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12 years of lessons shared in 12 days- Day 6- Hands meeting Hands on a most difficult day

12 days before Christmas

12 lessons I’ve learned from pulling together the

12 Hope and Friendship Christmas Dinner Delivery Days

It was 2 weeks from Christmas 2005. My eyes were opened to a need I had never felt or seen before only by having been broken. I had simultaneously experienced the end of a 16 year marriage due to a husband choosing another, as I walked with my father through his final 14 months on this earth, my best friend, the one who truly knew me being cut from his mold would not be at the Christmas table.

I drove through Lemont on Thanksgiving Night wondering who else dreaded Christmas Day. Only by being broken did my eyes see a need that I had so easily overlooked. God put an idea in my head and heart yet I ignored it for 2 weeks. Jonah had to be swallowed by a whale to comply; it didn’t take that drastic of a action, but close.

I dragged my feet, blocked the voice and ignored the call for 2 weeks. Then I gave in. Two weeks prior to Christmas I told a friend this crazy idea to host a dinner for those who had no table to pull up to. Then she told a friend and within those two weeks I was invited to speak at Lemont Junior Women’s Club, Lemont District 113a PTA, and other school and organization meetings. All I asked for was cooked food to fill a table and the invitation to join me was open to all who ached at the thought of dragging themselves through the day.

On Christmas Day twelve of us, including my mother (who lovingly supported and ventured into this crazy idea with me), gathered at a table and feasted on food prepared for us by friends. We laughed, we comforted, we shared stories and hugs. We united and enjoyed a beautiful meal on a day we all had dreaded to step into.

When we finished dinner we packed up all of the food that remained and delivered to a few other houses in our community that we knew were in a struggle as well as to the two Joliet Homeless Shelters.

What would have been a most painful Christmas Day turned into a beautiful union of friends who needed the companionship and comfort of another who understood the ache the day presented. We were gifted with a meal that nourished our body and spirit.

One week from today many more than 12 will gather to serve dozens of homes that are struggling right here and right now. Though there will always be need, if we are not attempting to meet the needs right here within our arm’s reach we are missing the opportunity to be love, hope, light and compassion to our very neighbor.

There is such a small degree, a short plunge, between being one that can offer assistance to the one that is in the storm. A divorce. The lost of a loved one. A job loss. A devastating health prognosis. Needs are not only financial, debilitating needs are physical and emotional. Life blows are unplanned.

I am so very thankful for all of you who join with me in recognizing and acting on the most simply yet most powerful gift of arriving at the door of a home that is hurting with the humble gift of a home cooked Christmas Dinner that will, and has, nourished countless bodies and spirits.

As a friend extends their arms offering the gift of a Christmas Dinner, another friend extends theirs’ humbling receiving it. For a moment, for that night, we are connecting, lifting and healing. Thank you for making that as important to you as it is to me to meet those on a most difficult day making it a most blessed and wonderful gift of unconditional love, hope and friendship.

Want to be a part of this year’s Hope and Friendship Christmas Outreaches? Email



~ Sunday December 18, 2016

12 days before Christmas 12 Lessons I’ve learned from pulling together the 12 Hope and Friendship Christmas Dinner Delivery Days- Day 5- When did we do it for you?


When I read this verse I see it written for here and now, for the Christmas Dinner Deliveries and all of the outreaches we do, have offered and hopefully will continue to unite to engage in. I have seen each and all of these offered and seen the hearts and spirits lifted. You have been Love offered right here, right now.

“For I was struggling to put food on my table and afford food for my kids during the winter and summer breaks and you gave me food, I was thirsty for the example of Christ to life me and you gave me drink by delivering a much need sack lunch with compassionate inspirational notes, I was a stranger and you welcomed me and showed up to help me with my lawn and yard work during Mission Stay Saturday, I was naked and you clothed me by offering what you didn’t need in your closet and helped me find clothing during your winter clothing drive for myself and my kids, I was sick and you visited me delivering meals to my home and notes that lifted my tired spirit and arrived at my door caroling during a most difficult holiday season, I was in prison depressed and lost on how I was going to find the resources and energy to prepare a Christmas Dinner and you came to me arms full of cooked food and gifts bring the light of love and the Lord into our hurting home.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you or the children here in Lemont hungry and feed you, or thirsty and in need of your hope and love and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you and tend to your yard work that you couldn’t complete, or naked and clothe you with clothing offered from one home to another?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you bringing you dinner that nourished your body and spirit?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” ~ (adapted from Matthew 25:35-40)

Want to be a part of this year’s Hope and Friendship Christmas Outreaches? Email


~ Saturday December 17, 2016


12 years of lessons shared in 12 days- day 4- It’s not me it’s you

12 days before Christmas

12 lessons I’ve learned from pulling together the

12 Hope and Friendship Christmas Dinner Delivery Days


It is not me that makes this happen it is you. I am simply blessed to be a conduit.

12 years snowballing into a tradition for so many has made the Hope and Friendship Foundation Christmas Dinner Deliveries a unique and beautiful opportunity to engage in the spirit of Christmas.

Grandma LeeAnn and grandkids have gathered to mix, roll, press, and bake Christmas Cookies gift wrapped in box decorated with bow for as many years as I can remember. Each year she contacts me and asks “How many deliveries this year?” And then her and her elves get busy making a amazing Christmas gift to accompany the Dinner.

Cindy and Paul have embarked on the mission to put a HUGE dent into the potato population. They have rallied the assistance of friends and family and boiled, mashed and prepared 4 person servings of 200 pounds of mashed potatoes that provide such substance to our gift of dinner.

Bill, Tim, Jim, Dan, Jimmy and friends have been the meat of our meal for the past few years gathering together with others to deep fry each of the turkeys that rest in the center of our gift of a Christmas Dinner. The have gathered and purchased 16 turkey fryers, purchase the oil and seasoning, receive the donation of propane from our friends at Ludwigs Feed Store, and with the assistance of their amazing children and friends clean, dress, prepare and then cook 55-65 turkeys that then are match up with our sides, potatoes, breads, and desserts and arrive at the door of friends offering the gift that will nourish body and spirit from friends.

Terry and Holly have arrived each year ready to deliver as many dinners and care bags as needed. Always arriving with a smile and empty car ready to be the conduit of a home cooked meal prepared by friends, loaded and delivered by friends to friends who need this spirit lifting gift.

These are just a few of the friends who have adopted the Hope and Friendship Christmas Outreach as their annual act of compassion gifted on Christmas Day. There are so many who have contributed food, gifts, supplies, hands and feet and vehicles to make this outreach ripple throughout our community on the day that resonates of unconditional peace, hope and love.

Thank you my friends for joining me in offering such a selfless gift that meets another friend in a storm of life. You are casting such light, love and hope into this difficult chapter. It would not happen without each and every person who offers toward it. There is no donation that does not make the impact stronger. At the end of the day on December 25th I sit and thank God for you, as do the homes that you filled with food and love.

May your home, your family and your heart be filled with the gift of Christmas love, hope and peace, for this the gift you have provided each and every year to another.

Want to be a part of this year’s Hope and Friendship Christmas Outreaches? Email



~ Friday December 16, 2016

12 years of lessons in 12 years-Day 3- Miracle of the Mashed Potatoes

12 days before Christmas

12 lessons I’ve learned from pulling together the

12 Hope and Friendship Christmas Dinner Delivery Days

The Miracle of the Mashed Potatoes.

How do you plan on food for 50 plus homes?

I believe in trusting in the One who is a better planner than I. I can plan something into dust and then have to rely on Plan B, C and eventually Z. However, when I listen and follow and not make it about how “I” want the outreach to work but rather how “He” wants the outreach to meet needs, I find that Plan A pretty much pulls together.

Christmas 2009 I had 52 homes humbly accept or request a Christmas Dinner Delivery.

Donations of cooked food came walking through the doors of the Safety Village and we cut turkeys, sorted large quantities and divvied up donations of all of the fixin’s of Christmas.

We came down to the final quality control walk through and we were short potatoes in most every home’s dinner box.

I have been so blessed to have a handful of friends who have walked with me through so many of these Christmas Dinners and one who was there then and has remained present in making this gift of love happen, looked at me and said “What now?”

My mind raced from running to every 24 hour store I could find to round up potatoes and hurry and prepare them to knowing that the dinner would be delivered not be to the standards that I wanted it.

Before I could utter an answer to his question, in walked a friend and her family apologetically for being late with 15 pounds of prepared and packaged mashed potatoes, which filled every not full box to my satisfaction. How can you have Christmas Dinner without potatoes? Obviously you can’t because what we didn’t have we had and all was good.

From that day forward we joke about the “miracle of the mashed potatoes” when the exact coat that a teen wanted so badly is found in a bag of donated clothing, when the amount needed for a families rent is donated, when the appliance that broke in a home that cannot afford to replace it is the same appliance offered by someone replacing theirs, when the child who needed something receives it because another home found they have two.

I have found that I do not need to stress over what I have no control over because there is a plan and I am simply a part of it. I know that miracles happen right here in our corner of the world because I have been so very blessed to personally witness them over and over again.

We are all capable of being someone’s miracle, someone’s hope right here within your arm’s reach.

May we all be the one who walks through the door with the mashed potatoes or whatever is needed to complete the gift of compassion that brings hope and light into someone’s storm.

Want to be a part of this year’s Hope and Friendship Christmas Outreaches? Email


~ Thursday December 15, 2016

12 years of lessons learned in 12 days- Day 2

12 days before Christmas

12 lessons I’ve learned from pulling together the

12 Hope and Friendship Christmas Dinner Delivery Days

I’ve learned so many lessons from my young friends but the greatest of those is to celebrate the simple yet most important things: time, compassion and dessert.

Most of the Hope and Friendship outreaches have been formed to help assist a child’s basic needs of food, clothing and shoes, and most importantly mentoring. Hoping to rally the support of others to join in investing the most valuable commodity: time.

As adults we make decisions that affect our daily and future lives. We understand we have a choice in everything that we do and those choices either benefit us with positive growth or they have repercussions. Children are often the innocent victims to those repercussions and hardships of life.

A child did not choose to grow up in a struggling household. They grow to understand financial, physical and emotional struggles as every day life, not understanding what could have been, having not been involved in the path that lead the household to today’s situation.

I’ve met the children who have been battling cancer, immune diseases, physical disabilities, and handicaps that will remain in their forever days and yet they find the ability to be happy.   They have understood what life is not what it could have been.

Our young friends are elated to be doted on, to have someone spend time engaging, playing and investing in them. Like watering a plant, when you pour your time, compassion and love on them they simply rise and grow in a healthier manner.

They do not need “things” to become the person they were created to be, they need attention, direction, to be shown their strengths, gifts and talents they have yet to discover. They need the gift of those who can to commit to do and give what cannot be bought. The “UNBirthday Party” is a perfect example of elated children being spoiled with time, attention, mentoring and dessert!

I had a friend who assisted with Christmas Day deliveries tell me of her experience that she will never forget.   When she arrived at a door with Christmas Dinner and Care Bag in tow the children in the home greeted her at the door elated with the “gift” of a bountiful Christmas dinner, the bag full of care bag items (that many would not consider a “present”), and when they saw the desserts “they squealed with excitement for the cookies and treats”.  The gift of a meal, of basic needs, and of rare treats, but most importantly the exhilaration that this “friend”, whom they did not know before but now will not forget, had arrived at their door enriching their Christmas and their today, hopefully lifting up their tomorrow as well.

Want to be a part of this year’s Hope and Friendship Christmas Outreaches? Email


~ Wednesday Dec 14, 2016

12 years of lessons learned in 12 days

12 days before Christmas

12 lessons I’ve learned from pulling together the

12 Hope and Friendship Christmas Dinner Delivery Days

People are so very generous at this time of the year.                                                                         So many of those who stand for a cause, found a mission, work toward meeting needs, find their daily grind of a different strain at this time of the year. Instead of hitting the pavement begging for assistance to meet needs, one runs out of time meeting the requests from those who wish to meet needs.

I have found that 24 hours in a day are never enough at this time of year.   The outpouring of offers to assist; to buy presents for kids and adopt families; to assist needs that come in view clearer at this time of year than during any other; to be a part of any hands and feet action that is engaging in the act of giving and reverberating the Christmas spirit through their arms to persons in need, are immeasurable.

In my corner of the world, generosity is a year round action and in constant view, if you multiply that by a gazillion and you’ll get an idea on how overwhelming it is to be blessed to be one who is asked “Where, how and when can I help?”

Over the 12 years of seeing the outreach grow from a group of 12 gathering at a table on Christmas 2005 feasting on a meal created from a cornucopia of dishes donated by many, then packing up and delivering food to a few Lemont homes of those in the struggle, and two shelters to a massive operation engaging hundreds and feeding hundreds, I can truly tell you Christmas miracles, magic and love IS here in our Lemont community.

It has been and will be here again in our beautiful corner of the world on this Christmas Day for our 12th year of arriving at doors to fill physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

One of my Christmas wishes has been the wish that I could spread these countless and tireless offers of hands, feet, donations of time, effort and funds throughout the whole year so that we would see the roller coaster of recovering from life blows to become a more level plane of survival for many, and for some the ability to rise from the “life of Lot” as a result of the supportive, nurturing and mentoring hands of many friends.

My every year Christmas wish has been, and will continue to be, that I wouldn’t have had my eyes opened to the need of being lifted by friends on a day that can be just as painful as it can be powerful. I know if my Dad could be here on this Christmas Day he would be right in the middle of this massive operation planning, sorting, carefully preparing, delivering and enjoying every moment of being someone’s Christmas angel. However I have had to understand and accept that sometimes it is only from pain that your eyes and hearts are opened to needs you otherwise had looked past. It was because of your empty chair Dad that I choose to try and fill tables and hearts in your memory, and as that has been and will continue to be my mission, I know you have been present on each of the past and will be present once again with me on this very outreach in 12 days.

May you be able to turn your eyes outward instead of inward when the day is simply dreadful. May you have the strength and desire to turn painful ache into powerful love. And if you simply cannot empower yourself to do this, may a friend know of your need and arrive at your door with the gift of peace to see the magic of Christmas love.

Thank you Dad for teaching me this, demonstrating in action not word, by simply and devotedly walking the walk of unconditional Christmas love every day of the year.

Want to be a part of this year’s Hope and Friendship Christmas Outreaches?



Are you just letting your toes get wet, or are you willing to dive in??

For the past 3 years I have been so very blessed to have a week in the sun, before the storm.  Terry and I have spent a week in Florida, unplugged and disengaged from the world around the end of September.  Beginning Oct 1st my end of the year crazy kicks into full speed and I barely catch a breath once I rise until I get to the finish line- December 26th.

When we are by the beach we do nothing; seriously, and wonderfully nothing.  We walk up and down the gulf until we rest and then later fall asleep sunned in a very welcomed type of tired.  It’s wonderful; simple and surrounded by God’s beauty.  Water, sand, and sunsets.  (Only sunsets- seeing sunrises would require less sleep!).

One thing I have enjoyed is the opportunity to read.  I take at least two books to digest.  Always of my favorite Christian motivational writers that truly live up to their calling.

When we sit beachside awaiting the sunset I read, meditate and form game plans.  This may or may not fall under the pretense of “doing nothing” but I relish in the quiet opportunity to gather my thoughts and be with God at the ebb and flow of His creation.  This past week by the beach, the weather was quite hot, 101-108 degree heat index.  I have little attention span when the weather is nice, when the weather is stifling I have even less focus.  I would put my book down often and get up to head toward the water.  I would stand at the edge and feel the comfort of the warm welcoming waves and begin to walk in.  I rarely hesitate to move forward, eventually diving under a wake of waves.  I always start with first allowing the water to wash over my feet. I watched many who simply felt satisfied to stay at that edge, but I knew I had only this week and this moment to enjoy the water, sand, waves and beauty.  Why would I stop at my toes?  I wanted to go all in every time knowing I wasn’t promised another time to soak in this feeling.

As I returned to my book, blanket and baking in the heat I thought about the calling.  For the past 3 years we have escaped to this peaceful week around my birthday.  It has been a gift and a blessing, a reprieve, a slower pace, unplugged and amazing company to enjoy it with!  When I return home it is the beginning of the last quarter of the year, a crazy time for me launching into the fall and holiday outreaches that consume every moment and every drop of energy.  This week has truly been the calm before the chaos.  The last three months of the year are a busy but wonderful time of allowing myself to be a conduit of all that can be offered to those who are in desperate need of the kindness and generosity.  To be a revolving door from those who can to those that need is a blessing from one who created me to be able to handle it.

The need is truly all year long but for many the calling is only heard during the season of Christmas, therefore you dive in and know that you give it all now for the greater cause and as the reason for the season.

We could all easily let just our toes get wet.

We could offer our donation at church, or drop a couple dollars in the donation kettle and know we’ve done “good”.

But what more would it take for us to dive in?

That feeling is oh so much more refreshing!


As the Hope and Friendship Foundation seasonal outreaches approach I ask you to think about how much more refreshed and renewed you would like to feel?  Why stop at your toes?

For the past 11 years I have lived to communicate the needs of those within your arms’ reach.

Right here, right now.

Basic needs.

Financial, emotional and physical needs to meet, to lift, to gift hope and love to.

Winter Clothing.

Thanksgiving Turkeys and some fixings to go alongside of that turkey.

Christmas Care Boxes/Bags filled with personal care, cleaning products and paper products.

Items to create a fully cooked Christmas Dinner delivered on Christmas Day.

The emotional, physical, and financial needs of your neighbor are often so very basic yet so devastating to their household.  They may not impact your life directly, however your commitment to diving in to the outreaches that will help them will completely and powerfully affect theirs.

Join me.

The warmth of the feeling of submerging yourself in meeting the needs of others right here, right now is an amazingly refreshing experience.  I have grown to love the feeling of letting the waves rush over me and watching the ripples reach so far around me.

I would love for you to dive in with me!


How can you help?

*Donate a personal care product (face, hair, body), cleaning supplies (soaps, softeners, cleansers, rags, sponges), paper products (napkins, paper plates, toilet paper, paper towels, tissue boxes).  Drop them off by Sunday December 18th to the bins in the lobby at the Lemont Police Dept or at Lemont Township Office (behind Chipain’s).

*Drop off a cooked dish in serving sizes for 4 persons (in a disposable container) to the Lemont Township Office (behind Chipain’s) on Christmas Day between 11:30-1:30pm:  Side dishes, veggie dishes, pasta, potatoes, bread/butter, salads, desserts etc.

Come by at 1:30pm on Christmas Day if you want to help assemble the  meals.

Come by at 3pm if you want to help deliver the Christmas Dinners and Care Boxes/Bags.

*Make a donation to our Pay Pal on our website to help fund the outreach and the crisis assistance that we offer when we have the means to offer it.

Wishing you peace, love and happiness through this Christmas Season and the New Year,

Terri O’Neill-Borders

Email me to continue to hear of the outreaches-
Website to keep up with the outreaches-
Wordpress to read more-

Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL  60439

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9