As a retired teacher and principal, Paula Jensen of Geneva wanted to still spend time in the community sharing her expertise and helping others.
She chose Lazarus House in St. Charles. The nonprofit organization offers the homeless or those at risk shelter, food and whatever else they might need to get back on their feet.
Jensen started volunteering weekly in 2006 at the main shelter. Every lunch hour on Thursdays, she would serve food, talk with clients and just be a familiar face to the women and children there.
“I had been volunteering at the Northern Illinois Food Bank and heard about Lazarus opening up their women and children center. It caught my attention,” Jensen says. “You just get so involved with the people there. They come and go, but there’s always a new face and a new person to help.”
About five years ago, Jensen also began helping out during the holiday season. She first started organizing all the gifts that came in for the children and adults.
“It just kind of grew over the years,” she says. “I helped them with trying to get an organizational system going.”
That’s exactly what she did for Lazarus House, which made things flow easily and ensured packages got to whom they were supposed to get to in time.
“There are so many generous people that buy gifts and donate them here,” Jensen says. “We have to match people with the gifts that are requested. Then we have to categorize everything.”
She also goes online and prices out particular items that a little child or mother has desired. Everything is anonymous, but things still have to be put together. Jensen started using big bags to gather everything for the families and devised a numbering system.
She says she is amazed at how families ask for very practical things — like a warm coat — or other basics such as laundry detergent.
“This is an amazing place,” Jensen says. “People shouldn’t have to go hungry or not have a place to sleep. We can all do our part to help them have the basics of life. When you help others, you get so much more yourself. You start to realize that it could be you some day that needs the help. That’s just that human thing that you can do small things for others.”
The Lazarus House staff is thankful for Jensen’s organizational skills with the Christmas gift tag program.
“She is a wonderful volunteer and has been invaluable to me, stepping in and offering tremendous assistance with the gift tag program,” says Donna Bauer, volunteer and special events coordinator. “When I started my job here five years ago, Paula came to me and offered her assistance with this program (she had been helping with this program for a few years at that point), and I can honestly say that I would not have successfully gotten through that without her help. She gently mentored me through my first year, and over the past four years has made outstanding, organizational suggestions that have helped us become a fairly well-oiled machine, mostly stress-free, through this holiday program.”
Jensen spent 34 years as a teacher of first and second graders and was a principal in the Indian Prairie School District. She also is a literacy volunteer for Waubonsee Community College in downtown Aurora.
“I’m a big reader,” she says. “I feel like it’s hard to imagine that people can read or can’t read at a proficient level. So, I work with different students, and I love it.”
To learn more: Lazarus House: 214 Walnut St., St. Charles, IL 60174 The organization serves men, women and children connected to the school districts of St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and western rural Kane County who are homeless or are at risk, providing safe shelter, food and support services.How to get involved: Volunteers are needed 24 hours a day, whether it’s at the shelter, office, learning lab or special event. Orientations for new volunteers take place every six weeks where options are presented and information shared. For questions or to register for orientation, email Donna Bauer at email@example.com.
Here is a list of a few of the numerous Kane County nonprofit organizations that are in need of monetary donations and volunteer services during this holiday season – and year round. For a more complete list, visit www.unitedwayofcentralkanecounty.org/agencies.
Elderday Center 328 W. Wilson • Batavia • 630-761-9750 • www.elderdaycenter.org Through an adult day services program, Elderday Center assists older adults in maintaining independent home situations. The organization always needs volunteers for activity programming, special events, musical entertainment and administrative support.
Fox Valley Volunteer Hospice 200 Whitfield Drive • Geneva • 630-232-2233 • email Elise C. Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org This nonprofit, volunteer-based, community-funded organization has provided practical, spiritual and emotional support to individuals with life threatening and terminal illnesses and grieving persons and their families since 1981. Each volunteer is valued and respected for the gifts they bring to the work of hospice while making a difference in the lives of those served.
Salvation Army Golden Diners Nutrition Program 630-232-6676 • www.usc.salvationarmy.org The program serves nutritious meals to older adults at congregate centers. Drivers are needed to deliver meals to homebound seniors.
Suicide Prevention Services Inc. 630-482-9699 • email@example.com • www.spsfv.org Suicide Prevention Services Inc. strives to prevent suicide and suicide attempts though public awareness, educational programs, advocacy and collaboration. Paraprofessional volunteer opportunities are available along with event volunteer opportunities.
Feed My Starving Children 555 Exchange Court • Aurora • 630-851-0404 • firstname.lastname@example.org This nonprofit Christian organization is committed to feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and the meals are shipped to nearly 70 countries around the world.
RenzCenter Addiction Counseling Center Two American Way • Elgin • 847-742-3545, ext. 236 This nonprofit corporation is dedicated to the prevention, intervention and treatment of addictive behaviors and disorders and to factors often associated with addiction. Help is needed with event planning, special projects, landscaping and direct mailings.
Association for Individual Development 309 W. New Indian Trail Court • Aurora • 630-966-4000 • www.the-association.org The Association for Individual Development enriches the lives of people with disabilities through vocational training, job placement and residential and behavioral health services. Volunteers are needed to help with fundraising events and direct care. For those giving money, 90 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to help fund programs and services for individuals with disabilities.
Larkin Center 1212 Larkin Avenue • Elgin • 847-695-5656, ext. 217 • email@example.com • www.larkincenter.org The Larkin Center teaches skills and changes lives by providing residential treatment, education and counseling to youths, students, adults and families every year.
Open Door Clinic 164 Division Street • Suite 607 • Elgin • 847-695-1093 or 157 S. Lincoln Avenue • Room K • Aurora • 630-264-1819 The Open Door Clinic reaches persons who are at increased risk of becoming infected with HIV or of transmitting the virus to others. All donations go toward providing the best possible care to clients. In addition to monetary donations, the clinic also needs canned goods/non-perishable food items (especially high-protein items such as peanut butter and tuna) for the food pantry. Additionally, donations of office supplies such as printer/copier paper, pens, staples, office furniture, etc. would be greatly appreciated. kc