Thanks to the kindness of strangers, the holidays are a little brighter for many BEDS clients. Children and adults alike were all smiles, some hardly able to contain their excitement when they received presents, food, necessities, holiday decorations and more as part of this year's Adopt A Family program.
Several individuals, families, community groups and other donors provided gifts for BEDS clients and families this year, including the Chicago Teamsters Local 705, Bolthouse Farms in Hodgkins, First Congregational Church of La Grange, First United Methodist Church of La Grange, Hope Church of La Grange Highlands and the Summit School District 104 Boy Scouts.
This is the second year that the Teamsters helped with the holiday event. Last year, the Teamsters co-sponsored the "Christmas Morning" celebration that treated BEDS clients to a catered breakfast, entertainment and presents.
But the COVID-19 pandemic meant this year's celebration could not be held in person so Santa's elves had to come up with a different way spread holiday cheer. So volunteers instead organized a Christmas drive-thru and holiday delivery to those clients not able to travel.
Director of Supportive Housing Javon Harris said the pandemic has greatly impacted BEDS this year - not only has the need for emergency shelter and housing help grown but increased funding has allowed for programs to expand. Harris expressed much appreciation for the Teamsters and other volunteers who came together to lift the spirits of BEDS clients this holiday season.
"It's amazing," she said. "A lot of unions were hit really bad because of COVID because the work wasn't the same or wasn't there. The fact that they were still able to do it and wanted to do it was amazing. We would not have been able to provide for these families without the Teamsters help."
In total, more than $8,000 worth of gifts, food and other items were donated through the Adopt A Family program this year. Families with children were not the only clients who benefited, either. BEDS clients sheltered temporarily in motels and those who were newly housed also were on the receiving end of the donations.
Aside from Christmas gifts, donors and community groups also donated gift cards to local fast food restaurants and items such as coats, hats and scarves. Donors even made sure families had other holiday essentials, such as Christmas trees and decorations.
"Coming from personal experience, it's an amazing experience for the moms," Harris said. "There's nothing worse than worrying the week of Christmas if your kids are going to have something Christmas day."