appreciative.
As you can imagine, much work must be done each Sunday night. Work begins at 5:30 PM with 8 or more volunteers. Thirty-six pads (thin mattresses), each with sheets, blanket, pillow, pillowcase, towel and wash cloth, are laid out on the floor. Fresh linens are generously provided each week by Good Samaritan Hospital. Folding screens are set up to separate the women’s area from the men’s area. A table filled with toiletries is set up. Tables are set. Dinner is prepared, sometimes for as many as 50 people. A staff person from the PADS organization joins us for a few hours. At 7:00 PM, the doors open, the guests are “signed in” and dinner is served cafeteria-style. There is salad, entrees, fresh vegetables, bread, fruit and dessert. Sometimes there is homemade soup and some kind of appetizer as well. After dinner, while the guests are chatting, reading or playing cards, the volunteers are busy with kitchen cleanup and the preparation of the bag lunches. At 8:30 PM, the first shift of volunteers is finished with their work. They are replaced by two-person shifts, whose job it is to stay awake and monitor the facility once the guests have gone to sleep at 10:00 PM. Wake-up is at 6:00 AM on Monday morning. While the guests are eating breakfast, the morning volunteers collect the blankets and pillows, wash down the pads, neatly pack up all these things into the storage closet, and gather the dirty linen, which is later taken to the laundry at Good Samaritan Hospital.
Etz Chaim and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Villa Park provide the volunteers on the first and fifth Sunday of each month. Other “partner churches,” including York Center of the Brethren, Christ the King, Lombard Mennonite and Lombard Christian Reformed, provide the manpower on the second, third and fourth Sundays.
Who are the Etz Chaim volunteers? They are young and old, families and singles, new members and old members, and students of our religious school. They all find the experience to be very gratifying as well as educational. The Etz Chaim PADS effort is headed by Susan Brodie and Allan Carter. Susan is primarily responsible for the volunteers, while Allan is responsible for the food. He and others tirelessly solicit food donations from Trader Joe’s and other stores. Allan also plans nutritious and varied menus, coordinates the cooking (some of which is done in congregants’ homes), and manages the kitchen workers.
If you'd like to help out by donating paper goods or staples for the pantry, there are plenty of items we use on a routine basis - small paper plates and bowls, large sturdy paper plates, plastic cutlery, napkins, cold drink cups, coffee cups, decaf coffee, lemonade mix, ovaltine, and salad dressings. Contact Meryl Diamond about donating items for the pantry, or drop off donations in the synagogue kitchen with "PADS" clearly marked on the box or bag.
Like to cook? Our PADS guests always appreciate home cooked dishes congregants make for them. Contact Allan Carter to find out how you can cook for PADS.
Our congregation does an incredible mitzvah in providing this PADS shelter to those who are homeless or hungry. Hats off to all the volunteers who make it possible. And if YOU would like to become a PADS volunteer, please contact Meryl Diamond or Allan Carter.