Published Dec. 16, 2010
Offering the gift of hope for
Family Services, with help of giving community, helps
season for many
By Ken Knutson
“Thank you guys so much,”
exclaimed the man with a frozen turkey slung over his
shoulder as local students toted a bag of donated food
and presents for his family to his car.
This was a common refrain
heard during HCS Family Services holiday distribution
Dec. 8 at the Memorial Building, providing 100 families
with the ingredients for a holiday celebration in a
season of, for many, great desperation.
Debbie Baker, HCS development
director, said large donations and an army of student
volunteers helped make this year’s event extra special.
“I feel as though the
generosity increased. We don’t typically do a food
distribution with the gifts,” she said, noting that
1,600 underprivileged people are served during the
holidays through all of the agency’s programs around
Hinsdale Central High School
families were matched with HCS client families who
indicated gifts they would like to receive. Hinsdale
Middle School families, meanwhile, filled grocery bags
for each family.
Among the HMS donors was
former Chicago Blackhawk player Brent Sopel, whose
family went a step further and donated hundreds of
Julie Suarez, who helps run
the HCS food pantry and serves as volunteer coordinator,
said being able to provide so much food is gratifying.
“I really like it, especially
when we’re giving out food. This is what people worry
about all year. This puts a lot of anxiety to rest,” she
The operation was like a
high-functioning workshop, with middle school runners
dashing upstairs to retrieve each client’s collection of
gifts. Dozens of festively festooned grocery bags shared
space in the Memorial Building’s upper chamber with a
similar number of lovingly wrapped presents.
Downstairs, Santa and Mrs.
Claus, played by Jim and Sue Nibeck, greeted the guests.
Children beamed with anticipation of what the ascending
and descending “elves” would present to them.
For many of the families, the
food and gifts will be all they have this holiday
season, Baker said.
“It is really nice to be able
to do this for them. They truly need it. They wouldn’t
be able to have such a wonderful meal without it. There
just may not be any presents for them,” she said.
Upstairs, Central juniors Jake
Schaffer and Will Schneider tracked down the gifts for
each of the families. Both take part in the school’s
annual Habitat for Humanity projects and embraced this
opportunity to serve.
“It feels good helping out and
helping making these people’s Christmases a little
happier,” Schaffer said.
Schneider was surprised at the
number of families turning out for the distribution.
“There are more than I
thought. It makes you aware of the need,” he said.
Presents awaiting their new
owners included Barbie Dolls for girls, Hot Wheels sets
for boys and house robes or other clothing for moms,
many of whom are single parents. A few of the families
Baker said one family arrived
late to the event to find a shiny new bike for the
“(The mother) was completely
overwhelmed. Her son hadn’t had a bike in the longest
time. It was really great,” she said.
Baker said the donors and
volunteers do most of the heavy lifting for the various
HCS-sponsored events around the community.
“It’s easy because there are
so many groups that are a part of it,” she said. “I
don’t seek one donor for this program. Everybody calls
One woman accompanied by her
7-year-old son, a self-proclaimed video game fan, said
she was touched by the outpouring of generosity.
“It’s nice, it’s very nice. We
really, really appreciate this. They have a lot of
people help out,” she said.
Hinsdale Middle School
seventh-graders Lexie Limparis and Ilana Furlan braved
the cold in shorts and T-shirts to carry items out to
“We just came from
cheerleading practice,” they said, flashing smiles that
showed no sign of chattering teeth.
Baker said she’s always worn
out by the close of the distribution, but she never
tires of the selfless spirit she bears witness to each
“This season is hard on most
families who don’t know if they would ever have a great
Christmas without the program,” she said. “I think it’s
amazing that people who live in this community make this
possible. To me, that’s the greatest thing.”
HCS Family Services has been
distributing food, gifts and holiday cheer to the
nonprofit agency’s client families thanks to the support
of many throughout the community. The agency expects to
serve about 2,000 individuals for Christmas.
Here are the groups that
adopted between five and 100 families.
• Christ Lutheran Church of
• Hinsdale Central High School
• Hinsdale Middle School
• Hinsdale Junior Women’s Club
• Madison School
• St. Isaac Jogues
• Walker School
• Whole Food Market Hinsdale
Making a Difference is a yearlong
The Hinsdalean and HCS Family Services, which works to
empower families and change lives.