Faith: Our Saviours hosts DuPage Pads, offers place for coffee

What better way to live the Gospel than to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless in your own community? Our Saviours Lutheran Church in Naperville is one of more than 250 churches that work with DuPage Pads to provide the homeless a safe place to sleep and a nutritious meal to eat.

Tonight marks the third week of a seven-week period in which Our Saviours serves as host church, according to Sara Gmitro, one of the church’s many volunteers.

“We only do it in July and August,” says Ella Druec, who helps organize the Pads nights at Our Saviours. “It’s a nice break for the other churches.”

Gmitro says Our Saviours is large enough to accommodate about 90 percent of the men, women and children who are looking for shelter. Those leading the fight to end homelessness in DuPage County don’t see the demand letting up in the near future.

“There has been a 71 percent increase in the number of people DuPage Pads serves in DuPage County in the past two years,” says Carol Simler, president and chief executive officer of DuPage Pads.

Church volunteers treat each person with dignity and respect in accordance with the church’s mission statement of, “Knowing Jesus and Making Jesus Known,” according to Druec, facilities director.

She says that, when a woman walks into the center, she is given a clean pad, or bed, a warm shower, along with soap, shampoo and other toiletries, and two healthy meals. Simler says the culture at Our Saviours is “very positive.”

“Each pad is the same color, and when someone turns in for the night, they find a mint on top of their pillow,” Simler says. “That’s the kind of special treatment that makes a difference.”

Our Saviours also is relying, in part, on a good cup of coffee and hospitality to match and broaden its community outreach even further.

Open Door Coffee shop and Community Center on the west side of Washington Street just north of Edward Hospital is used by a diverse group, including young mothers and children, book clubs and teens, according to Druec. And, she adds, the local Nigerian community has used the center often.

Lola Fashina, an event planner who lives in Bolingbrook, has organized a number of large parties there, including a traditional Nigerian wedding for about 350 guests.

“People like its openness and airiness,” Druec adds.

Windows surround the space. A substantial-sized play room features a tree of life and is completely kid friendly.

“You’re in a protected environment, but you can see out,” Druec says.

Veteran barista Denise Shepardson enthusiastically agrees.

“It’s just the right place for me,” she says. “God called me to this place and here I am.”

“Come in for a cup of coffee,” Druec invites. “Explore the faith if you want to. But, you don’t have to. It’s the best kept secret in town.”

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