Christine Adams, Freelance Reporter
6:06 am CST November 12, 2019
Dozens of Chicagoans facing homelessness found themselves with one less meal to worry about, thanks to the actions of some Glencoe students.
Glencoe Youth Services, a drop-in center with recreational and educational opportunities, held its first Lunches of Hope event the morning of Saturday, Nov. 9, in which about 20 kids and some parents packed more than 50 lunches that were delivered later that morning to housing- and food-insecure individuals.
“We discuss ways to help others,” said Halle Lyle, 11, GYS Youth Board president.
With the help of GYS Executive Director William Barnard and Assistant Director Pamela Tousis, the kids decided that making lunches that could be directly given to people in need would be a beneficial service project.
The children decorated the bags to support the recipients, coloring rainbows and adding sayings like “you’re amazing” to lift their spirits. They were filled with ham sandwiches, apples and chips by a group that was so efficient, Barnard found himself running to The Grand within the first 15 minutes just to get more bread.
“Our goal is to pack 50 lunches each month for the next year, totaling 600 lunches,” Barnard said.
“This is something we want to open up to the community to be a part of. Let’s all gather to do a great thing for people,” he added.
The inspiration for the Lunches of Hope initiative falls under GYS’s youth mental health campaign, #FightYourFears.
"It seems more adolescents than ever feel the need to be perfect- at a time when the mental health of youth is a growing concern,” said Tousis, who is also studying social work. "Adolescents have a hard time talking about their mental health; Will and I are working hard to break down that stigma and help students recognize the importance of maintaining their own mental health, as well as realize that others may be struggling too".
With that mindset, the group chose a project that could serve another community in need.
“What better way to encourage yourself than helping others with a genuine spirit,” Barnard said.
And while the community certainly rallied to support the homeless, attendees seemed just as eager to support GYS, too.
“I’m here because Pam [Tousis] is here,” said Lilly Eppley, 11, who is also the idea manager for the youth board.
Even parents couldn’t resist the opportunity to give back to GYS.
“We just moved here to Glencoe, and our son loves this place,” Erika Siu said.
“What they’re doing is really good. They’re enhancing community life and teaching service,” she added.
This Saturday project was just one of many, and the spirit behind them is as inviting as ever.
“It’s an open community, and anybody can come,” said Alexandra Massey, 11, vice president of the youth board.
She highlighted a bake sale coming up on Nov. 21 as the next big charity event to look forward to, with more to come.