Volunteers working at Family Shelter Service's 23rd annual Holiday Shoppe event Dec. 11 at its Downers Grove Community Counseling Center and Shelter are hoping to make Christmas a little brighter for those served by the nonprofit organization.
The Wheaton-based organization, which helps those affected by domestic violence, collects toys and other gifts for its clients each holiday season.
"Holiday Shoppe is a chance for people escaping abusive situations to obtain gifts for their children," Family Shelter Service spokeswoman Mo McGuire said in an email. "Domestic abuse usually means financial abuse as well. As victims rebuild their lives, they may not always have access to finances, so for our clients, this is a very welcome annual event. Moms choose a gift for each of their kids and can also obtain gift cards that were also donated by the community."
Among those volunteering at the Holiday Shoppe were Dee Castillo of Naperville and Downers Grove resident Kathy Raker. Raker is president of the Zonta Club of Oak Brook.
"The mission of Zonta is to empower women worldwide, so it fits beautifully with our mission," Raker said.
During the Holiday Shoppe, Raker helped women pick out gifts for their children. One of the clients she helped was a woman with three kids.
"The clients who are doing the shopping are so pleased," Raker said. "To me, a lot of good can be done by volunteers. And it makes you realize how fortunate your life is and has been. It makes you want to help someone else along."
Castillo helped pick out toys for the children of clients. She understands the need for Family Shelter Service and what it does.
"I know family and friends who have been victims of domestic violence," Raker said. "It kind of hits close to home, so if I can help people, I like to do so."
Castillo said the clients were very appreciative of their efforts.
"One woman was very overwhelmed," Castillo said. "She told me she was truly grateful for everything. And she gave me a hug."