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Student’s singing adds sweet note to Christmas brunch for homeless

Volunteer Dick De Poe Carves donated ham for The Lazarus House annual Christmas Brunch The St.Charles Free Methodist Church St.

Volunteer Dick De Poe Carves a donated ham for The Lazarus House annual Christmas Brunch at The St.Charles Free Methodist Church in St. Charles, IL on Tuesday, December 25, 2012 | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 27, 2013 6:17AM

ST. CHARLES — Seventeen-year-old Jacque Miller wasn’t diving into the directions of a freshly unwrapped present Tuesday afternoon — instead, the St. Charles North student was singing for the homeless.

With help from her family, Miller sang the Christmas classics at the Lazarus House Christmas Brunch on Tuesday at the St. Charles Free Methodist Church.

Lazarus House, a St. Charles-based homeless shelter, hosted about 200 community members at its annual Christmas Brunch. All of the traditional fixings symbolic of a Christmas gathering — ham, sweet potatoes, rolls and casseroles galore — were spread along nine banquet folding tables at the church.

Liz Eakins, Lazarus House executive director, said the shelter has been hosting the Christmas brunch for at least 14 years.

Some families have made a noon stop at the church part of their annual family tradition, she said.

“It’s a great way to pull people together in a meaningful way to celebrate Christmas,” Eakins said.

Miller, 17, said she has sung at open mic nights, in school choirs and at nursing homes, but this is her first year singing at the Lazarus Christmas Brunch.

Although the South Elgin family normally would be unwrapping the last of presents or eating at home on Christmas Day, Jacque’s father, Scott Miller, said this year they decided to call community organizations offering Christmas Day entertainment. (Scott Miller is a freelance sports reporter for The Courier-News of Elgin.)

“We really wanted to reach out to our community and do more,” Scott Miller said.

Jacque Miller said she just wanted to see others have a good Christmas this year.

Lazarus House Operations Manager Wanda Hochstetter stood by the door with an armful of plastic wrap reminding each person they could take leftovers home.

“This means a lot to people who may be from out of town or have no other place to go,” Hochstetter said. “They have somewhere to go for Christmas.”

Shelter miracles

For the first time in a while, Eakins doesn’t have a laundry list of needs at Lazarus House.

A year ago, the shelter was serving a record number of children. Today, that number is declining.

In 2008, longtime volunteers who consistently cooked meals for the homeless could no long afford the grocery bill to cook for homeless.

Around that time, a local grocery store volunteered to donate fresh produce and meats. “The bad times” always worked out, she said.

“Now, those folks who cook for us can come through and get what they need to continue to cook for us,” Eakins said. “That’s nothing shy of a miracle.”

When a need arises, the Kane County community always meets that need, Eakins said.

“Everybody wants to feel like they’re helping,” she said.

Lazarus House provides shelter and support services to homeless people in St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and western Kane County. It currently serves more than 60 people daily.

To provide a donation to Lazarus House, people can visit or call 630-587-2144.

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