Chicagoland West – Books and Brunch

Picture this: it is winter, and in front of you are more than 2,000 school-age children shivering without a proper coat, gloves and hats.

That many students without winter coats would be the equivalent of one out of every two Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 students we see getting into and out of school buses and cars, riding bikes and walking to and from school every day without a coat. That’s a huge number.

Thanks to Assistance League of Chicagoland West, 2,047 school age children had a new coat, gloves and a hat with which to face last season’s often frigid and endless winter. That is one reason why I like to buy a ticket to the annual Books and Brunch.

To be clear, I also really like the books part and am always up for anything brunch, but if I can help buy a student a winter coat or get a pre-schooler interested in reading, then I am all in.

Books and Brunch is the big annual fundraiser for Assistance League, an all-volunteer group which serves the underserved right here in our own villages and in our near neighbors from eastern DuPage county and portions of western Cook county. Besides those 2,047 coats, 165 middle school age children were given an opportunity to buy school appropriate clothing at Kohl’s last year.

Laurie Cleary, Assistance League’s vice president of communications, provided me with the numbers. She explained that the about 90 members do virtually all of the hard work involved with getting the coats to the kids, going to the schools, working with school administrations and then getting kids fitted. Members do virtually all of the hard work with all of their projects, and that’s why members find the work so satisfying.

Another project is called Early Reading, which encourages parents to read to their children and to introduce pre-schoolers to books. League volunteers go to Head Start preschool programs, read to children, do an activity and then give them a book. For many of these children, this is the first book they will ever own.

I cannot even imagine a life without books. The League’s program also lends out 564 backpacks with books in them that young kids can borrow and bring home to have their families read aloud.

The New Start program offers complete kitchen equipment sets to families who are making the transition from homelessness. This little bit of assistance to families — often single-parent homes headed up by a mother with children — have made a huge difference. Pots, pans, cleaning supplies, kitchen needs from potholders to spatulas are all part of the sets.

The idea behind New Start is that families who cook in often eat healthier and less expensive meals. Eating in also offers opportunities for family bonding. Last year the Assistance League gave away 170 kitchen sets, meaning it helped 170 families, so quite a few adults and children.

Last, Assistance League offers four $2,000 scholarships to students at College of DuPage.

As for the books part of the event, this year’s authors include Eileen Meyer, who will be no stranger to many event guests. Her kids attended District 181 and District 86 schools, where she was an active volunteer and committed soccer mom. She has just published her fourth children’s book, “The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President,” and promises to be an engaging speaker.

Another author is Jill Santopolo, who has written children’s books, middle school age books and adult-level books. She works in New York City as an editor and associate publisher.

Those who love thrillers will be more than passingly familiar with author Mary Kubica’s up-all-night-reading novels. Her books tend to hang out at the top of the New York Times best seller list.

Linda Legner, vice president of donor development for the league, has for many years been responsible for selecting the authors, and she is especially proud of this year’s selection.

Doors open at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12 for Books and Brunch at The Abbington, 3S002 Route 53, which intersects with Butterfield Road in Glen Ellyn. There will be venders selling all manner of interesting goods, as well as silent auctions and raffle baskets.

There is time to meet the authors and get books signed by them. You will see many people you know and help even more people you don’t know just by attending. For more information or for tickets, which are $90 each, go to or call 630-321-2529.