Most 10-year-olds — like most adults — react to human suffering with expressions of sympathy that are short lived.
Lilli Hansen of Palos Heights turned her sympathy into action.
Seeing abject poverty a few miles east among homeless men, women and children in Robbins, she turned to her mother, Jennifer, and said “Mom, this is terrible. We have to do something.”
That “something” is a project that has raised $1,000 in a few short months to help the needy.
Along with her friend and Navajo School fifth grade classmate Chloe Ayres, Lilli has been making and selling colorful, stylish scarves, as well as potholders, for $10 each.
In August, Lilli made an appeal through the weekly bulletin at St. Alexander Parish. “I am 10 years old, and my name is Lilli,” the appeal read. “You are probably thinking, ‘Isn’t she a little young to be doing this?’ Well, today I will prove you wrong. Yes, I am young, but that doesn’t stop me.
“I am part of an organization for the homeless. I make lunches for the homeless, and I feed the homeless. These people are suffering and need your help,” her appeal continued. “You are saying to yourself right now, ‘How can I help?’ That’s what I thought when I first started doing this.”
The appeal then encouraged parishioners to order scarves and potholders through Lilli’s mother, Jennifer.
Proceeds from the sales go to the local chapter of Pro Labore Dei (“We Shall Serve God”), a charitable organization founded in 1990 in Nigeria to serve the poorest of the poor, providing food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and more with respect and dignity. The Pro Labore Dei chapter in the U.S., based in Madison, Wis., was founded a decade ago.
Chicago-area volunteers with Pro Labore Dei typically minister to the homeless at two sites each weekend — in a community room at the Robbins Police Department headquarters and on Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago.
The group that goes to Robbins fluctuates in size from week to week, from as little as a half dozen volunteers to more than 20. In addition to individual families that participate, local clubs from churches and schools often assist.
Volunteers, including Lilli’s family, typically make about 125 meals — paid for out of their own pockets — and bring them to the site.
The meals are simple, yet nutritious and delicious, Jennifer Hansen said. A typical meal is a sandwich with an ample slice of ham or turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with chips, cookies, a drink and sometimes more.
The guiding principle for volunteers is to make the lunch as if they were preparing it for Jesus Christ, reflecting the famous passage in the Book of Matthew: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
The weekly ministry is important for all the homeless, but especially impoverished children, according to Pro Labore Dei area leader Ann De Angelis of Oak Lawn.
“Children typically receive some sort of breakfast and/or lunch through schools, but in the summer months, as well as over the Christmas holiday when school is not in session, many of these kids [in Robbins] are on their own, abandoned,” she said. “They often have nothing to eat. We think they should have something.”
Both Lilli and Chloe received a new supply of yarn as Christmas gifts (in multiple colors) and are already busy crocheting new scarves to fulfill requests that just came in.
Those interested in ordering a scarf or potholders or obtaining more information about donating to the effort are encouraged to email Jennifer Hansen at
To learn more about helping the poor in Robbins with Pro Labore Dei, inquire via email to