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THE GIFT OF GIVING BACK The common core of most of the Fascinating Family stories in this issue is the knack of giving back. I am fortunate to live near some very Fabulous Families in my own neighborhood. Our group of kids, ranging in age from 4 to 15, still like to play street hockey, tag, ghost in the graveyard, and other endearing childhood games. As long as they are together, our neighborhood gang can find fun in just about anything; and are always up for another Mom’s Little Black Book adventure, including volunteering together.

Other than FMSC in Aurora, I’m sure most of you know how difficult it is to find volunteer opportunities for kids under 13; so, it was refreshing to find the Daybreak Center Shepherd’s Table in Joliet, which has no minimum age. So long as the child is old enough to follow directions and can assist with meal preparation and service at home, he/she can help at Daybreak.

I had served the Shepherd’s Table with our Girl Scout troop a few years back, so I knew ahead of time to prepare the kids’ for the experience of providing dinner to a diverse crowd of over 100 people that would include some very young homeless children as well. This adventure will leave even your youngest child feeling blessed from their act of selflessness.

Our individual volunteer group was solely responsible for making the complete meal from start to finish. Our little worker bees divided and conquered the tasks of utensil assembly, meal prep, and drink station setup; while the adults worked to keep the kitchen clean and kids on task. After a couple hours of preparation, we opened the kitchen shutters, and our group was immediately humbled by the warm smiles and gratitude of the people we were serving. We were all quickly reminded that the best gift you can give this time of year is undeniably…..the gift of giving back.

Overview.... Shepherd’s Table feeds members of the community who are hungry and unable to provide for themselves by offering a free mid-day meal. Daybreak Center operates 24-hours a day, 365 days a year and provides emergency housing and supportive services to the homeless.

Daybreak Center 611 E. Cass Street Joliet, IL 60432

Hours: Shepherds Table volunteers arrive at 5 a.m. for breakfast service; 9 a.m. for lunch service; and 5 p.m. for dinner.

Price $: Priceless

about the writer Naperville mom Kristen Kucharski graduated from Illinois State University in 1992 with an International Business Degree. She is married and has two energetic daughters and her house is always full of children. Kristen’s column titled, Mom's Little Black Book, is a monthly feature written for moms who are looking for ways to keep their kids busy.